Grand opera indeed , with full orchestra, huge chorus and many stunning arias and set pieces. This magnificent concert by the combined orchestra and choir, under the energetic, dynamic and precise baton of Dr Milton, was fabulous both musically and vocally.
Dr Milton, debonair and elegant in a tuxedo as always, wittily introduced and commented on the various works in the programme , featuring a selection of opera highlights with something for everyone.
The programme was off to a charming, very brisk and energetic start with the overture to Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. Special mention for the bassoonist John Cran, a very young 87 years old!
Our first featured guest artist was soprano Regina Daniel in an enchanting long green evening gown , her blonde hair emphatically cut short and she wore long dangling earrings . As Rosina in Una voce poco fa she was in effortless fine form with dramatic flashing eyes and showing off her ravishing coloratura.
The rollicking Matador’s Chorus from Verdi’s La Traviata was next , with the choir relishing the deft interweaving of voices.
Next, with lushly swirling strings, tenor Matthew Reardon unleashed his inner Caruso or Lanza for the lilting Dein ist mein ganzes Herz , from Lehar’s The Land of Smiles.
This was contrasted by the striking Pierrot Dance Song from Korngold’s The Dead City as richly performed by Daniel.
The rousing Va pensiero ( Chorus of Hebrew Slaves) from Verdi’s Nabucco was given a chilling thrilling, goosebump producing performance by the choir that gave one goosebumps.
The very demanding , showy Queen of the Night aria from Mozart’s The Magic Flute was next –Daniel was in magnificent form, a breathtaking performance of the difficult coloratura fireworks that featured bell – like clarity.
A major highlight of this hugely enjoyable concert was the splendid Au Fond du temple saint from Bizet’s The Pearlfishers that took us to interval . Reardon and Knight were exceptional, gloriously ravishing and heartbreaking.
The second half began with a brisk, fiery performance of the swirling Prelude from Bizet’s Carmen, delivered at a cracking pace that left the audience breathless.
The percussion section was very busy in the next section, the rousing, stirring Anvil Chorus from Verdi’s Il Trovatore, with the chorus having a rollicking good time.
Daniel and Reardon then had plenty of fun with the Love Unspoken duet from Lehar’s The Merry Widow– a nice touch saw Reardon make his way onto the stage from the back of the stalls.
Knight was then outstanding in a dynamic, electric version of the Chanson du Toreador from Bizet’s Carmen that was thrilling.
From Von Weber’s The Freeshooter we then heard The Huntsman’s Chorus which had a small beautiful harp solo and then drew heavily on the string section.
Reardon was then show-stoppingly fabulous in the heartbreaking tenor showpiece E lucevan le stelle from Puccini’s Tosca.
Sultry Daniel, in a scintillating black evening gown, had enormous fun with her soprano showpiece Glitter and Be Gay from Bernstein’s Candide.
The concert concluded with one of the BIG pieces of Grand Opera – the grand triumphal march from Verdi’s Aida – you could hear the plodding of the elephants , the roar of the crowd , the cries of the slaves- A feature was the lovely trumpet solo by Lars Mehlan.
Because the audience insisted, oh yes we did!, the finale encore was the Brindisi ( Drinking Song) from Verdi’s La Traviata featuring audience participation. Enormous fun and a delightful conclusion to a terrific concert. Subscribe now to the rest of this year’s series!
Running time – just over 2 hours including one interval.
The Grand Opera Gala by the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra and Choir had two performances only 21 and 22 February 2015
Conducted by Dr Nicholas Milton , Soloists were Regina Daniel ( soprano) Matthew Reardon ( tenor) Alexander Knight ( Baritone )
For more about Willoughby Symphony and Choir Grand Opera Gala, visit http://www.willoughby.nsw.gov.au/whats-on/willoughby-symphony/2015/grand-opera-gala/