Queensland Symphony Orchestra – Sounds from the Deep

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On the weekend Bec and I went to see the Queensland Symphony Orchestra at the Empire Theatre for their performance of Sounds from the Deep. It has been many years since I have seen an orchestra perform live. As a very young child, I can remember  going to see an orchestra at the Festival Theatre in Adelaide as part of the Performing Arts Program for Primary Schools. It was Peter and the Wolf and I can remember each instrument being introduced as they played the theme for each of the characters in the story. Of course, there have been orchestras when I have seen some musical productions but they are always hidden down in the pit.

I have always enjoyed listening to classical music but seeing an orchestra perform live is quite a different experience from listening to the CDs at home. I really enjoyed watching  the facial expressions and body language of the musicians as they were playing. I especially enjoyed the double bass players. The double bass is such a large instrument so I can imagine it might take a fair bit of effort to play in the rousing energetic parts. It was such a joy to see how much fun the musicians were having and how much they enjoyed playing for an audience.

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The Queensland Symphony Orchestra is one of the largest performing arts companies in Queensland and is Queensland’s only professional symphony orchestra. The orchestra dates back to 1897 but was only established as Queensland’s first full-time orchestra in 1947. And if you are wondering whether there is a difference between a symphony orchestra and just an orchestra – there is! A symphony orchestra has the instruments which enables it to play a symphony.

The Sounds from the Deep is a program that spans a range of eras, composers and musical forms. All the pieces are connected by their common theme of water, in all of its different forms – oceans, rivers and lakes. It was good to hear a performance of a variety of different composers, from a classical composer such as Mendelssohn to quite contemporary composers such as Australian Nigel Westlake.

The Repertoire… 

  • The Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave), Op. 26 by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
  • Scheherazade, (1. The Sea and Sindbad’s Ship) Op. 35  by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
  • Excerpts from Antarctica: Suite for Orchestra and Guitar (1. The Last Place on Earth & 3. Penguin Ballet) by Nigel Westlake (b1958)
  • Cavatina from The Deer Hunter by Stanley Myers (1930-1993) orch. Jessica Wells (b. 1974)
  • The Moldau from Má vlast (My Country) by Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884)
  • Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes (III. Moonlight) by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
  • On the Beautiful Blue Danube, Op. 314 by Johann Strauss Jr. (1825-1899)
  • Finale Act IV from Swan Lake, (Dance of the Cygnets, Odette Offended & Finale) Op. 20 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

The Conductor, Guy Noble, was very entertaining, cracking jokes with the audience and having some light hearted fun with the musicians.  After what we thought was the last piece – Swan Lake – he suddenly disappeared off the stage only to return sporting a pirate patch. I don’t know about the rest of the audience, but we knew exactly what to expect next and we weren’t disappointed – Pirates of the Caribbean by Hans Zimmer! Such a terrific piece to end the evening.

Some people may think classical music is old-fashioned or even on its way out, but nothing could be further from the truth. Classical music is not just Mozart, Beethoven or Tchaikovsky. Many film scores comprise of music that would be described as classical music. Just try to imagine Lord of the Rings or Star wars or Pirates of the Caribbean without the music score. And the Empire Theatre was packed which just goes to show that classical music never really goes out of fashion and that we really appreciate seeing a symphony orchestra out here in the regions.

And thankfully we will have another opportunity to see the Queensland Symphony Orchestra very soon in another live simulcast from QPAC featuring the music of Grieg, Ravel and Beethoven. We’ve already got it marked on our calendar, but if like us you live in regional Queensland and enjoy good music, you might like to check if it is coming to a venue near you.

 

 

The Bolshoi Ballet – Spartacus

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Last month Bec and I went to see a simulcast of the Bolshoi Ballet’s performance of Spartacus. Performed in Brisbane’s Lyric Theatre in the Queensland Performing Arts Centre at Southbank, the performance was streamed out to regional centres across Queensland, including Toowoomba, Cairns, Mt Isa, Gladstone and Bundaberg. Interestingly Brisbane is the only Australian stop on their tour – such a good reason for living in the Sunshine State. 

The Bolshoi Ballet is one of the best ballet companies in the world, so to see them perform is a truly memorable occasion. Founded in 1776, it is also one of the oldest ballet companies in the world. The word “bolshoi” actually means “big” or “grand” in russian, and when you see them perform, bolshoi is an apt label. Their performances are known for being bold, colourful, athletic, expressive, dramatic and intense and Spartacus lived up to that reputation. It was extremely athletic and emotionally dramatic. The two male lead dancers endurance and athletic prowess was incredible.

The story of Spartacus has spawned many adaptations – novels and movies, as well as ballet. Of course when you mention the word Spartacus, many people will immediately think of the 1960 film starring Kirk Douglas. I can remember seeing that film on television many years ago, however that film was based on the novel by Howard Fast. The ballet Spartacus tells a slightly different variation of the story.

Living from 111-71 BC, historians believe that Spartacus may have been a roman soldier, who “escaped”, but was then recaptured, and along with his wife, enslaved. Forced to fight as a gladiator, Spartacus led a slave uprising, known as the Third Servile War. While many survivors of the battle were publicly crucified, supposedly around 6,000, Spartacus is believed to have died on the battlefield.

The Ballet of Spartacus shows the ruthless arrogance of the Roman Empire as they invaded, enslaved people, forced them to fight as gladiators for their own perverse amusement, separated husbands and wives, and sexually abused women. The four main leads in the ballet, Spartacus, his wife Phrygia, the roman leader Crassus and his consort Aegina, were brilliant. The performance was not just incredibly technical and athletic, but also portrayed Spartacus’ anguish at the loss of his freedom, his joy when reunited with Phrygia and his courage in the final battle. His crucifixion at the end of the soldiers spears demonstrated some very inspired and dramatic choreography. The final moment though goes to Phrygia, as she defiantly declares that Spartacus’ name and sacrifice be remembered in the annals of history.  And so they are today.

After the performance, Bec and I declared that one day we would like to see the Bolshoi Ballet perform live. One of the benefits of the simulcast is that we had a variety of camera angles – views that even people in the Lyric theatre would not see. We saw close ups of the dancers and could see their emotional response as they literally poured everything into their performance. To see them perform live on the stage would be a once in a life time experience. The simulcast experience was amazing, despite some initial technical issues which fortunately got sorted pretty quickly. It’s probably not as good as being right there in the Lyric Theatre, but it was definitely the next best thing and it was a fantastic opportunity for people around the state of Queensland to see a performance by a world class ballet company – something which many regional people may never be able to experience otherwise. I think the state gov of QLD and QPAC really need to be commended for their determination to being the arts to the regions.