Back in March, the Florida Orchestra collaborated with St. Petersburg artist Geff Strik on a multimedia performance of Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht. Strik painted a series of scenes inspired by the piece, which were filmed and projected above the orchestra during the concert.
Among those knocked out by the result: conductor and music director Michael Francis.
“It’s a really powerful, moving experience to see an artist bring this to life in a very respectful but compelling way," Francis said. "That, I think, is something that we’re doing that no one else is doing anywhere in the world. It’s really quite unique. If people want to see that, they’ve got to come to us.”
Now comes another first. On the eve of its 2019-20 season, the Florida Orchestra has named Strik its first-ever “visual artist-in-residence.”
For his first official project, Strik is working on another series of paintings that will be filmed and screened during the orchestra’s Oct. 11 to 13 performances of Richard Strauss’ Don Quixote, featuring cellist Maximilian Hornung.
Strik has sketched and painted 29 interpretations of scenes from Miguel de Cervantes’ novel, painting one atop the other, with a film crew capturing each image as he worked. The result: a 42-minute art film synchronized to the music.
“It’s a brilliant, condensed way of telling the overall story of the knights and Sancho Panza,” Francis said. “You’ll see very clearly from these images what is going on, musically, and also his interpretation of that — but also, at the same time, allow the music through.”
That was evident from the orchestra’s three March performances of Verklarte Nacht, each of which received a standing ovation.
“It was far bigger and better than I imagined,” Francis said. “When you trust gifted artists, and they feel that trust, and they feel your backing, then they can do extraordinary things. And Geff really blew me away. It was so much more moving and powerful than I could have imagined from a basic idea that I had. He ran with it in a way that was beyond my artistic understanding at that point.”
Francis and Strik will discuss their partnership at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 10 at the Salvador Dalí Museum. Hank Hine, the St. Petersburg museum’s executive director, will lead the talk, and Hornung will perform. The event is free.
The Florida Orchestra’s Don Quixote program takes place Oct. 11 at the Straz Center in Tampa, Oct. 12 at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg and Oct. 13 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. Click here for details.