Last year, Dr. Reed Criddle, Director of Choral Activities, had the idea of producing “Carmina Burana,” an ambitious performance piece that would involve nearly every part of the fine arts department.
“It is the largest music piece UVU has ever done,” Criddle said. “With UVU growing as much as it is, this is a natural outcome of that growth.” The production consists of 170 singers including 3 soloists, 48 dancers and 60 musicians.
Based on poems from the 11th and 12th centuries and set to music by German composer Carl Orff between 1935 and 1936, “Carmina Burana” requires a large chorus, an orchestra, soloists and a dance company. Broken up into three parts, “Carmina Burana” explores the themes of fate, happiness and love. The first part begins with the piece “O Fortuna” which, according to Criddle, is easily the most recognizable piece in the entire production.
“But there are also other gorgeous and thrilling moments,” Criddle said. By the end of the third part, the music cycles back to “O Fortuna,” or the wheel of fate, bringing the initial theme back at the end.
When it was originally performed in Frankfurt, Germany, the dancers all trained in ballet. Criddle was approached by Jacqui Colledge, Director of the Utah Regional Ballet Ensemble and asked if her dancers could be a part of the production.
“Of course, that would be optimal,” Criddle said, speaking of having the ballet ensemble join in the production.
Heather Grey, who is the choreographer for the dancers, is using the original choreography for the production. This production will also feature the choral talents of local high school students from Orem, Lone Peak and Timpanogos. The high school students have been rehearsing with their respective instructors and will begin rehearsing with Criddle a week before the performance.
“The first time I performed [in “Carmina Burana”], I was a sophomore in high school and it was, well, life changing,” Criddle said, “as I hope it will be for them.”
One of the most uncommon aspects of the production is that nearly every part of the fine arts department is being used in the show. The theater department is helping with stage management while the digital media is helping with the lights.
“It’s a large coordinated effort,” Criddle said.
Perhaps the most challenging part of the production will be fitting all the performers on stage. The show will play for two nights at the Covey Center for the Arts in downtown Provo. The stage itself is not incredibly big but needs to fit nearly 300 performers. There will be another performance at Orem High School which affords a little more room, but not much.
Aside from being the most ambitious undertaking this campus has ever attempted, “Carmina Burana” will offer the audience an opportunity to experience an incredible performance piece.
“They’ll find an hour of spectacle of visual and aural excitement,” Criddle said. “They’ll find melodies that are familiar and new ones as well.”
“Carmina Burana” plays on Nov. 4 and 5 at the Covey Center for the Arts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased for $15 with a student ID and $20 without at coveycenter.org, calling 801.852.7007 or at the Covey Center Box Office.
For tickets to the performance at Orem High School on Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m., visit uvu.edu/arts or call 801.863.7529. Same prices apply.