With guest pianist Stephen Hough reinforcing his musicians’ practiced virtuosity, Music Director Thomas Wilkins gratefully received the audience’s ovations Friday night for a program featuring Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto and the Second Symphony of Johannes Brahms.
Reviewers aren’t supposed to be star-struck. That makes it particularly difficult for this reviewer to write about Bernadette Peters’ Saturday night performance with the Omaha Symphony without dwelling on my age — or hers.
Spring is in the air and with it a spirit of change. While change might not have first appeared as the overarching theme in Friday night’s performance by the Omaha Symphony, it nonetheless was a consistent thread through the evening, with music by composers who were transformative through the innovative music they created.
Between the warm springlike weather, a relaxed “Symphonic Blockbusters” program and a red, white and blue finish, it seemed like the Omaha Symphony was celebrating summer at the Holland Performing Arts Center on Saturday night.
Many people inside the Holland Performing Arts Center had good reason to miss the singular presence of the late Marvin Hamlisch as the Omaha Symphony opened a weekend showcase of his music Saturday night.
Opera Unbound” is the slogan for Opera Omaha’s 2014-2015 season, and the company successfully let loose with vibrant, contrasting visual and musical colors in its season’s first production, Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto, on October 17. A co-production with Boston Lyric Opera and Atlanta Opera, this Rigoletto was set in its original historical context, depicting a world where absolute rulers have absolute power over life and death. The scenic design by John Conklin, vibrantly lit by designer Robert Wierzel, featured a white marble replica of an ideal city taken from a Piero della Francesca painting, set above large walls creating “a dark pit where love, lust and revenge fuel the city.” The dark walls were brightened by a fractured Italian-style painting of Mars and Venus that symbolized the conflict within Rigoletto, trapped between his desire for vengeance against the Duke and his love for his daughter. Costume designer Victoria Tzykun crafted spectacular, colorful period clothes, among them the Duke’s gilded costume and Rigoletto’s blood red jester’s outfit in Act I, and a stunning vibrant blue cloak worn by Gilda in Act III.
Away from the realms of performing fortune and fame (or infamy, in the cases of a few) lies a simpler world where music teachers seek to stir magic in the hearts of young people. It’s the world that earned the cheers and ovations at the Holland Performing Arts Center on Sunday.
Nutty costumes abounded onstage, above stage and in the audience Saturday night as the Omaha Symphony signaled Halloween’s approach with two hours of “Scary Movie Music” — well, mostly scary and mostly from the movies, anyway.
For 65 minutes Saturday night, Neil Sedaka guided the Omaha Symphony and a packed Holland Performing Arts Center through a fun and tender tour of his best songs about young love, lifelong love and lives well-lived.
If the Omaha Symphony's task Saturday night was simply to accompany any one of the hundreds of movie musicals, the reviewer's task would simply be to comment on its competence — and especially its precision — in doing that job.