New York | 0h 55m | Already closed

Symphonie Fantastique

From 12 critic and 67 member reviews
Members say: Enchanting, Clever, Delightful, Absorbing, Quirky

About the show

Renowned puppet artist Basil Twist returns to HERE with a revival of his 1998 boundary-breaking response to Berlioz’s 1830 'Symphonie Fantastique,' which takes place in the most unlikely of places - a 1,000-gallon water tank.

Five unseen puppeteers swirl countless pieces of fabrics, feathers, fishing lures, flashlights, glitter, dyes, plastic, vinyl and bubbles in all shapes and sizes, creating a dream-like world of imagination and surreal storytelling. For the first time in New York, 'Symphonie Fantastique' features live piano accompaniment by Christopher O'Riley.

The New York Times

"What you are watching never intrudes on or obscures what you are listening to; the discrete sensory experiences become, uncannily, one and the same...Mr. Twist’s rendering of Berlioz transcends such problems of representation. Instead, his terpsichorean feathers and fabrics hypnotize us into a state that approaches synesthesia, in which we seem to be hearing with our eyes, or seeing with our ears." Full Review


"Pure imagination...'Symphonie Fantastique' resists attempts to tack meaning onto its glorious unreason, making it still one of the most original things to come out of the New York theater two decades after it first emerged...With no characters, no story, and no recognizable symbols, 'Symphonie Fantastique' holds us transfixed...When so much theater in New York remains aggressively story-driven and rooted in realism, 'Symphonie Fantastique' dares to be different, and succeeds fantastically." Full Review

Stage Left

“Unique, dazzling, and entrancing theatrical encounter...An epic, five movement autobiographical meditation on the composer’s love obsession...A mélange of materials...all moving and swirling about, manipulated by five unseen puppeteers in ecstatic choreography...Trance-like aquatic dance exquisitely timed to Berlioz’s dynamic score, producing an effect at once whimsical and hallucinatory...Rarest of theatrical offerings...An exciting and original artistic achievement.” Full Review

Stage Buddy

"A unique journey...with a level of physicality so precise, you don't even see it...Inside a 1,000-gallon water tank, colors and shapes come alive as five unseen puppeteers move and manipulate objects of varying sizes...Set to the sonorous score of Berlioz's 'Symphonie Fantastique'...Gorgeous, eye-popping images. It's art in motion, performance art combined with music, visual art, and whimsy. And it is simply breathtaking." Full Review

New York Theatre Review

“The puppetry is a gorgeous visual representation of the Berlioz music that accompanies it...It’s delightful to see how Twist and his team choose to captures moments of whimsy, passion, and anger with their impressive array of puppets...Twist shows great respect for the intelligence of his audience: he doesn’t feel the need to lead them by the hand and drum his themes into them. He has good reason to be confident that his audience will gladly follow wherever he leads.” Full Review


"HERE, the adventurous performing and visual arts institution, has brought back Basil Twist's hit 'Symphonie Fantastique' which was created at HERE in 1998. 'Symphonie Fantastique' is probably Twist's most famous and in-demand work, although he has produced better work, most particularly in partnership with Paula Vogel ('The Long Christmas Ride Home') and Joey Arias ('Arias with a Twist'), but judging from the sold-out house HERE's decision to revive it is warranted." Full Review

Manhattan Digest

"Twist's magnificent revival...Neither theater nor a concert recital. The closest description might be 'performance art, but the best description could simply be 'stunning'...Visual eye candy...Pieces of cloth, plastic, feathers, and wires are dragged through the water to create mesmerizing images...A glorious score...It's hard not to fall into a hypnotic trance while watching. Between the sight and sound, it's an irresistible treat for the senses." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"A team of five puppeteers...Don wetsuits and soar over the tank, dipping pieces of fabric, feathers, and tinsel in conversation with the music to create a complex, intricate choreography...A hypnotic, phantasmagorical display...Audiences can make of it whatever they like. They can choose to find a story, or they can simply sit back and enjoy it on a purely sensory level...A uniquely magical experience, one perhaps best consumed with a mind open to beauty for beauty's sake." Full Review


"It's difficult to describe what one sees and experiences...moving fabrics, feathers, sparkling gem-like items, bubbles, and cut-outs. These shapes take on a fascinating life of their own...A totally abstract piece and can be whatever your imagination suggests. There is no story...Because you don't see what makes the shapes move, there is a magical aspect to the performance...O'Riley played the music with full, rich, thunderous tones in a wonderfully arresting, melodramatic presentation." Full Review

Village Voice

"The dazzling show is a 55-minute live performance...The creaturely inhabitants of Twist’s tank, all the product of his foraging and designing and careful manipulation, keep us enthralled for an hour...If you have never seen 'Symphonie,' find a way to go...And consider yourself lucky to be sharing your walk on this planet with Twist and his fluent crew." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"Twist provides a remarkably well-crafted artistic creation. It also happens to be-I hate to say it-dramatically dull…In 'Symphonie Fantastique'…we discover how a variety of fabrics, feathers, and other items can be put to aesthetic use when manipulated under water, beautifully lit, and accompanied by powerful music…'Symphonie Fantastique' is either a piano concert accompanied by charmingly choreographed, abstract images, or vice-versa…It is, however, by no means a drame fantastique." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"Mr. O’Reily is a masterful performer, but I still missed the complex quality of sound required to experience the full effect of the symphony...The production does, however, preserve the essence of 'Symphonie Fantastique,' specifically in its relentless experimental spirit...Every single technical aspect of the show is impressive, but it does not seem to resonate with me beyond being an exciting way to experience Berlioz’s music." Full Review

Delightful, Enchanting, Masterful, Refreshing, Quirky

See it if You love piano music and abstract puppetry.

Don't see it if You want something with a narrative.

Delightful, Enchanting, Quirky

See it if you can sit still, be quiet, and be transported by sound and color and creative genius.

Don't see it if you need a narrative or will disrupt the rest of the audience with your wiggles and need to talk.

Absorbing, Enchanting, Exquisite, Riveting, Magical

See it if You love to go to art museums and are transfixed by abstraction, color and movement. This event is like seeing a painting come to life.

Don't see it if You need a narrative.

Delightful, Masterful, Entertaining

See it if You like Liszt piano reductions of masterworks. And if you like inventive puppetry.

Don't see it if You are expecting an actual play. You do not enjoy non-traditional performance.


See it if Love classical music or even a museum outing. Love water.

Don't see it if Hungry for narrative to justify a trip out.

Also Show is all wet. Just allow yourself to be immersed in the experience.... Read more Read less

Delightful, Enchanting, Masterful, Refreshing, Quirky

See it if If you love Disney's "Fantasia," then this is the show for you! Incredible abstract puppetry. Christopher O'Riley's pianism is brilliant.

Don't see it if You want a show with words. Hate music.

Ambitious, Delightful, Enchanting, Masterful, Must see

See it if you want to see a visual wonder, like Fantasia come to life. The water puppetry is jaw-dropping, like nothing I've ever seen. Incredible.

Don't see it if you want story. There's an emotional through line but nothing approaching a narrative.

Enchanting, Entertaining, Great staging, Masterful, Refreshing

See it if you are looking for a very unique and different type of show. I would say close your eyes and enjoy the music, but you will miss out..

Don't see it if you are looking for something with words. This is a visual experience.

Also I didn't know much about the show, but was really surprised how hypnot... Read more Read less

Masterful, Refreshing, Riveting

See it if Amazing unreal puppetry that'll keep you mesmerizing and guessing till the end when you can see behind the stage

Don't see it if You don't like abstract things

Entertaining, Great staging, Masterful

See it if Fun to watch the 55 min show with shapes moving around w/man playing piano. Take the free backstage tour afterward to see how it's all done!

Don't see it if You don't like walking backstage to spoil the "magic" of how this was done (but this was a really cool tour: line moves quickly!)

Absorbing, Entertaining, Quirky, Riveting, Masterful

See it if love music & visual art even if you usually don't like puppet shows - the puppets here are wonderful fabrics, feathers; stage is a fish tank

Don't see it if if you need dialogue or a story and won't be carried away by just watching the visual display while listening to Berlioz being played live

Also If I didn't occasionally see the strings, I would think it was a compu... Read more Read less

Delightful, Enchanting, Exquisite, Must see, Quirky

See it if you want to see a beautiful abstract underwater puppet ballet with live piano music

Don't see it if you want your puppets anthropomorphic, or if you're looking for words or plot

Absorbing, Delightful, Enchanting, Great staging, Quirky

See it if You want to spend an hour letting your imagination go a real time Fantasia

Don't see it if You don't care for classical music or modern puppetry

Enchanting, Absorbing, Exquisite

See it if You like classical music, ballet, puppetry, or seeing how the sausage is made(the backstage tour after is almost as great as the show).

Don't see it if You want a story or human performers (other than the pianist). You hate classical music.

Quirky, Refreshing, Ambitious

See it if Unique. A tour de force return to Basil Twist's great underwater epic! Marvelous abstract aquarium puppetry. Surprisingly emotional.

Don't see it if You hate Berlioz and would be bored by 55 minutes of dancing feathers and shimmering, balletic fabric. But a true original.

Quirky, Exquisite, Enchanting, Unique

See it if you're interested in visual art, puppetry, or classical music.

Don't see it if you come to Show-Score for plays only; if you need a plot, story or narrative to make your evening worthwhile.

Also In this genre-expanding puppet show, a team of five unseen puppeteers ... Read more Read less

Clever, Enchanting, Artsy

See it if you can enjoy lovely music and mesmerizing visual effects without plot or story.

Don't see it if you need a plot or lyrics with your music.

Also Take the back stage tour, which is usually offered. It will enhance yo... Read more Read less

Clever, Entertaining, Enchanting

See it if You want to hear great live piano classical music and be amazed at the visuals.

Don't see it if 55 minutes of visual and audio creativity is not your thing.

Absorbing, Clever, Enchanting, Exquisite, Great staging

See it if You want to see an amazing puppet show with a water tank and piano music. The puppetry is great. The music is well played

Don't see it if You need actors, lines and songs.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Refreshing, Riveting, Masterful

See it if You like classical music coupled with beautiful imagery.

Don't see it if You aren’t interested in a symphony

Highly imaginative live show!, Well worth seeing for the adventurous and classically open-minded theater goer.., Charming and masterful for it's type of show.

See it if An imaginative image show with beautiful grand piano playing. Highly difficult to perform, they allow you backstage to see how it's done.

Don't see it if You need a storyline. Not wanting to relax and let the beauty bathe over you.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Refreshing, Ambitious, Enchanting

See it if You like classical music

Don't see it if You want to see a plot

Also I enjoyed it and recommend it.

Delightful, Quirky, Enchanting

See it if You enjoy unconventional puppetering merged with classical music. A delight for the ears and eyes.

Don't see it if If unconventional is not for you.

Also Truly charming. The final movement was my favorite and I do wish that ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Entertaining, Enchanting

See it if you like visually arresting, creative shows, don't need a plot. Who knew watching dishrag in a fish tank could be so incredible!

Don't see it if You need a plot, or grand production values.

Clever, Entertaining, Ambitious, Profound

See it if The music is wonderful and visually it is fascinating. Also, it is 55 minutes long.

Don't see it if You don't care for classical music and must have words to tell a story.

Cast & Creatives (3)