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    ‘Symphony of the Goddesses’ takes Zelda to another level

    “The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses” performance features video game graphics as the orchestra performs.
    Andrew Craig
    “The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses” performance features video game graphics as the orchestra performs.

    Over the course of 26 years and more than 15 titles, the folks at Nintendo have crafted a veritable universe within the Legend of Zelda video games — one that spans lands, decades, and even timelines. The team behind “Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses” hopes to capture that world with four symphonic movements.

    Video game music has come a long way from the early days of glitchy bleeps, and “Symphony of the Goddesses” aims to push it even further with a large-scale multimedia tour. Local orchestras perform arrangements of the games’ scores in each city, as accompanying visuals from the series run on 18-by-32-foot screens behind them.

    The show celebrates not just the games, but also their composer, Koji Kondo, who has contributed to more than 30 Nintendo titles and written indelible tunes like the Mario Brothers theme. “Symphony of the Goddesses” comes to Boston on Oct. 18 for one performance at the Citi Wang Theatre, conducted by Eimear Noone and performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic and concert choir.


    “[Zelda fans] are going to be able to come to a venue, a major concert venue, and see what they always imagined Zelda to be, and the way I think Koji Kondo always intended it to be performed,” says executive producer Jason Michael Paul. His company, Jason Michael Paul Productions, previously produced orchestral shows based on the music of the Final Fantasy games series, as well as “PLAY!,” which combined many of the most iconic video game compositions. “Symphony of the Goddesses” is the first to have a four-movement symphony.

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    Each of the movements focuses on one of the series’ major titles. Telling the sprawling story of Legend of Zelda meant zeroing in on the core relationship that runs through all the games: the connection among tunic-clad hero Link, the enigmatic Princess Zelda, and the shape-shifting villain Ganon.

    Each of the three has a theme, and each a rich background to inform the arrangements, says music director Chad Seiter, whether it’s heroic string phrases for Link, pastoral woodwinds for Zelda, or “low, evil brass” for Ganon.

    The tour is an expansion of last year’s short series of 25th anniversary performances, which included two of the four movements in “Symphony of the Goddesses.” Seiter and producer Jeron Moore first came up with the idea for the show and brought it to Paul, who pitched it to Nintendo. Since then, Nintendo has been actively involved with the production. Seiter submitted all his arrangements to Kondo, the original composer, for approval — a nerve-racking experience for a lifelong fan.

    “I didn’t hear back for a couple days. I was pacing around the house frantically. My wife was like ‘Sit down!’ ” he says. When he did hear back, Kondo’s notes were positive but clearly meticulous. “Koji Kondo picked up on every minute little detail. It was so thorough and amazing.”


    Meanwhile, Moore was working the visuals, which required capturing someone’s actual game-play. He had to quash the players’ temptation to play the game efficiently, which usually means less cinematic.

    “I had to be like, ‘I know you know how to beat [Ganon] in 22.5 seconds, but let’s make it a little more dramatic. Get hit a couple times. Let him knock you down!’ ” says Moore.

    There can be some tension involved in bringing a pop culture production to classical musicians. A 2004 New York Times story about “Dear Friends,” Paul’s first video game music production, quoted a Los Angeles Philharmonic flutist calling the compositions “really, really cheesy.” Paul says that reaction has eased over the years.

    “They’re catching on slowly but surely,” he says, adding that he often sees the reluctance stamped out by the crowd’s response. “It’s almost a rock ’n’ roll environment, and hopefully the goal is the audience will come back and see some of [the orchestra’s own] shows.”

    Aline Benoit, who plays clarinet in the Rhode Island Philharmonic, says she’s excited to try something new. The Philharmonic hasn’t rehearsed the piece yet, but she saw the music for the first time Wednesday. She compared its repetition to the works of Philip Glass.


    “It’s simpler, and there is this minimalism to it,” she says. “It all looks very similar, looks like it was written on a computer keyboard.” After viewing clips of past performances on YouTube, she was excited to see that the production highlights the live orchestra. She hopes that it will inspire interest in symphonic music from people who normally wouldn’t pay attention. “I’m curious to see, will you get a nice audience? Do these bring out young people?”

    For Moore, any outside pressure — whether from Nintendo, musicians, or legions of Zelda-heads — comes after his own standards as a fan. A few weeks before the first show, he decided to finish up the visuals in Dallas, where the tour would launch. It’s also his hometown.

    “I brought all the video home, upstairs in my bedroom where I grew up playing Zelda, trying to figure out how to fit these pieces together, and struggling because it was so important to me to get it right. Maybe I was somehow drawing metaphysical energy from the past,” he says. “I can’t disconnect myself from the audience, because that’s me. Somehow I just ended up in a spot where I was able to do this.”

    Andrew Doerfler can be reached at