Franz Joseph Haydn was, of course, an erudite, serious-minded 19th-century composer of classical music.
But there was a playful side to the austere Austrian’s works that casual listeners might not get at first.
Francis Scully gets it.
Scully, the 35-year-old founder and conductor of the New Orleans-based New Resonance Orchestra, will be wielding the baton at the punnily titled “Haydn Seek” concert at the Marigny Opera House over the weekend of June 17-18.
The all-Haydn program will include 11 of his works performed by a 25-piece orchestra.
But this is not just a straightforward classical music concert. Scully has added a unique twist to the performances, bringing in clowns from Goat in the Road Productions for two evenings of Keystone Kops-style slapstick.
“There are going to be chase scenes and other types of physical comedy,” said Darci Fulcher, director and choreographer of Goat in the Road.
Haydn is often considered by musicologists to be the “Father of the Symphony” and the “Father of the String Quartet.” Beethoven and Mozart, though better known today than Haydn, were both students of his. So what is it that makes Haydn’s works so “outrageous,” to use Scully’s own description?
“He’s someone who works within these classical forms that we know from Mozart and Beethoven,” Scully said. “But he’s kind of subverting them at every turn, and he’s so creative that he is always playing tricks on the audience.
“So you might hear something initially and think, ‘Oh, this is a very pleasant melody’ and then he does something unusual with it. Or he does something unusual with the instrumentation or with the rhythm. He’s always just playing around with the audience.”
Scully goes on to note, “Somewhere in the 1760s and 1770s, Haydn started the practice of using symphonic music for theatrical performances. Some of Haydn’s pieces might have been used for comedy productions in between the acts.
“There’s this pocket of his output that seems to indicate he’s thinking about theatrical gestures; thinking about timing. So it seemed like we could put together a fun program of some of these really unusual ones that are specifically theatrical and add our own little touches to it.”
The NRO’s instrumentation will consist of 17 string players, two horns, two oboes, two bassoons and a flute. The oboists will also play English horns. Several NRO players are instrumentalists with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.
The five performers from Goat in the Road will cavort around and across the stage in eight of the 11 symphonies on the program, Fulcher said.
They include Chris Kamenstein, Shannon Flaherty, Dylan Hunter, Ian Hoch and Mack Guillory III.
“It’s kind of about how they wreak havoc in the theater space and how they get into these mischievous scenarios,” Fulcher said.
“The music becomes the emotion of the scenarios that they fall into. We’re working very closely with Francis on identifying metaphors that Haydn was trying to get the listener to hear and how we can explore that through physical storytelling and physical gesture.”