My adventures in music have taken me on some simply amazing journey’s over the years in venues both large and small. On Friday 18th October 2013 the pathway led straight to the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, where the master of the waltz himself, the acclaimed award-winning performer André Rieu was performing with his Johann Strauss Orchestra and a marvellous line up of talent, including the Australian songbird Mirusia. They were celebrating, honouring and making sure the style of music that has over the years become a classic; of renowned excellence, was entertaining.
André Rieu is a performer and entertainer of the very best kind; one who loves his craft, has confidence in execution, honours the composer whose work he is playing and delivers a show in ‘that’s entertainment’ style, bringing joy to millions of people world wide. He wraps them up in a classic cocoon, one that is safe and warm and does it with a skill that is effortless and in a style to be admired.
This ‘waltz’ tour concert down under is part of a 25th anniversary celebration for André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra. They gave their first concert together in 1988 and this show was all about choosing highlights from that long period to produce a program that reflected the magic of the music they all clearly love to play.
André Rieu is a rock your socks off super star in the classic mode with great panache and style.
No other musician playing music in his ‘category’ would be able to ‘get away with’ putting on a show without at first publishing a program listing all the composer’s works you are playing and presenting the names of the performers playing with you.
Mr Rieu deliberately steps outside the box, breaking down boundaries other people put up. He injects spontaneity, wit and even irreverence into a genre, so often associated with either being boring or stuffy. He takes risks and relies on his now very big reputation for providing a fusion of talent and a great show to draw the crowds and proves how wrong they all are.
The people come literally in their thousands with eager anticipation of what he might play on his rare violin and out of curiosity to see who will be on stage with him on the night. They clearly admire his flair and elan and willingly embrace his ability to make his preferred style of music completely accessible to all.
Classical purists and critics are often unkind to the maestro. They try to talk down the way he offers up so splendidly some of the most sublime music in history. Instead they should be bowing to his vision and his help in bringing more people to their door.
Fun at a classical concert, who is that says this cannot be the case?
Make no mistake; André Rieu can really play his violin, a legendary Stradivarius and he plays it brilliantly and his musicians and guest performers are all craftsmen and women par excellence. He commands the stage and has supreme confidence in their ability to entertain, one that is entirely admirable on every level. I found myself applauding as wildly, cheering out loud and smiling as widely as everyone else in the room.
André Rieu encourages having fun with music. He obviously gets a real kick out of seeing everyone swaying in time to the music or up on their feet waltzing to his version of the beautiful perennial Strauss composition The Blue Danube. I must say that I did too.
Everyone in the room is there because they love the music he plays and the way he plays it.
Talking to those around you, you quickly realize that for them the music he is offering represents beauty, provides them with inspiration and pure joy, as well as an experience way beyond what they could ever enjoy in their own living rooms on DVD, CD or Television.
The guest performers were all quite truly amazing.
The Platin Tenors are Gary Bennett an Australian from Tasmania, Thomas Gruel from Germany and Bela Mavrak from Hungary. Who would ever imagine three tenors from such diverse backgrounds could meet, let alone come together to make such truly beautiful music? They have been performing with André Rieu since 2005 to deservedly thunderous applause, especially when they sing Nessun Dorma. Heart stopping stuff.
Individually and collectively their three voices are quite simply all superb and the generous applause they received reflected everyone’s appreciation for their talent.
The trio from St Petersburg; Rieu tells a delightful tale of how he plucked them from off the street in Maastricht after hearing them entertaining people while standing knee deep in snow. They were quite wonderful, their distinctive Russian ‘Balalaika’ driven sound supported by Rieu and his orchestra, quite inspiring.
Best way to explain it is to put up a video showing them on stage with him playing Zorba’s dance.
The staging of the show is very colourful; the bevvy of girls in the orchestra and the five girls who make up the chorus wear bead or sequin encrusted gowns, with the boys wearing tails Vienna style and the stage is covered in flowers.
It’s a true celebration of life.
The backdrop of beautiful imagery of flower covered green meadows, blue rivers and snow covered mountains are all enticing.
Bringing snow and balloons raining down on the audience gives the show light moments and adds to the celebratory atmosphere.
There was great fun to be had with performances by Zither player Frédéric Jenniges and the Carillon player from Maastricht, Frank Steijns.
The three sopranos on stage were as their tenor counterparts, collectively and individually superb and they all looked amazing. Black and white gowns first, black or red for individual solos and pure white for the finale.
They are the whole package; beautiful women with a true sense of style and occasion and, glorious voices to boot.
Here’s a rendition of Carla, Carmen and Mirusia singing You’ll Never Walk Alone together with Rieu’s Three Tenors.
Beautiful Brazilian born Maastricht based blonde Carla Maffioletti’s performance as a wind up doll was sensational. A coloratura with a great gift for mimicry and fun, she also had an ability to trill beyond compare.
Brazilian born Carmen Monarcha sang a select aria from the opera Carmen, which was full, rich and wonderfully round, seductive and sensuous.
Then it was André Rieu‘s angel from down under’s turn.
The superb soprano Mirusia Louwerse gave a marvellous rendition of ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’ from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical Evita. Recently Rieu explained, he flew her from Australia to Amsterdam to sing this version for the new King and Queen on the occasion of their coronation.
This lovely young woman’s voice, technique and delivery is so polished now after touring with André Rieu all over the world for over five years, it was like listening to pure perfection.
The nuances of tone and the quality of her sound are simply superb, her complete mastery of stagecraft and her ability to take an audience along on the journey are really second to none.
At one stage Mirusia descended to such a soft breathtaking level you could feel the 5000 strong audience collectively hold their breath so as not to disturb such a beautiful moment.
You really could have heard a pin drop and it was truly sublime. All the hair stood up on my arms and the back of my neck; a completely spine tingling moment.
Why on earth the Australian Opera, or any other major opera company around the world hasn’t snatched Mirusia up since she arrived home a year ago to concentrate on her solo career is completely beyond my comprehension?
Mirusia moves, motivates and sells the magic, surely the most desirable components for a great singer in any genre to have. She also has a true commitment to her craft and the ‘voice’, one that is pure, richly round, clear and bright or deep and rich when it needs to be. Now thanks to loads of experience, she has it beautifully under control.
The standing ovation and wild cheering response she had from the audience was very richly deserved.
André Rieu finished the concert in fine style, offering up seven, or was it more encore’s, all of which were diverse and delightful. They followed on from his orchestra’s very powerful rendition of the great classic piece of emotive music, French composer Maurice Ravel’s Bolero.
Rieu has entered phase two of his orchestra’s career with the next generation of musicians, sons and daughters of orchestra members taking to the stage as well. In this case it was his percussionist, who together with his son impressively playing snare drums together, help to build the now famous melody to its awe inspiring crescendo.
The whole concert, my friends who came with me agreed was entirely memorable. It was one of those truly magical events that stays with you for the rest of your life.
It was all so very well done Mr Rieu, just like everyone on the stage, this old girl down on the floor had a really great time.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2013