Saturday, 1 February 1997

Esso Concert in the Bowl, Feb 1, 1997

Myer Music Bowl Saturday Feb 1, 1997
Reviewed by Kate Herbert on Feb 1, 1997

Only in Australian would you see a bloke in shorts armed with a hamper laden with stubbies and ham sangers at a classical concert. So it was under the cloud-covered stars at the free Esso Concert in the Bowl.  And an outdoor family event would not be the same without the threat of rain. Brollies and champers at the ready, team!

Joyfully, the clouds held their burden and the audience in the "outer" remained dry listening to our exceptional State Orchestra of Victoria and a program ranging from Tchaikovski (Romeo & Juliet) and Khachaturian (Love Theme from Spartacus) to Rogers and Hammerstein (Some Enchanted Evening, If I loved You). Something for everyone: at least, everyone who doesn't live on a diet of Nirvana.

The pas de deux from "Manon" (Lisa Bolte & Stephen Heathcote) and from "Coppelia" (Vicki Attard & David McAllister) were favourites among ballet lovers and there is no doubt that they were technically excellent. It is, however, extraordinary how classical ballet can strip any sensuousness or sexuality from love scenes. Of course ballet is renowned for creating females who are either mechanical dolls, birds or child brides. But I am showing my bias.

The program was a sublime showcase for the versatility and finesse of our fine Orchestra. It is a joy to be able to see the orchestra rather than merely the tips of their bows or the conductor's fluffy mop bobbing over the pit's edge.

The star of this evening must be visiting Scottish conductor, Christopher Bell. Not only is he a gifted and sensitive conductor, but he is a compelling presence. He bounces onstage grinning and proceeds to display a rare level of infectious delight in his work, the music, the orchestra and the audience. His wit and generosity were enchanting. More of Kermit the Conductor please.

Soprano Leanne Kenneally sang two sweet arias from "Romeo & Juliet" and  "Louise". Baritone John Antoniou performed "Song to the Evening Star" (Tannhauser) but the announcement of his second solo, "Some Enchanted Evening", drew an audible "Aaaah" from this romantic crowd. The couple's duets were technically excellent but lacked passion. The fact that, during two love duets, they never made eye contact tells all.

This was a charming and entertaining evening under the summer sky and the enormous crowd tottered home happy after a rousing encore from the Orchestra and our fave, Mr. Bell. Think I'll start a fan club.


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