Following a balmy day in Sydney yesterday, Jay & I raced through exiting peak hour traffic in a flash thunderstorm, to make it to an evening submerged in the heady, sublime lyrical adventure of the Sydney Symphony performance of Arabian Nights at the magnificent Opera House.
Russian conductor Alexander Lazarev directed the Sydney Symphony who beautifully translated three pieces from composers Rimsky-Korsakov, Saint-Saëns and Khachaturian; we were transported to the exotic middle east via the Symphony strings, wind, percussion and piano instruments – dances in a colourful street bazaar, a watery night exhibition down the Nile and a fast paced chase through the desert sand dunes; overall it was a marriage of Russian and French influences with an Oriental background.
Listening to this orchestral wonder in the magnificient main concert hall of the Opera House I felt small and overwhelmed with musical emotion. During intermission we watched with glass of sparkling in hand as the heavens continued their electrical display over the harbour; returning to our seats with the percussion cymbals crashing in unison with bolts of lightening and roaring thunder!
The piano took centre stage in the second piece; a Piano Concerto No.5 in F composed by Camille Saint-Saëns. It first premiered in Paris in 1896. It was performed magnificently by Frenchman Jean-Yves Thibaudet. I was mesmerised by the 26 minute, 3 movement opus – we were transported to the water with the ebb and flow of a boat on the Nile, the wind instruments simulating croaking frogs and other nighttime wildlife…Thibaudet’s fingers flew up and down the keyboard in trills and arpeggios. Uniquely, the melody of some of the piece was played with his lower hand (below middle-C). It was amazing to see, but my favourite piece of the night was the final act;
“Scheherazade” a 42 minute Symphonic Suite by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. It very much portrayed a kaleidoscope of fairytale images – I imagined Disney characters dancing over sand dunes and riding magic carpets. The traditional orchestra was improved with a piccolo and harp. But the violins were the standout – we counted 30 with an additional 12 Violas, 10 Cellos and 8 Double Basses. The First Violin chair was Dene Olding and he was amazing; his intricately winding solo supported only by the harp . This piece was broken into 4 movements, all various stages of Allegro (for those who dont know their musical theory, this means fast or lively). It built on the Violin solos to melodies by the Bassoon, Flute and Clarinet accompanied at times by the Triangle and Tamourine. It truely was a dream of oriental splendor!
Today I feel uplifted and blessed to have seen Arabian Nights on their last night in Sydney.