When Carl Orff (1895–1982) premiered his scenic cantata Carmina Burana in 1936, he surely never imagined that its opening strain "O Fortuna" would be the most-often quoted classical music theme in American popular culture. Nor did he probably anticipate that it would become one of the most frequently programmed works in concert halls around the world.
Join Scott Tucker, artistic director of the Choral Arts Society of Washington, as he explores the musical structure, text, and cultural history of this beloved work and the motivations of its enigmatic composer. Musical examples are provided by recordings and live performances, featuring Catherine Wethington (soprano), James Shaffran (baritone), and Brandon Straub (piano).
Choral Arts, which marks its 50th anniversary this year, performs Carmina Burana at the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall on May 17 at 8 p.m. Program registrants receive a discount code for the performance.
Since it first appeared in an Old Spice television ad in the 1970s, “O Fortuna” has provided the background for countless commercials and movie trailers from all over the world. Hear it in a Viennese tourism promo sung by the Vienna Boys Choir; a truly epic Australian beer ad; and in commercials for a sports drink and chocolate spread.