‘Don Quixote and the Puppet Show’: The First of Many – Ruth Snoke

A new season of the PSO has begun, and along with a new season for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and its devotees, it marks a new beginning for myself. Aside from the fact that I can count on one hand the number of symphonies I’ve attended, I must confess that I don’t really know much about composers, sonatas, and concertos. I hope you won’t be disappointed if I skip over criticism of the technique of the musicians or comments on the history of the composer who wrote the piece—but other than that I’m sure you will all be able to relate to my feelings and experiences at the symphony.


I may be the youngest PSO blogger, but I think my level of enthusiasm is just as great as everyone else’s, and the symphony on October 21st lived up to my expectations. Heinz Hall wasn’t as full as it often is (attributed, I was told, to the fact that there were puppets in the show and some patrons didn’t find that to their tastes), but it was brilliant as usual. My friend and I were struck, as always, by the contrast of the deep red carpets and the white marble on the walls, and I confess I am thrilled at the thought that I will have many more opportunities to enjoy Heinz Hall’s splendor.

The first part of the symphony was, because of the masterfully done puppet show, unlike anything I’d seen before. The music had a Spanish flavor, which I enjoyed greatly, and since I’d never before seen puppets done quite like they were for that ‘puppet opera’, I was transfixed. There was so much to watch on the stage (from the musicians to vocalists to the super titles to the puppets themselves) that even if the show had been less than interesting, I would have been entertained. Yet while the puppets were a novelty, they didn’t detract from the quality of the music or the beauty of the vocals. And, at times, they were quite funny.

Here, I believe, I am expected to be critical and to bring up things that were less than perfect or a bit of a mess-up. Unfortunately, not being an expert on music, I am left with only what I saw, felt, and thought—and I confess that all I saw and heard pleased me! In future blogs I’ll try to find something a little more constructive to say, but here all I can tell you about is how, as the music of the second half began, I felt the familiar tug at my heartstrings and drank in the music thirstily. Music with words and vocals says much, but I sometimes feel that music without vocals says more. In Strauss’ Don Quixote, he wrote the part of Don Quixote as a cello, and the part of his sidekick, Sancho, as a viola. The cello, played by Ralph Kirschbaum, which had such a real voice (in fact, it does have almost the same range as a human voice), vividly portrayed the kindness, glory, and pity of Don Quixote, and the viola, played by Randolph Kelly, chimed in poignantly.

I must say I gained new appreciation for a composer I already liked; Strauss’ music went from playful and triumphant to sorrowful and betrayed so effectively that I was left wishing for more after the death of the cello—er, Don Quixote. Yet I was content as the piece closed with the other instruments taking up the melody and bearing it with them to end on a sweet and soft note (a fitting ending, I thought—not the boom and decadence at the end of some concerts).

That’s all I have to say about that symphony, but I know it’s only the first of many thrilling symphonies, and I’m excited to be sharing my experiences with you!

1 thought on “‘Don Quixote and the Puppet Show’: The First of Many – Ruth Snoke”

  • Welcome to the PSO blogs Ruth. Good to have you on-board!
    And you know, don’t feel absolutely obliged to find things in the performance you didn’t like 🙂
    You should feel free to be perfectly honest though – and, interestingly, Naomi Yoran, another blogger on this site, had completely the opposite reaction to you about the puppets on the first half.
    Wondering if it’s a generation thing?
    Anyway – looking forward to many more interesting posts from you!

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