"L’Histoire du soldat" (The Soldier's Tale)
Kinship With the Arts 2 Valley Productions Will Be Family Reunions
"The Soldier's Tale" -  Devilishly Well Done

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   "L’Histoire du soldat" (The Soldier's Tale)

May 7, 8 & 9th Arizona State University West:

Michael joined his sister, classical dancer Marisa Cerveris and brother, stage & screen actor Todd Cerveris,
in an exciting modern presentation of Stravinsky's "L’Histoire du soldat" (The Soldier's Tale)
The production was directed by his father, Michael Sr., professor of music at ASU West.

Originally conceived in 1918 as a traveling exhibition of a musical play,
"L’Historie" recounts the classical Faust tale of a soldier who sells his soul to the devil.
Michael’s father, Michael Sr., brought Stravinsky’s masterful composition to new life
in a special multimedia presentation with slide projection, video & live performers.
Michael, Todd and Rob Taylor of (Arizona State University) narrate
as Marisa, David MacGillivray & choreographer Fabrice Herrault dance.
Michael Sr. also conducted the local chamber orchestra.

Performances were Friday & Saturday May 7 & 8 at 8pm and Sun, May 9 at 2pm
at the ASU West University Center Building, La Sala

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     Kinship With the Arts 2 Valley Productions Will Be Family Reunions

Arizona Republic,
May 6, 1999
By Kenneth LaFave

"I was 9 years old before I realized not every kid spent his summer performing in summer stock productions with his family." So says Todd Cerveris, the New York-based actor who will play the Devil in The Soldier's Tale this weekend at Arizona State University West.

"When my parents couldn't be at a school concert I was in, it was no big deal, because I knew they had a gig I couldn't be at, either."

That's Mark Russell Smith, music director of the Springfield (Mass.) Symphony Orchestra, who will guest-conduct the Phoenix Boys Choir this weekend.

What are they talking about?

Both Cerveris and Smith grew up in artistic families. Both became artists. And both are coming to the Valley this weekend as tributes to their artist families.

Smith is the son of Harvey Smith, who will step down this summer as music director of the Boys Choir after 40 years. The younger Smith will lead the Boys Choir in a farewell salute to his father, a program that will be "pops in a big way, Americana pops," he says. America the Beautiful, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah are among the titles.

Cerveris is the son of Michael Cerveris, professor of music at ASU West. Both he and his siblings, actor Michael "Miguel" Cerveris and dancer Marisa Cerveris, will take part in a production by their father of Stravinsky's musical morality play The Soldier's Tale.

"We're all taking vacation time to do it. It's definitely a labor of love," Todd Cerveris says.

Cerveris just returned to New York from Louisville, where he was cast in a new play. The younger Michael Cerveris is currently off- Broadway in New York in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Marisa Cerveris, formerly a member of Ballet Arizona, is in the Broadway cast of Phantom of the Opera.

Smith joined at age 8 the choir his father conducted. He took for granted that making music was a natural part of family life.

"Performing was what we did," Smith says. "It was our family trade. They didn't push it at all, because they knew how hard a life it can be to be an artist. But we were definitely a different kind of family."

"Different" also applied to the Cerveris clan. Says Todd:

"For a kid growing up in West Virginia" - where his father had an academic position - "to know all the lyrics to Damn Yankees and the details of the family relations in Fiddler on the Roof was not common. It gave me a certain sensitivity."

Neither son would trade the strangeness away just to gain more ordinary childhood memories.

"Having grown up singing and playing the piano certainly enriched my life," Smith says. When he decided to pursue his father's profession, he took a cue from his father and developed a "really big, expressive conducting style."

The Cerveris children all went into the arts, following both their dad and their mother, a modern dancer who eventually left dance to work for IBM. Their early experiences of playing summer stock together has made them a close-knit group, Todd Cerveris says.

Both he and Smith are looking at this weekend as a family reunion as well as a job.

"I am so impressed with what my dad has done through the years," Smith says. "This will be like old home week for me."

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     "The Soldier's Tale" -  Devilishly Well Done

Arizona Republic, May 10, 1999
by Kenneth LaFave

We don't lose our souls in grand pacts with the devil. We lose them in countless little ways - in a practical exchange for money, to please a loved one, or by looking over our shoulders once too often. Such is the shudderingly clear insight of The Soldier's Tale (L'histoire du soldat), Russian composer Igor Stravinsky and Swiss poet C.F. Ramuz's extraordinary "entertainment" from 1918, written in the wake of World War I and at the brink of an era we recognize as our own.

Eighty-one years later, in a bright new interdisciplinary production by Michael Cerveris at Arizona State University West, the message was just as clear and the multiple media were aglow with a new and refurnished energy.

As seen Saturday night, music professor Cerveris' version was an intense amalgam of music, drama, dance and visuals, all produced at the highest professional level and with great love for the uniqueness of the work. The three-performance run, which Cerveris also conducted, ended Sunday afternoon.

The soldier and his adversary in this slyly oblique morality tale were both acted and danced, sometimes sequentially, often at the same time. Michael Cerveris - the Tony-nominated actor son of the producer-conductor - was the dramatic voice of the soldier, with French-born dancer and veteran of the Hamburg Ballet, Fabrice Herrault, providing the dancing soldier and choreography for the work as a whole.

Another Cerveris son, Todd Cerveris, spoke the devil's role, with Canadian dancer David MacGillivray as the dancing devil. Robert Taylor was the nimble-voiced and dramatically nuanced narrator, and Marisa Cerveris - the daughter of Michael, pere - danced the part of the princess.

With all those Cerverii involved, an uninformed onlooker might have gotten the idea this was an amateur family enterprise. Familial it was. Its professionalism, however, was not merely evident, but stunning. Marisa Cerveris, formerly of Ballet Arizona and currently on Broadway in Phantom of the Opera, was magical as the princess, imbuing each gesture with dramatic meaning. Michael Cerveris the younger, currently Off-Broadway in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, made the soldier into an everyman who captured our immediate sympathy. Todd Cerveris' devil was at once eerily familiar and disturbingly foreign.

Herrault's choreography did a great deal to hold together a production that otherwise might have seemed more like a collection than a production. Movement was the fulcrum on which everything else balanced.

Cerveris conducted a terrifically talented septet. Katie McLin played the hyperdifficult violin solos with technical aplomb; the duet between clarinetist Robert Spring and bassoonist Jeffrey Lyman was hauntingly well done; the electric percussion playing was courtesy J.B. Smith. Claudia Botterweg was the double bassist; Will Kimball the trombonist; Gary Leopold played the trumpet.

Visual projections served the production well, though they were the least engaging of the elements. Especially intriguing was the showing, before curtain, of a 20-minute excerpt from the classic American film The Devil and Daniel Webster, in which a similar story ends in optimism instead of defeat.

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