Last night the classical circus came to town. There’s really no other way to describe the debonair André Rieu, the bevy of crimpolined beauties that dominate his Johann Strauss Orchestra, and all the tinselled paraphernalia that goes with this current touring production.
Star rating; * * *
The show, itself, was a cocktail of inflated schmaltz, from a giant wraparound plasma screen that whisked us to world backdrops symbolic of the music, to the circus-style entrance through the 8,000-strong crowd by the entire orchestra, to the soft classics that made up the assorted musical fare, to Rieu’s slobbery chat, which seems to go down big time with his besotted fans.
But there really were circus antics – the stooge-like petulance of Friedrich the zither player as he recreated the cinematic theme tune to The Third Man; the attempts of one back desk player to silence the flautist with a giant mallet; a competition between a xylophonist and carillon player that ended in clouds of smoke; not forgetting the snowfall that cascaded over an unsuspecting section of the audience in the Christmas set that ended the first half.
Goodness, Rieu even had his own three tenors, giving Nessun Dorma a somewhat stormy rendition. And that’s the rub – musically, the amplified performances were touch and go, ranging from a version of Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez, weakly rescored for carillon, to an execrable performance – by a Brazilian soprano – of Bellini’s Casta Diva.
What this adoring audience came for, though, they got. Rieu’s charm works every time. The Blue Danube had them waltzing in the aisles; the Holy City had them singing lustily; Bolero and the encores sent them home smiling.
All with Rieu as the undisputed ringmaster.