In 1998, I was working at the downtown arts center HERE when Basil Twist's Symphonie Fantastique premiered in a small black box theater in the basement. Billed as a "puppet show," I remember being skeptical about seeing Berlioz' hour-long masterpiece turned into some kind of phantasmagoria. It was unlike anything I've ever seen: using just a backlit water tank, Twist used a mix of feathers, glitter, slides, dyes, and other objects to conjure "a concert of forms." It was like watching a live version of Disney's Fantasia, only better.
Symphonie Fantastique remains Twist's best-known work, with subsequent productions staged on Broadway and across the globe. After seeing it in 2001, Lincoln Center's Jane Moss approached Twist and commissioned his Petrushka (2002), using a combination of abstract and figurative puppetry set to Stravinsky's score, arranged for two pianos. (The following year, Lincoln Center staged his Symphonie Fantastique.)
Those uptown experiences inspired Twist to think on a larger scale, and last year, Carolina Performing Arts at The University of North Carolina commissioned him to create a new evening of Stravinsky "ballets" with the Orchestra of St. Luke's, anchored by The Rite of Spring on the occasion of its centenary. That evening has now made it's way to Lincoln Center's Rose Theater, where it's receiving its New York premiere this week as part of the ongoing White Light Festival.