Reno is a city built on spectacle and few things are as spectacular as the circus coming to town. Pair the physical artistry of men and women flying through the air and performing feats of strength with the backing of the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra and you have quite the night of dazzling wonder ahead of you.
This will certainly be the case for the many people who flock to the Grand Sierra Resort on Saturday, Sept. 8, to witness Cirque de la Symphonie, an unforgettable collaboration between the Reno Philharmonic and maestro Laura Jackson with production director Alexander “Sasha” Streltsov and a crew of international performers. The night will feature aerialists, jugglers, strongmen and acrobats wowing the captivated crowd as the musicians plays scores from classic and contemporary movies. One can expect to pick their jaw off the floor a handful of times through the performance.
We are guests of the local orchestra and it is still very much a symphony concert, with an element of cirque for the visuals.”
The Reno Phil, as it’s known, is celebrating its 50th year and couldn’t have picked a better way to celebrate than with the magic of the cirque. It’s a partnership that director Alexander “Sasha” Streltsov is happy to join, especially as he seeks to curate his vision of pairing cirque and classical music. Starting in 2005, Streltsov and the performers who’ve joined him have wowed audiences across the globe with their precision, strength and finesse. As the show has progressed and evolved, Streltsov has moved from performer and co-owner to director and sole owner of the production.
Under Streltsov’s leadership, Cirque de la Symphonie is sure to continue to mesmerize audiences across the globe and define what is possible to the imagination when you combine sound and motion into one symphonic performance. (Streltsoy is in the center in the photograph below.)
Tahoe Onstage: How long have you been training for the performance?
Streltsov: It’s our second appearance. We’ve been talking about the concert for about a year now, especially since this will be a special event and anniversary. We decided we were gonna come back and do a show and put the program together. Basically, we are getting together with a conductor and music director and assigning different acts – aerialists, acrobats, jugglers and musicians — and putting it together with classical music.
Are you going to be doing multiple pieces of music or are you going to match the whole performance with one piece of music?
It’s going to be a mixed variety of pieces from different composers. Lots of masterpieces and I believe there is music from some movies, as well. Each act will perform to a different piece of music, so it is a full show. We are adopting the standard pops concert, so it is about 45 minutes each half, plus intermission. Each half we’ll have five or six acts and the orchestra will be playing on its own at times, just to remind why they are there and what the main attraction is. A lot of people think the circus is the main attraction, but the reality is we are guests of the local orchestra and it is still very much a symphony concert, with an element of cirque for the visuals.
What drew you to pairing classical and orchestral music with a visual performance and the physical artistry that you do?
Long story short, before I started this company in 2005, I was invited many times to pops concerts as a soloist doing my solo aerial act. It seemed to be very popular and successful for the audience, everybody loved it. One of the conductors I worked with a lot suggested that I put a program together and bring more artists, have it be “Cirque Pops” or something like that. We did it in 2005 and that is how it all started.
The idea of classical music was born even before that. Coming from Moscow, Russia, I used to perform a lot with ballet dancers and opera singers. It is very common in Russia to have these mixed performances. It was kind of unique and new for American audiences, so when I first did it in the U.S. it was very successful. We decided to pursue this and it has been a very interesting and unique thing. We’ve been very busy since 2005 and have traveled all through U.S., Canada and pretty much around the world.
Are all the performers people from your troupe or do you pull from the local area?
All the performers are professionals that work for me on a daily basis, though they are mainly working on the weekends (chuckles). So it is a weekend job but it’s a really fun job. All the performers are professionals, soft contractors that I hire for the show. That’s why the people you see in Reno might not be the same people you see in another concert I have. But I don’t hire people locally, I hand select ahead of time.
You are the founder and head of the company. Do you still perform in it?
I actually retired about a year and a half ago. I used to have a business partner and we split up, now I am the solo owner of the company. I realized it was hard for me to manage an entire company and be a performer, so I had to step down. But I had a pretty good run. I think I stepped down at the right moment. I really enjoy it, I’m still traveling and directing the stage. Even though I am not performing, I am still in it.
What has been one of the more rewarding experiences as you’ve made the transfer from someone performing in the show to someone directing it?
It is kind of hard to say, it still feels new for me but I really enjoy it. We’re going a lot of new places and getting a lot of returns, which are good because you already know what to expect. Over my career when I was still performing, and nowadays even, my biggest challenge still is being able to perform where cirque has never been done before.
The majority of the stages we work on are for music only. If you implement acrobatics and aerials into spaces like that, sometimes it’s the first time that it has ever been done. That’s the challenge and success at the same time, doing some kind of rigging to get someone to fly in that building for the first time. I’ve got a few places like that under my belt, that’s for sure.
Where do you go to find inspiration for new moves and try and figure out what else the body is capable of? Where do you look to find the cutting edge in acrobatics?
It’s a good question because like any art it requires inspiration. I am always on the lookout for new music because honestly I do not come from a musical background. Music is something new and unique for me every time, so I need to ask people who know and have more confidence with it. Some of the musical conductors and directors have been great mentors to me throughout my career.
The music itself is inspiration because you start to think about what acts and movements you can incorporate. Just like an artist, if you have an idea for a painting and it just comes out and you know what you want, it’s the same thing when you hear a new piece of music. The music is always the key element that I am always on the lookout.
We’ve done quite a few programs now. We started with the life classics, which is all the masterpieces you know from your childhood. Then we have music from the movies, which has been very successful because kids can recognize the music from movies they love, like Pirates of the Caribbean or Superman. That’s pretty impressive and fun. Then in specials we have Christmas and Halloween spectaculars and Valentine specials. Of course, all those require different music. The challenge is finding the right music for the right act, it’s a matching game. When you’re successful it’s amazing because people love it and they can’t stop talking about it.
Thinking about the show you are specifically putting on in Reno, what is something that the audience should be looking forward to?
We are excited to be a part of the anniversary of the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra. For both those who have come before and those who are new, it will be something they haven’t seen before. For all that Reno can provide the cirque is not something new, but the fusion of the cirque with the music is something to check out. It is a completely different experience you wouldn’t expect to see. It is not comparable with the traditional cirque or theater.
— Garrett Bethmann
- Cirque de la Symphonie with the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8; doors open at 7
Where: Grand Sierra Resort
Tickets: $45 to $115 LINK