On stage at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, Torben Petersen waves his arms like a conductor to encourage Sophus, his eight-year-old spaniel, to bark.
Sophus, along with two other equally well-trained pooches, Cookie and Sica, barked on command in time with the Danish Chamber Orchestra for a rare performance on Sunday of “Hunting Symphony”, a little-known piece by Leopold Mozart, the father of Wolfgang Amadeus.
The work is rarely performed with live dogs on stage, with orchestras usually preferring to use recorded sound.
Selected at an audition last spring for their barking skills, the three hounds rehearsed conscientiously with their masters, who were generous with treats to get them to bark on cue.
“The symphony is in three movements and in the last movements, we will hear the hunt begin and we will have shootings, and then the dogs will start to bark,” the head of the orchestra, Andreas Veto, told AFP during a rehearsal before Sunday’s show.
For the Danish orchestra, there was never any question of not using live dogs on stage.
“It has been a wish by our chief conductor Adam Fischer for several years to perform exactly this piece, because he will be able to put in this element of participating dogs,” said Veto.
In 2014, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in the United States performed the piece with hounds on stage.
During Sunday’s rehearsal, the animals listened attentively to the first movements from the rear of the stage before being brought to the front by their masters.
“If I had to be there all by myself, I think I would be nervous but all the attention is on her, she is the star,” Helle Lauvring, the master of Cookie, a four-year-old Spanish Water Dog, told AFP.
“I’m just behind her with all the treats,” said the 60-year-old who snaps her fingers to get Cookie to bark. — Agence France-Presse