New Years Eve saw the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra’s flagship event for the year: a Viennese Gala featuring no less than nineteen pieces.
A well crafted programme and the sonorous tones of sublime soprano Ilona Domnich made for a thrilling set of performances. The famous marches of the Strauss family were a thrill to hear, with the notable use of a starter pistol attracting laughter from the audience. The event saw conductor Richard Balcombe, whose diverse career has seen him work with the English National Opera (The Gondoliers) Neil Diamond (on Radio 2), and even on a European production of Shrek the Musical. His engagement with the audience through introductions to sequences of pieces was a welcome departure from the more formal style of typical concerts.
Notable highlights include Domnich’s superlative performance in the sensuous aria Meine lippen sie küssen so heiß (My lips, they kiss so hot) from Franz Lehar’s penultimate operetta Giuditta. Arguably more than grand opera, comic operettas like Giuditta require a good deal of acting. A perfect reproduction of the score without any flourishes or physical movement will inevitably fall flat, and it is in this regard that Domnich’s performance was superlative. Even outside of the context of the operetta, her magnetic stage presence transported the audience beyond the confines of the Dome’s concert hall.
The Brighton Philharmonic plays this Sunday (20 January) at the Dome, and students receive a 50% discount. Director/cellist Thomas Carroll will perform Schumann’s Cello Concerto (1850), sandwiched in between Prokofiev’s first symphony (1918) and Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony (1829-42).