BWW Review: LEGEND OF ZELDA, SYMPHONY OF THE GODDESSES Thunders into PPAC
Going to see a symphony play songs from video games may seem like an odd way to spend an evening, but ZELDA--SYMPHONY OF THE GODDESSES, works surprisingly well, and creates a powerful experience both for fans of the video game or fans of classical music.
When The Legend of Zelda first came out in the Nintendo Entertainment System 30 years ago, sound technology was incredibly primitive. Koji Kondo, the man responsible for the music of Legend of Zelda as well as Mario Brothers, was tasked with creating music that was easy to listen to, and that could be repeated over and over without becoming irritating to the listener. He had to do that using a sound bank that consisted of only three sound sources, about the equivalent task as creating an orchestral piece using two flutes and a clarinet. The fact that that very basic music not only scored dozens of games over the years, is a testament to the creativity and musical genius of Kondo. The Providence Performing Arts Center was packed for a one night symphonic performance with people of all ages, many in costume, all of whom seemed to be having a wonderful time.
Most likely, the people in attendance are not regular symphony patrons, which is sort of the brilliance of an endeavor like this. Finding new ways to attract people to artistic performances is something every medium needs to do, and considering the importance of not only music in Legend of Zelda, but also musical instruments, this is a perfect fit. The only thing that made this pairing seem odd at times was when it seemed like the audience was cheering just as much for the video game villains on the screen as they were for the actual musicians.
The stage is set up for an orchestra, but above the musicians a screen shows the adventures of Zelda hero Link and his battles with various monsters and attempts to save the princess. In between sections of the music, the screen shows video interviews with Koji Kondo and other men who worked on the Legend of Zelda games. The video sections that play behind the orchestra jump from game to game, and frequently feature high energy music particular to whichever monster is on the screen at the moment. The audience is encouraged to applaud loudly and cheer, which they did with abandon, creating a fun, frenetic atmosphere.
The core program is a perfect 90 minutes with a brief intermission. The finale builds and builds to a crashing and very satisfying finish, but then, rather unfortunately, finishes off with one encore too many. The conductor, Amy Andersson, skillfully directs the orchestra with a combination of grace and technical skill, but then seems to throw it all away at the end by mugging for applause and begging for standing ovations in service of another encore. The first encore was exciting, but the second showcased two incredibly obscure Zelda games that only the most hardcore fans are aware of; and ended the show with more of a whimper than the bang its actual ending called for.
Overall, this was a night of fantastic music, excellent people-watching and a fun, visual performance. This is something that Zelda fans should certainly seek out, and even those not familiar with the world of gaming can just enjoy a flawless musical performance from outstanding musicians and singers.
LEGEND OF ZELDA, SYMPHONY OF THE GODDESSES is currently touring the United States. For dates and times, check out zelda-symphony.com