By: Iride Aparicio

Pictures courtesy:  the SF Symphony

SAN FRANCISCO, CA-- In a SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY AND ESA-PEKKA SOLONEN RELEASE, the San Francisco Symphony announced the  release of: STRAVINSKY: THE SOLDIER'S TALE, A NEW HOUR-LONG THEATRICAL CONCERT FILM,  that may be watched free of charge  on the Orchestra's free video streaming service via https://www.sfsymphonyplus.org/videos/soldierstale

Inspired by the l921 Russian abstract art exhibition 5x5=25, the hour-long film was conceived and directed by acclaimed British Director, designer, and video artist Netia Jones. The  presentation of  The  Soldier's Tale will be conducted by the Music Director of the  S.F. Symphony,  Esa-Pekka Salonen, and it will feature actor Bruce Davison, seven San  Francisco Symphony musicians, and Alonso King LINES' s Ballet dancer Adji Cissoko.We should add that because the original The Soldier's Tale debuted near the end of World War I during the influenza pandemic, this film presentation is also relevant to today's audience because it strikes parallels between Stravinsky's world in l918 and the world today.

"I've always wanted to do a proper studio production of The Soldier's Tale, because it's one of my favorite pieces and deserves a very well-thought-out detailed production," said Salonen. "Between the fact that it represents a new era in composition-- and in the arts, more generally -- coupled with the influenza pandemic which was a big factor in driving all these changes, you cannot help but to draw parallels between that and our time. A hundred years earlier, Stravinsky was going through the same experiences in his life as we are going now in our lives, and that's almost spooky".

Stravinsky designed The Soldier's Tale, --a Faustian anti-war anti-greed piece that tells the story of a soldier who gives his prized fiddle to the Devil in exchange for a book which will provide him "wealth untold" -- as a theatrical work, to be read, played and danced,  by an small ensemble who could easily travel.

He based the story  on  The Runaway Soldier, and the Devil, a Russian folk tale by Alexander Afanasyev, written with  Swiss writer C.F. Ramuz, and the original musical work was intended as a play for a Narrator and two actors. In this version, however, acclaimed British director/designer, and video artist  Netia Jones, who works  internationally,  in opera, staged concerts, performances and installations using video and film, and projected media, conceived this digital music theater production, using a single actor, and selecting acclaimed film and television star Bruce Davison to portray the three speaking roles of narrator, Soldier and the Devil.

Netia Jones

"Part of the concept is that this is a very dirty pact with the Devil," says Netia, "but the Devil is actually part of an internal subconscious. And who is better than Bruce Davison to embody this kind of multilayered personality? He is utterly virtuosic and extremely fluent, so when I was working towards the movie with Bruce I got the idea that the soldier's Tale was actually about one person "

Actor Bruce Davidson
 Playing the roles of the narrator, the Soldier and the Devil.

Other celebrities in The Soldier's Tale are : Alonso King's LINES's ballet dancer Adji Sissoko, and seven San Francisco Symphony musicians: Concertmaster Alexander Barantachik.  Principal Bass Scott Pingel.  Principal Clarinet Carey Bell. Principal Bassoon Stephen Paulson.  Associate Principal Trumpet Aaron Schuman, Principal Trombone Timothy Higgins, and Principal Percussion Jacob Nissly.

Soldiers Tale (Kristen Loken).jpg

The Soldier's Tale was filmed in March 2022, in the San Francisco Symphony's Sound box performance space, and at a studio in Richmond, California. The production is multidimensional, with large screens surrounding the musicians, who are facing a projecting screen showing dancer Adji Cissoko's (seen dancing in the screen) who improvised her dance choreography throughout the filming.

"We only see Adji in 2D (two dimensions) but I feel that her presence is very tri-dimensional said Jones."She brings a lot of life, and she represents light and hope, and this is a piece that, fundamentally, is about the loss of hope or a kind of resilience and the struggle" 

For those interested, in learning more about the project, they can watch a behind-the scenes feature that explores the making of the project, featuring interviews with Esa-Pekka Solonen, Netial Jones, Bruce Davison, Adji Cissoko, and Aaron Schuman in the video below.

SFSymphony+ | Stravinsky: The Soldier’s Tale | Behind-the-Scenes Feature

"The Soldier's Tale has a very interesting place in history because it represents a complete change of paradigm" says San Francisco Symphony Director Salonen "The opulent post-Romantic, late-Romantic era has come to a very violent and abrupt end: the world has experienced the first World War, the world has experienced a pandemic, and the new art looks very different, and (the music) _ sounds very different. It deals with contemporary issues, sometimes in an allegorical way, and there's a sort of an ironic and distant approach to things.  The Soldier's Tale, is thoroughly modern, it represents the new era. "