What better time to start your new job as the head of the Utah Symphony and Opera than at the beginning of a global pandemic? That’s exactly how Steven Brosvik did it. He was hired to help captain two of Salt Lake’s important cultural institutions at precisely the moment when the wind dropped out of the sails. But Brosvik discovered the USUO’s teams already had oars in the water, and together they all started rowing.
“This community told us to do whatever was necessary to keep performing,” Brosvik says of his first days on the job. “We threw out an entire season and completely changed course.”
This involved a lot of puzzling and challenging reconfigurations. They reduced the overall number of symphony musicians from 85 to, at most, 48. Blocking, something usually left to the realms of theater and opera companies (“Lucky us, we are also an opera company,” Brosvik notes) became a factor to choreograph smaller groups of musicians moving around stage. Normally, all of the musicians sit essentially shoulder to shoulder, listening to each other. Musicians now had to sit farther apart. The wind and brass players were stuck at the back of the stage, literally over air return ducts. They had to learn to use more visual cues to work together.
“It entirely changed our repertoire,” Brosvik says. “With a full symphony, we would just naturally opt to do bigger, larger works. There were all these wonderful smaller pieces that had been in our blind spot. We were doing things with three and five musicians that would have gone overlooked.”
Many of the hard lessons learned will continue. Performances and educational programs will continue to be streamed and presented in online formats, for example.
“We discovered a whole new group of music lovers across the state,” Brosvik says. “A third of last year’s audience had never bought a ticket before.”
The Utah Symphony and Opera will run a full 2020-21 season, already underway with performances at the Deer Valley Music Festival. For a list of performances and tickets visit usuo.org.
Thierry Fischer conducts nine weeks of performances including Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, John Adams’ Slonimsky’s Earbox, Stravinsky’s The Fairy’s Kiss and Haydn’s Symphony No. 11, among others.
The Soundscapes series highlights music inspired by landscapes and nature, including movements from Olivier Messiaen’s southern Utah-inspired Des canyons aux étoiles, Nathan Lincoln de Cusatis’ The Maze violin concerto and Arlene Sierra’s Nature Symphony and Bird Symphony.
In its upcoming season, Utah Opera presents four full-scale opera productions with live performances at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre. Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in October 2021, the Utah Opera debut of Jonathan Dove and April De Angelis’ Flight in January 2022, Puccini’s Tosca in March 2022, and Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance in May 2022.
Learn Before You Go
Online courses by music professors from local universities are available online.