Those who attended our performance of Beyond the Score®: Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring enjoyed an amazing multi-media performance together in Overture Hall starring American Players Theatre actors and the Madison Symphony Orchestra. The first half featured actors from American Players Theatre, visual projections, and live musical examples. Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring was played in its entirety in the second half. Read the reviews and view photos from the performance below!


Matt Ambrosio / Capital Times: “Multimedia program at Madison Symphony expands ‘Rite of Spring'”

“This past Sunday, the Madison Symphony Orchestra stepped outside of its normal programming to perform its once-a-year Beyond the Score concert, a multimedia experience created by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, introduced to Madison in 2014. 

By way of image projection, dramatization, and, of course, musical performance, the first act of a Beyond the Score concert details the history of a well-known musical composition, which is then performed in full during the second act to an audience more intimately acquainted with the piece.  Previous interactions have focused on ‘Scheherezade’ by Rimsky-Korsakov, Elgar’s ‘Enigma Variations’ and Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian Symphony.'”

“This year’s Beyond the Score concert focused on Igor Stravinsky’s celebrated “The Rite of Spring,” for which the MSO was joined by artists from American Players Theatre’s core acting company.  Though composed in 1913, ‘Rite of Spring’ still sounds unbelievably modern. Famously choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, the premiere of the ballet caused quite a stir, and much ink has been spilled in the history books over the “riot at the Rite.” 

Refreshingly, Beyond the Score made no mention of the work’s reception and instead focused primarily on its conception, delving into the details of Stravinsky’s influences and ideas when composing the piece.”

“The drama in the first act of the concert brought the audience into a conversation between Stravinsky (played by James Ridge) and his early collaborator on the project Nicholas Roerich (played by James DeVita), an artist and thinker knowledgeable about Russian folk history and rituals. Ridge and Devita, along with narrator Kelsey Brennan, were dynamic and spirited, and they seemed energized to share the stage with a full orchestra.

The concert’s multimedia format gave the audience a wraparound and accessible understanding of some of Stravinsky’s compositional decisions.”

“‘The Rite of Spring’ is tremendously demanding on an orchestra. It places instruments at the very extremes of their ranges to the point where their tone becomes distorted. Even Camille Saint-Saëns, who attended the premiere of the work, could not recognize the bassoon in the opening melodic line.

In addition to the demand on individuals, the piece requires that the ensemble cohere on very dense and dissonant harmonies while performing complex rhythms. In light of these demands, the MSO’s performance was impressive. The woodwind section was tight and sonorous, and the percussion section led from behind.”

“Kyle Knox, the orchestra’s associate conductor, took the rostrum for the Sunday afternoon performance. Knox is a passionate maestro, and he displayed great control over the MSO. His bodily gestures and angular positions matched closely the music, and his deep expressivity translated into the orchestra.”

Read the full review


Bill Wineke / Channel 3000: “Wineke: It’s a Busy Week for Classical Music in Madison”

““Beyond the Score” is a concept developed in 2005 which now includes 30 different programs licensed by local symphonies. APT actors James DeVita, James Ridge, and Kelsey Brennan took the stage for the first half of Sunday’s presentation, reading parts of a play purporting to recreate planning by Stravinsky and his choreographer for the “Rite of Spring” while the orchestra plays snippets of the work. The second half of the program featured the orchestra playing the entire piece.”

“The idea is popular and the technical aspects of the presentation were done skillfully. “

“Kyle Knox, associate director of the MSO and music director of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra, conducted and did a nice job. MSO conductor John DeMain was in the audience.”

Read the full review

Hear what the audience had to say…


The combination of background of the piece and of the composer coupled with the orchestral performance of the piece intensifies the experience of the composition.

This performance was superb. The conductor was magnificent. I have never seen anything like this in my life! Watching an orchestra with so many musicians was incredible; I lost count at over 70. Watching this many string and wind instruments having to play single notes, simultaneously, was thrilling, especially when there was not one person out of sync. The performance was exciting.

I think the Madison Symphony Orchestra that I heard last Sunday can be compared to any orchestra, anywhere. Bravo, and Thank You for the joy you gave me that day.

The multimedia aspect, with old photos on the screen, and the actors providing insight into the composer’s creative process, made for a special experience.

We loved the “theatrical” experience for the story-line…with such professional and loved actors from APT. The projected images were very enhancing to the dialogue and narration, along with the orchestral and vocal sections. It was an EXCELLENT performance from start to finish!

The presentation and musical performance was excellent! Conductor was great. Background information very compelling!

 I love the piece itself, and appreciated having an entertaining primer to listening that included multi-media art. The explanation of the color photography made the photos themselves so much more compelling. The authentic recordings of folk music made the themes more ‘hearable.’ And the script made the transfer of facts so much more interesting than just a lecture.    

 Astonishing performance, excellent!

 I am very familiar with the Rite of Spring having performed it and listened to it hundreds of times. Hearing the folk tunes that Stravinsky used played on the actual instruments of the Russian villages was a revelation to me. I will never hear the Rite of Spring the same way again.

I enjoyed that history behind the performance and seeing it all come together

I loved the Beyond the Score concept. I’d never experienced it. I thought it was done brilliantly! As an educator, I love what you did.

Besides the great performance, I loved learning so much more about the “back story” to the piece and the composer’s thoughts and motivations for composing it. As someone with a music degree, who played the piece in the UW Symphony decades ago, I was amazed at how much I learned through this presentation.

Listening to the actors explain the background of what Stravinsky was doing, and then playing the recordings of the Latvian folk songs, and then finally, having the orchestra play the final version was very compelling, really helped me understand the music better.

The orchestra was as tight as I’ve heard them in recent years . . . they were superb. Kudos to Kyle Knox!!! And I absolutely love the Rite of Spring. The APT actors were their usual exceptional selves . . . what a treat.

WOW! That was simply the best I have ever heard Rite of Spring. I don’t think I’ve heard the MSO perform better on any work, let alone one of such monumental difficulty. Maestro Knox led the orchestra with truly impressive precision, and it was edge-of-the-seat music-making. Bravo!