'Devils, Soldiers and Souls' to offer timeless tale

rehearsal imageMusicians, actors and dancers performing work by famous composers addressing the legend of Faust and the devil will comprise “Devils, Soldiers and Souls” Wednesday, Feb. 14.

The show, an installment in SUNY Oswego’s Ke-Nekt Chamber Music Series, will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Sheldon Hall ballroom.

Three faculty members are collaborating to spearhead the production. Juan La Manna of the music department conducts the music, Mark Cole of the theatre department directs the acting portion, and dance faculty member Cheryl Wilkins-Mitchell choreographs.

“This morality tale, with references to the Faust legend, is based on a Russian folk tale, ‘The Runaway Soldier and the Devil,’” Cole said. “It tells the story of a naive soldier, circa World War I, who bargains with the devil and eventually gains a life of wealth and success but spiritual desolation.”

The musical program features great works related to the legend of Faust selling his soul to the devil, La Manna said. Selections will include Igor Stravinsky’s “Histoire du Soldat,” Franz Schubert’s “Gretchen am Spinrade” and “Der Erlkonig,” Camille Saint-Saens’ “Danse Macabre, op. 40” and Richard Wagner’s “Two Songs by Mephistopheles.”

La Manna said the timeless moral lesson and strong story have maintained the myth as a creative inspiration for more than 400 years and keep it current today.

“The tale is conceivably a parable, as it shows us the terrible consequences of desiring more knowledge, more power and more wealth,” he said. “The myth has provided us with different outlooks on the terrible results of unchecked yearning.”

Cole, who will also narrate the piece, said it uses a small cast of actors and dancers to convey a detailed story with minimal staging.

“The piece is an intriguing hybrid of music, storytelling, acting and dance,” Cole said. “The devil’s character is embodied in a dance sequence, and the story of the soldier’s courtship and union with the princess is also told through dance.”

The whole second act will feature Stravinsky’s “Histoire du Soldat,” a piece that has intrigued La Manna since learning it as a conducting student. As one of Stravinsky’s sparer compositions created when World War I required a limited number of musicians, La Manna said, it offers remarkable “originality, energy and beauty.”

“The piece is scored for only seven players, coupled high and low: violin and double bass, clarinet and bassoon, trumpet and trombone, and a percussionist playing a variety of instruments,” La Manna said.

“It was ironic that the day chosen for such a dark story is Valentine’s Day,” he said. “But a portion of the concert is about love.”

A few parts will be previewed during an admission-free informance at 12:40 p.m. during the Feb. 14 College Hour in Room 41 of Tyler Hall.

Tickets to the evening performance of “Devils, Soldiers and Souls” cost $15 ($10 for seniors and students, $5 for SUNY Oswego students).

For information or reservations, contact Tyler box office at 312-2141 or tickets@oswego.edu.

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(Posted: Jan 24, 2007)

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