Emotional Homecoming For Zelda Symphony Producer
Last week’s performance of The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses in Philadelphia was an emotional one for the show’s producer Jason Michael Paul. It was the first time he’s been back at the venue where he started his career since December 2001, when he was working with Luciano Pavarotti on a performance celebrating the opening of this now iconic arts and culture center. Sixteen years later Jason returned to produce The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, a show that celebrates more than 30 years of timeless music from one of the most enduring video game franchises of all time: The Legend of Zelda.
This was my third time seeing the show, which has been touring the world for five years, and it continues to impress. While the show is taking a sabbatical in 2018, it had an incredibly successful run in 2017, riding the wave of renewed interest Nintendo has been enjoying as a result of the popularity of its Nintendo Switch console, as well as its NES and SNES retro consoles, both of which have sold millions.
I was fortunate enough to sit in on the rehearsal for the Philadelphia performance, and it was a surreal experience. It was just me and the orchestra. I had Verizon Hall to myself nearly the entire time, so I went from seat to seat seeing how the view and sound differed depending on my location. I sat front-row-center, as well as last-row-center, three floors up and hundreds of feet back from the stage. I even checked out the view from above and behind the stage, just to see what it’s like for folks sitting up there. It was also fun watching the lively and humorous conductor work with the orchestra on fine-tuning the songs. Whether they were playing a piece for the second time or picking up in the middle of a number, I was continually amazed at the professionalism and musical mastery on display.
After the rehearsal but before the show, I spent approximately an hour backstage speaking with Jason in his dressing room. Our conversation was even better than my interview with him from a couple months prior. The sign of a great conversation is being able to meander from topic to topic and find yourself ending up somewhere not even closely related to your original point of discussion. That happened during my talk with Jason, and it was wonderful. He’s an incredibly successful, driven and passionate person, and I know 2018 and the years to come will bring him even more good fortune. I’m honored to have been his guest, especially on such an important night in his career.
The concert itself was spectacular. Jason came on stage at the beginning to welcome people to the show and explain why Philadelphia and The Kimmel Center are so important to him, and it was clear that he was overcome with emotion because of the milestone in his career that this performance represented. The show itself was broken into five symphonic movements, as well as an intermission, and it included new music from the hit Nintendo Switch game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. There were also three special video messages throughout the show from individuals that have played a key role in The Legend of Zelda. The pacing of the music, which is synced up with footage of the video games from which the compositions are derived, is excellent. I still get chills every time I hear a particular piece of music from Wind Waker, which I captured in the rehearsal video below.
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