O Fortuna! Bogotá’s Teatro Mayor stages Orff’s epic Carmina Burana

It is one of the most recognizable opening choruses in the history of music, used in films, commercials and to introduce a major event. However, when Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana premiered at the Frankfurt Opera in 1937, the German composer, and his compatriots, weren’t thinking of soft drinks and new cars, instead grappling with the rise of National Socialism with the collapse of the Weimar Republic. Even though the composer never touted the totalitarian line, his seminal work remains indelibly linked to Germanic identity.

Rooted in the scandalous medieval poetry of 13th-century Bavarian monks, Carmina Burana comes to the main stage of the Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo, from June 21 to 24. Interpreted by the Bogotá Philharmonic Orchestra (OFB), Chorus of the Ópera de Colombia and Children’s Chorus of the OFB, Orff’s choral epic will also be accompanied by performers of the Bogotá dance company Fundación L’Explose. Conductor Leonardo Marulanda is the musical director for this four-night musical spectacle.

Even though Carmina Burana’s lyrics date back to the Middle Ages in Europe when satirical clerics rejoiced in their good spirits by writing titillating, beer-infused couplets, Orff’s work has transcended the confines of time, constantly  interpreted on the world’s stages by magnificent orchestras and choirs.

Now, the time has arrived for Bogotá to revel in these ancient medieval texts set to foot-stomping rhythms and haunting choruses.

Covering a range of themes, from love and spirituality, to sex and gambling, Orff’s medieval elegy to his native Bavaria, has been described as a Scenic Cantata, in which audiences are invited to imagine daily life in the dark ages, which was not that distanced from our present. This, is the enduring quality of Carmina Burana.

Comprised of 25 movements in three sections, the work opens and closes with an invocation to Fortune (O Fortuna). Once Fortune has illuminated bawdy monks, “Primo Vere” (In Spring) sets the tone for youthful and energetic poems about nature and monastic life. And what would spring be without poems dedicated to the moon and sun?

With the arrival of summer, the monks hit the Tavern (In Taberna) to feast on wild boar and dance with scantily-clad maidens. In Cour d’Amours (Court of Love), Carmina Burana’s longest section, courtship gives way to erotic desire and happiness.

Orff’s tribute to the Benedictine monks of Beuern is widely-regarded as one of the most important choral works of all time. And time, like fortune, doesn’t give too many second chances. So, enjoy this epic work in a venue known for hosting great performances.

Even though opening night on June 21 is sold out, tickets are still available for June 22 (8 pm), 23 (8 pm) and 24 (5 pm) and priced $40,000 pesos to $120,000. Tickets are available at theatre’s box office www.teatromayor.org and through online agents www.primerafila.com.co

Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo – Ave Calle 170 No.67-51.