Stasevska Gives Bernstein A Workout!
Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor
“The music will be serious…..yet simple enough for all people to understand.” Leonard Bernstein’s words before he put pen to paper to write what would go on to become one of the greatest musical scores in history, West Side Story.
However, it is a rare day that you hear this amazing fusion of jazz, classical and popular music as a stand-alone piece, so it was an inspired choice by the Orchestra of Opera North and its wonderful musicians, to perform large swathes of Bernstein’s score at Huddersfield Town Hall as part of their Across the Atlantic programme.
For me there was triple joy, one because I have never been to Huddersfield Town Hall which is a glorious architectural feast not unlike the one in Leeds, two, I love this take on the Romeo & Juliet story, and three I took an evocative journey back to Yeadon Town Hall and 1978.
That was the year I was part of an amateur production Bernstein’s musical, I was a Shark and my theatrical career had begun. Last night was my selfish journey to the past and, thanks to Opera North, I was in a chauffeur driven Bentley!
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She planted her feet solidly on the ground and stopped short of adopting a sumo stance! For a moment I was unsure whether or not she was about to wrestle the first violinist to the ground, but she chose, instead, to take her audience on a joyous journey to the worlds of Bernstein, George Gershwin, John Adams and Rachmaninov.
Stasevska really is a little powerhouse and the observation that she knows how to ‘shout and whisper’ is a good one. Choreographers call it ‘light and shade’ and last night we saw plenty of both in this Kirklees Concert Season offering, which kept the audience spellbound.
Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is a rare treat which I last heard at an open-air concert in Chicago, most probably by the city’s Symphony Orchestra. It was a piece that left its audience spellbound when it was first aired in 1924, so much so that Gershwin was subsequently paid $50,000 when it was featured in the 1930 film The King of Jazz.
However, last night there was something for everyone with the second half featuring the wonderful, driving rhythms of John Adams’ The Chairman Dances – Foxtrot for Orchestra, the evening culminating with Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances, Opus 45.
Not even my Wetherspoon’s curry inclusive of drink, bettered the Orchestra of Opera North, which had more spice, substance and flavours than anything dished up by one of Huddersfield’s many Asian restaurants. Seconds please!
Stasevska Gives Bernstein A Workout!, 31st March 2018, 9:43 AM