There's no way around it: Saints may have an easier time sleeping at night, but sinners have so much more fun during the waking hours. This weekend, the Houston Symphony will display a parade of mortal pleasures with Kurt Weill's The Seven Deadly Sins at Jones Hall.
Vocalist Storm Large (yes, that's her real name), led by the baton of guest conductor Bramwell Tovey, will portray the main character of Anna and her family, portrayed by vocal group Hudson Shad. The show depicts the satirical story and social critique of one woman's travels across seven cities in America in pursuit of the American dream, discovering a different cardinal sin at every stop.
Large first burst onto the scene in 2006 as a finalist on CBS' Rock Star: Supernova. She has appeared with the Houston Symphony on its POPS Series, and this performance marks her first appearance on its Classical Series, and it's one that holds a special meaning for her.
"It’s really the piece that kind of changed my life and put me in front of more orchestras," Large said. "I was asked to do Seven Deadly Sins in England. I went to Carnegie Hall with that piece, and that’s where my manager discovered me - 24 years into my career. It was because of that piece."
Anna's character is a complicated one, to say the least. The singer, who has performed the piece more than 20 times across the globe, interprets the character as a type of dual personality - one reserved and another a little more sultry, and both just trying to survive.
"Anna is one person, and she is not selling her body for money. Her sister is, but her sister has to because she needs money for the family back home," Large said. "I’ve interpreted it as Anna No. 1 is the dominant personality telling Anna No. 2 what to do more, and more, and more, and therein lay the sins."
The sins, though, provoke thought within the context of the show.
"Lust isn’t selling your body. It’s giving your body away for free because you could be making money. Pride says you should absolutely take off all your clothes and motor boat these guys because you’ll be making money. It’s creepy, and it’s so smart the way it's laid out. It’s a tough piece," she said.
The character of Anna is one that Large can relate to.
"When it came time for me to interpret this piece, my mother was mentally ill, so I spent a lot of time in mental institutions. I encountered a lot of people with disorders: Sociopaths, dissociative, etc.," she said. "What normally can happen, when someone has experienced major trauma and is dissociative, in order to cope, they have to withdraw so far into their subconscious that they become two or more people."
Large also relates the show, originally composed in the 1930s, with many themes occurring in modern society.
"I love it, and I fear it. It [was composed] around the same time Hitler came to power, and Europe was about to dive neck deep in the same stuff we’re seeing on our own soil. It’s dark. It’s really dark, but it’s such an interesting story," she said.
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Setting the evening's sinful theme, Grammy-Award-winning Tovey opens the concert with "Salome's Dance" from Richard Strauss' opera Salome. Loosely based on a biblical story, Strauss' opera climaxes with Salome's "Dance of the Seven Veils," which she performs for her stepfather Herod in return for the head of John the Baptist.
Also on the program is Scriabin's The Poem of Ecstasy, a mystical symphonic work that renders in timeless, sensual music the movement of a spirit toward awareness and consciousness.
As a bonus, be sure to attend the Prelude pre-concert discussion, held 45 minutes prior to each Classical concert. Prelude is led by Musical Ambassador Carlos Andrés Botero, and sometimes features guest artists or orchestra members.
Performances of Seven Deadly Sins are scheduled for November 2-4 at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $25 - $125.