Ensemble Parallèle presents John Harbison's The Great Gatsby

Susannah Biller as Daisy in Ensemble Parallele's The Great Gatsby
Ensemble Parallèle returns next weekend with their most ambitious production yet- The Great Gatsby, composed by John Harbison and featuring a libretto by the composer culled from the text of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel. The original version of the opera, commissioned by the Met to celebrate James Levine's 25th anniversary as Music Director, called for an orchestra of 120 players and has only been performed twice before in New York and Chicago, to great acclaim. Putting on a work that size is a formidable task for even the largest companies, which explains why it hasn't been staged since 2000. Ensemble Parallèle and the Aspen Music Festival engaged composer Jacques Desjardins to re-orchestrate the score, with Harbison's approval, and the result will be performed by a 30-piece orchestra and seven-piece jazz band, with approximately 30 minutes trimmed from the original score (with Harbison's approval).

In a series of events held over the past two months, Ensemble Parallèle's artistic team previewed the production's design and musical evolution. Desjardin's task was no small feat, but the results, some of which he's presented in these previews, come across as well-considered and musically bold. E.P.'s conductor Nicole Paiement and director Brian Staufenbiel have really delved into the work and arrived at some very creative methods to preserve the opera's large sense of proportion while working with much smaller resources. With each new outing, Ensemble Parallèle  appears determined to up the artistic ante, and Gatsby, with its chorus, jazz band, complex characters, party scenes and multiple locations, is a huge artistic undertaking for a small company. However, as they've proven before, this is an incredibly creative team and everything revealed in the previews leads one to conclude that what's unveiled next weekend at YBCA's Novellus Theater will be well worth seeing and hearing. Don't wait until the last minute to get tickets- it's highly likely the three performances (February 10-12) will sell out.

The cast features Adler Fellow Susannah Biller as Daisy Buchanan, Marco Panuccio as Gatsby, Dan Synder as Tom Buchanan, Jason Detwiler as Nick Carraway, Julienne Walker as Jordan Baker, and Bojan Knezevic as George Wilson. The production team includes video artist Austin Forbord, sets and lighting by Matthew Antaky, costumes by Christine Crook and choreography by Tom Segal.