Music-making in the 21st century represents the globalization of sound, unprecedented access to groundbreaking technology, and novel pathways of exploration. While a guard of traditionalists within the classical music genre still exists, part of that community in San Antonio is expanding boundaries and conducting a new experiment.

When the contemporary chamber ensemble SOLI is not traveling the country, performing, and educating audiences on its unique brand of classical music, the group is in residence both at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts and Trinity University.

The tight-knit quartet, comprised of a violin, clarinet, piano, and cello player, will introduce its latest endeavor, The Land of the Magic Flute, to the crowd at Trinity’s Ruth Taylor Recital Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 24. Tickets may be purchased at the door or online here.

SOLI violinist Ertan Torgul said the ensemble’s major focus is commissioning works, along with performing innovative and intellectually stimulating original pieces in the classical genre.

“Imagine if Beethoven were writing his symphonies, [then] fast-forward 300 years,” said Torgul, who is the group’s artistic and managing director. “There is a lot of great music coming from the experiences of these musicians, a modernist look at our current environment.”

The current members of the nonprofit chamber ensemble have been performing together since 1996 and received the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming in 2013. Torgul credits the longevity and success of the group to serendipity and creativity.

“We love what we do, and we love each other,” Torgul said. “Without that, it just becomes another job. Another factor is the innovation of it all. Because we’re in a special niche, we are always on our toes, ready to bring something new to our audiences.”

In conjunction with the San Antonio Symphony’s Mozart Festival, SOLI aspired to stay true to its mission of shaking things up and offering a fresh perspective on traditional interpretations of Mozart’s compositions, in this case The Magic Flute.

A scene from the motion graphic novel as depicted from Fons Scheidon's "Land of the Magic Flute."
A scene from the motion graphic novel as depicted from Fons Scheidon’s “Land of the Magic Flute.” Credit: Courtesy / SOLI Chamber Ensemble

Members of the group discovered film director and animator Fons Scheidon’s work The Land of the Magic Flute, which Torgul said “modernizes the story a bit in a fantastical setting.”

“What we decided to do is retro-out the piece, taking the seven arias that occur, arranging them with our instrumentation, and bringing in talented young singers,” he said.

The full collaboration involves the voices of Opera San Antonio in special costumes donated by New York’s Theater Development Fund, Scheidon in directorial stature, and composer Philippe Lambert, the original sound artist who collaborated with Scheidon.

“Lambert took Mozart’s score and wrote incidental music that fits in with the theme of the story – part music, part sound effects,” Torgul said. “They are going to live mix the music with the film, and we will be playing the original arias arranged by Mozart with the talented young singers of Opera San Antonio. I think this is going to be really fun to see.”

While Scheidon and Lambert have performed the piece in Europe, this will be the U.S. premiere.

“We maintained key elements of the story, but brought it into modern times with contemporary characters,” Scheidon said of his collaboration with Lambert, a vision made possible thanks to the tremendous artistic license to explore within the performance’s boundaries. “We pushed the fantastical element of the story, finding inspiration in pop culture such as the comics of Mœbius and films like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”

Film Director and Animator Fons Scheidon.
Film Director and Animator Fons Scheidon Credit: Courtesy / SOLI Chamber Ensemble

While his partnership with Lambert already has given Mozart’s composition a 21st century dimension and flavor, Scheidon is excited to present a fully realized performance to the public.

“With SOLI, for the first time we are able to perform our live version in the way we have always hoped to,” Scheidon said. “With the extraordinary luxury of a live orchestra and amazing opera singers, we are looking forward to creating an event that brings together those unique perspectives: the new and the old, the classical and the modern, the human and the machine.”

Adam Tutor

Adam Tutor is a Trinity University graduate, a saxophonist who performs with local bands Soulzzafying, Odie & the Digs, and Volcan, and a freelance music contributor to the Rivard Report.