This spectacular opening concert for 2019 brought together the combined forces of the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra, the Choir and Pacific Opera in a delightful performance with an Austrian/Viennese theme with music by Mozart and Strauss . The hall was decorated with huge glorious garlands of flowers in celebratory mode.

Energetically and enthusiastically conducted by Dr Nicholas Milton , the concert began dynamically with the crashing, flurried Polka Schnell Op 324 “ Unter Bonner und Blitz” ( Thunder and Lightning ) by Johan Strauss.

Then we heard a selection of four pieces from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro , the Orchestra with artists from Pacific Opera .During the brisk overture the singers arrive ( dressed as if for a very posh party , the men in tuxedos the ladies in elegant evening gowns ) and make their way to the balconies .Sull’aria , che soave zeffretto ( the Countess Almavira dictating a note for Susanna to take to the Count) was an exquisite duet sung by Emma Nightingale and Michelle Ryan. Porgi , Amor , qualche ristoro another of the Countess’ arias was passionately sung by Hannah Greenshields from her balcony seat .( yes for each piece we had a different Countess) . Deh Vieni non tardar , Susanna’s aria, was splendidly sung by Emily Turner – on stage – with a glittering mask. It was lyrical and reflective.

This was followed by Strauss’ Auf der Jagd ( op 373) – a turbulent ,breathless and whirling polka.

Back to Mozart for a selection from his Don Giovanni .First was the swoon worthy, melting La Ci darem la mano where the Don ( Andrew Dickson) seeks to seduce Zerlina ( Rebecca MacCallion in a yellow ruffled evening gown ) Then we heard the Don’s aria Deh Vieni alla finestra , wonderfully sung by Dickson and with Oliver Rathje on a sweetly delicate mandolin.

Great contrast was offered next with Strauss’ jaunty and boisterous Ohne Sorgen ( Without a Care ) ( op 271 ) which also featured orchestral vocalisations!

The first half concluded with a gathering of all involved for the finale of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in a tumultuous exultant conclusion conducted by Louis Sharpe assistant conductor of the Willoughby Symphony.

The bulk of the second half was mostly devoted to Strauss’ Die Fledermaus. With its infectious, lush lyrical melodies it started with the overture. Then we heard the famous bubbly laughing song ( Mein Herr Marquis ) with the Choir as chorus – a great crowd pleaser. Klange der Heimat started slowly yet built in intensity with great comic timing and participation by the Choir . Dieser Anstand, so mannerlich ( the flirtatious , bubbly ‘ Watch Duet’) was a delicious duet with again great comic timing .Timothy Nunn as Eisenstein tries to hypnotise Hannah Greenshields as Adele to remove her mask and she turns the tables on him by pilfering his watch.

Then came the fast , whirling Pizzicato Polka by Strauss with its distinctive glockenspiel .

The official concert concluded with the stirring finale involving all three organisations – back to Die Fledermaus for a rousing vibrant Bruderlein and Schwesterlein and Im Feuerstom der Reben .

There was rapturous prolonged applause and four encores all by Strauss – the fluid ,romantic Blue Danube waltz,
the galloping , exuberant Tritsch-Tratsch polka ( with the audience clapping ) : even more audience participation
for the Radzetky Marsch with both clapping and arm waving and the Champagne Finale from Die Fledermaus
bringing the concert to a rousing end.

Willoughby Symphony and Choir’s Gala concert took place at the Concourse Chatswood 23 and 24 February 2019.

Running time – just under 2 and ½ hours including interval