In a typical New Year’s Viennese Gala, the expectation is of endless waltzes, polkas and operetta overtures by Johann Strauss II, Lehár, Suppé and the likes. But this one – which the RSNO is currently touring to venues outside the Central Belt – chose to stray from the advertised theme and throw in ample non-Viennese lollipops. Trades description infringement aside, the wider variety was welcome.
RSNO Viennese Gala, Perth Concert Hall ***
Featuring Jamie MacDougall as soloist and smooth-talking presenter, and with the RSNO working for the first time under the visibly efficient baton of the Shanghai-born New Zealander Tianyi Lu, it was more accurately a quickfire programme of easy listening.
MacDougall was in fine voice in sentimental hits such as Sieczyński’s Vienna, City of my Dreams, Lehár’s You are My Heart’s Delight and Zeller’s comic number Don’t be Cross, though you wonder what #MeToo would make these days of Lehár’s Girls Were Made to Love and Kiss, especially in MacDougall’s suggestive delivery, loaded with all the expectant charm of a Roger Moore-style James Bond.
As for the orchestral numbers – from Sousa’s tap-along-with The Liberty Bell to hi-octane Glinka, Rossini and Bizet, to the quaint chinoiserie of living Chinese composer Bao Yuankai, and not forgetting the essential Viennese – the flow was fast and furious.
A bit too much so, perhaps: such signature Viennese numbers as The Blue Danube lacking that natural heartfelt sweep where it really mattered under Lu’s prescriptive direction, and important matters of nuance and balance were not always perfectly addressed. Ken Walton