Oregon Arts Watch: Suzanne Haag plays with fire

Suzanne Haag plays with fire

Haag has also spent considerable time thinking about Igor Stravinsky’s score. “Having live music for any dance performance elevates the experience for both the audience and the performer. It turns a performance into a living, breathing thing.” Haag said about working with Orchestra Next conductor Brian McWhorter on selecting the right musical approach for this performance of The Firebird.  

Haag and McWhorter spent a lot of time listening to various recordings before deciding to use the full Firebird score instead of one of the three shorter suites with reduced orchestrations that Stravinsky had compiled. The audio recording they selected was a version that Stravinsky himself had conducted. Haag has been using that recording while working on the choreography with her cadre of dancers, and McWhorter has referenced it in preparing Orchestra Next’s 60-plus players for performance. 

Haag works through complex movement with Eugene Ballet dancers. Video by Antonio Anacan.

Both Haag and McWhorter noted that the music is colorful and technically challenging with its changes in meter and syncopated rhythms. It has become one of the most iconic examples of classical musical modernism. Its performance takes a lot of mental energy and focus. And while there is so much intrinsic expression in the music, it isn’t always an easy style to feel. “Altogether, The Firebird is tough! Getting through it will be a tremendous achievement for all of us.” McWhorter told ArtsWatch.