Press Releases

CPYB and HSO unleash Carnival of the Animals

World premiere brings feathers, fur and fins to life on Whitaker Center stage

Harrisburg, Pa. (September 22, 2011) – The Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB) and Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra (HSO) unveil the world premiere of Carnival of the Animals at Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts. Performances 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, October 22, and Sunday, October 23. Tickets are $20 for adults and $16 for children age 12 and under and may be purchased by calling the Whitaker Center Box Office at 717.214.ARTS (2787) or online at whitakercenter.org. 

CPYB’s Laszlo Berdo and HSO’s Tara Simoncic join forces in the vivid retelling of Camille Saint-Saëns’ 1886 orchestral composition, “Carnival of the Animals.” The creative team helping to bring the artists’ vision to life includes Cary Burkett, the distinctive voice of the morning “Classical Air” program heard on WITF 89.5. Burkett wrote the libretto and will perform the narration for the ballet. Highly regarded dance, opera and theatre scenic designer Lewis Folden brings his versatility to the all-new Carnival sets. Folden returns to the capital region after enthralling audiences with the sets he created for the CPYB 2010 sell-out hit Hansel and Gretel. Veteran costume director Betty Smith adds her flare for imaginative use of color and texture. Sought-after lighting designer Josh Monroe seamlessly stitches together the deft mix of storytelling, theatre and dance – propelling the audience into an all-encompassing sensory experience.

“Having young children of my own gave me the idea to present this story thru the eyes of a child,” said Berdo, CPYB principal faculty and former Boston Ballet principal dancer. “Through Carnival, I’m hoping we can ‘grab hold’ of young children and introduce them to multiple art forms in one production.” Berdo most recently staged the ballet company’s April 2011 production of Swan Lake.

Long recognized as a whimsical introduction to classical music, Saint-Saëns composed “The Carnival of the Animals” to express in music some of the silly habits his friends shared with animals. Saint-Saëns was concerned that the piece was too frivolous to be considered as serious music and he only allowed one piece, The Swan, to be performed during his lifetime. He left instructions in his will that the entire piece could not be played until after his death. “Carnival” was published posthumously in 1922 and quickly became one of his most popular works. The piece consists of 14 movements, with each movement using the sounds of the orchestra to embody the sounds of an animal, from roosters to elephants to kangaroos.

HSO Assistant Conductor and Youth Symphony Music Director, Tara Simoncic, will conduct the four performances. She commented: “I relish the opportunity to be involved in the world premiere of this choreographed version of the Saint-Saëns classic. The musicians of the HSO and I look forward to working with the choreographer, Laszlo Berdo, and the rest of the Youth Ballet team in bringing this theatrical experience to vivid life.”

The CPYB/HSO co-production offers a new spin on the famous ‘zoological fantasy,’ allowing the audience to see and hear precisely what the composer intended in each section. The plot follows eight-year-old Noah Nathaniel Norris who, having just celebrated his birthday, eagerly anticipates a promised trip to the pet store for one special present – the choice of any pet that he wants. Alas, when young Noah’s sour old piano teacher, Mr. Baggers, refuses to let him out of practicing his scales, the rollicking adventure begins.

Guests are invited to a FREE informal program Q&A with the production’s creative team at 12:15 p.m., which immediately precedes the Saturday and Sunday matinee performances.  

New for this season is a Children’s Workshop for children ages four and older. Led by CPYB teachers, along with CPYB dancers, the pre-performance workshop is scheduled at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, October 22, at Whitaker Center. Tickets are $10 per child and may be may be purchased by calling the Whitaker Center Box Office at 717.214.ARTS (2787) or online at whitakercenter.org. 

CPYB and HSO are supported, in part, by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Cultural Enrichment Fund.

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About Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet
Established in 1955 by Founding Artistic Director Marcia Dale Weary, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet is a nationally and internationally recognized school of classical ballet headquartered in Carlisle, Pa. CPYB’s mission is to inspire, educate and enrich the lives of our students and the region through training in and the performance of classical ballet.

About Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra
Founded in 1931, the Harrisburg Symphony is one of the Capitol Region’s cornerstone cultural institutions. Each season the orchestra performs seven pairs of Masterworks concerts, four pairs of concerts on the Capital BlueCross Pops Series, plus a number of family concerts, educational activities and special events. Maestro Stuart Malina will be celebrating his 12th season as the HSO’s music director in 2011-12. Concerts take place in the Forum, part of the Capitol complex in downtown Harrisburg.

Operating under the umbrella of the Harrisburg Symphony is the Harrisburg Symphony Youth Orchestra, founded in 1953 and one of the oldest youth symphonies in the country. Tara Simoncic is the Youth Orchestra’s music director.

About Choreographer Laszlo Berdo
Berdo was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and began studying dance at the age of five. He intensified his studies at the National Academy of Arts in Champaign, Illinois. He danced for Ballet Austin, the Louisville Ballet under Alun Jones and Helen Starr, and Cincinnati Ballet under Ivan Nagy. Berdo joined the Boston Ballet in 1990 and became a principal dancer in 1995. As a principal, he danced numerous roles in ballets by Cranko, McMillan, Balanchine, Bournonville, Hynd and Stevenson. Berdo also excelled in contemporary works by Tharp, Taylor, Feld, Butler and York. He is honored to be the first to perform the lead role in Cranko’s Eugene Onegin in the United States.

Berdo began his choreography career in 1993. His works, which include the pas de deux Eternal Being, Four Hands, Below Down Under, Sanctuary, and Bass Elements, have been performed for the Boston Ballet, International Ballet competition in Jackson, Mississippi, summer festival in Biarritz, France, Norwegian National Ballet in Oslo, Finnish National Ballet in Helsinki, and Boston Conservatory. In 2001 he created Concertante for Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet’s (CPYB) ChoreoPlan.

From 2000 to 2003 Berdo was a faculty member for the Boston Conservatory and Harvard University. He joined the full-time faculty of CPYB in 2003, for which he choreographed Snow White and premiered Peter Pan. He presented The Nutcracker for the Eglevsky Ballet, which premiered in December 2010; and most recently staged Swan Lake for CPYB. Berdo teaches in the United States and Europe for ballet companies, summer intensives and colleges.

About Assistant Conductor Tara Simoncic
Tara Simoncic, Assistant Conductor to Maestro Malina and the new Youth Symphony Music Director, joined the HSO in July 2010 from an appointment as Music Director of the Norwalk Youth Symphony in Norwalk, Connecticut. While with the NYS, she founded and conducted the Chamber Orchestra there.

During her time as Music Director of the Norwalk Youth Symphony, she built the program from four orchestras to six, adding a very successful mid-level orchestral winds training ensemble as well as a top level chamber orchestra.

In addition to her NYS position, she was also the Music Director and Conductor of the Histoire Chamber Orchestra, Conductor of the Flexible Orchestra (in NYC), Cover Conductor for the Manhattan School of Music (NYC), and Pre-Concert Lecturer and Assistant Conductor for the Greenwich Symphony Orchestra (Greenwich, CT).

Originally from Stockton, California, Ms. Simoncic grew up in a musical family. Her father a composer and her mother a flautist, Tara was encouraged to study several instruments, but chose to focus on the trumpet at the age of six. Tara was bitten by the conducting bug while pursuing her Bachelor of Music degree in trumpet performance at the New England Conservatory of Music. There, she founded the Stravinsky Septet, an ensemble which toured New England with a staged production of Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat and other works with similar instrumentation that were commissioned by the ensemble. Deciding to further her studies in conducting, she received her Masters of Music degree in orchestral conducting from Northwestern University.

Her conducting training extended to Europe, where she has studied at the Canford Summer School of Music (England) and with the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic (Czech Republic), the West Bohemian Symphony Orchestra (Czech Republic), the Adygeya Republic National Symphony Orchestra and the Astrakhan Symphony Orchestra (Russian Republic). She studied with Zdenec Macal, David Gilbert, Iloh Yang, Victor Yampolsky, George Manahan, George Hurst and Kirk Trevor.