Disney ‘Fantasia’ – Live in Concert with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, at New Jersey Performing Arts Center – Review

By Jonathan Spira on 23 February 2016
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The first movie I ever saw in a theater was “Fantasia.” I was seven and it was enchanting. The shadowy figures of Leopold Stokowski and the musicians of the Philadelphia, the sound of the instruments being tuned, the first notes of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue accompanied by brilliant colors and falling stars, indeed it was a visual concert, something to behold for a child or for anyone older.

Fast forward to 2016. While I’ve seen Fantasia many times since (although not on the big screen since that first time), I always felt I was watching it for the first time as there was always something I hadn’t seen or noticed before. It’s been shortened, lengthened, rerecorded, and remastered multiple times since its 1940 premiere so this should come as no surprise.

When Walt Disney released “Fantasia,” he insisted on retrofitting the sound systems of the theaters where it would be shown so audiences everywhere could hear the movie in what was for the time truly revolutionary multichannel stereophonic Fantasound. Indeed, the only aural experience better than Fantasound and surround sound, which Fantasia 2000 used, would be a live orchestra.

This past weekend, at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ted Sperling, did just that, kicking off a multi-city tour that would bring scenes from the original “Fantasia” as well as from its sequel, “Fantasia 2000,” accompanied by full orchestra. Think silent movie accompanied by a theater organ, multiply by 100, and you’ll get the idea.

The movie merges eight symphonic numbers and pairs them with Disney’s phantasmagorical imagery with a resulting wild ride into a fantastic world of imagination.

Click here to continue to Page 2Unicorns, Donald Duck, and Mickey Mouse

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