What: Midwinter Tales. A Family Friendly Concert
Who: Opus Orchestra
When: Friday, July 27
Where: Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts
Works by: Norman, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky
Conductor: Peter Walls
Narrator: Mark Hadlow
The consummate Lara Hall checked the orchestral A and audience sound levels dropped to a breathless, anticipatory silence. Conductor Walls appeared, lifted his baton … and a fortissimo voice from the gods – well, the entry door at the top of the Gallagher Concert Chamber – called for a photo!
Wonderful chaos, followed by Mark Hadlow’s appearing alongside the conductor to cheers from the crowd, the orchestra sounded, and magic flowed from that stage for the rest of the evening.. This was to be, and indeed was, one of Opus Orchestra’s greatest successes in the ancient game of making classical music entertaining fun with no diminution of its art. The music was seriously classical, from Prokofiev to Stravinsky, and had that rare ability to engage with the spoken voice and enhance both.
This was a wonderful demonstration that great art can run from the hilariously funny through the tensely dramatic to the movingly tragic. It was also a fortissimo reminder of what a superb instrument is the human voice in full cry. The concert began with an upswinging, onomatopoeic, creative, fresh interpretation of Prokofiev’s illustration of orchestral potential in Peter and the Wolf. Ashley Hopkins worked his cat magic with the clarinet, the bird materialised through some glorious flute playing, and Hadlow provided the narrative foundation with clarity and hilarious enthusiasm. Even if Peter had been all we had, we would have left invigorated and excited. There was New Zealander Philip Norman’s evocative setting of Margaret Mahey’s A Lion in the Meadow, in which the music worked seamlessly to illuminate Hadlow’s characterisations, and a commissioned work for Opus by David Groves provided the narrative with which a hilarious Hadlow transformed Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite. The evening gave the perfect reminder to book early, arrive early, and expect such performances from Opus as dreams are made of.