The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses

By Marie -Claire Taylor

Date / Venue: Monday August 14th, 2017 - ASB Theatre, Auckland

The Legends of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses concert was not a typical night with the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra and Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus. Orchestral arrangements of video game music – featuring choir - are not often encountered in a concert program let alone accompanied by moving images of a highly popular video game. The night was a concert experience truly like no other. 

The Legends of Zelda, a very successful game, can be found in eighteen different versions, published by Nintendo since 1986. The Legends of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses concert series first appeared in 2012 and the season that is currently touring has been developed to include music from the 2017 release of Zelda, Breath of the Wild.

The program featured a video of pre-recorded gameplay from many Zelda versions. These were accompanied by various musical numbers, typically derived from themes used in the original game. Occasional live shots of the musicians were thrown up on the screen. It seemed our sensational Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra and Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus were enjoying performing as much as the audience was enjoying listening. Jessica Gethin, the conductor for Legend of Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses, conducted, with crowd-pleasing antics between numbers.

Musically speaking, my favourite two numbers were those that featured material from Legends of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. These also had the best graphics.  The first was a lush, jazz-harmony infused arrangement, accompanying Link, the main character of the game, as he made a journey across the ocean. The second closed the night and was a brass-heavy piece, that fitted the character-filled trolls on screen perfectly. Each number had a narrative of sorts constructed from the gameplay, and along with tailored lighting effects, the experience was surprisingly immersive throughout the concert.

The atmosphere was a weird and wonderful mix between a rock concert and a symphony. Fans of the game were there in numbers, many in the long line for merchandise, with some dressed as their favourite Zelda characters. I have never seen so many young adults at an orchestral concert and apparently, the Final Fantasy orchestral concert - which also featured orchestral arrangements of game music - was much the same demographic as that which attended Zelda. 

The Legends of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses is essentially a Nintendo-sponsored symphony.  From time-to-time, the Nintendo logo flashed up on the large screen. As part of the show, three gentleman –identified on the screen as being employed by Nintendo - discuss Zelda in pre-recorded videos. These were interspersed between some numbers. Extended game advert or an attempt to foster a new part of gaming culture, the night was still something to be enjoyed for a non-Zelda fan.