Following a long time Viennese New Year’s tradition, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra performed many of the waltzes, polkas and arias composed by the Strauss family in a New Year’s Eve in Vienna Concert, this past Thursday evening, Dec. 31st at Hilbert Circle Theatre.
In his opening remarks, ISO Associate Conductor Sean Newhouse set the tone for the evening when he shared how much he loved the program’s music for its “elegance, charm and nobility.” In the end, the entire concert projected all those qualities and more, due to the addition of world-class dancing by members of Dance Kaleidoscope, under the artistic direction of David Hochoy, and exquisitely performed arias sung by soprano, Jacqueline Brecheen.
Performing on a stage adorned for the occasion with greenery and white lights, potted palms and flower arrangements bordering the edge of the stage, the orchestra members were seated below two chandeliers and a clock set to a minute before midnight, suspended from high above. Under Newhouse’s exuberant and often fluid direction, the always solid orchestra was vibrant and spirited in its interpretation of music that is popular and familiar with general audiences. Notable selections included “Tales from the Vienna Woods Waltzes” by Johann Strauss Jr., “Thunder and Lighting Polka,” and “On the Beautiful Danube Waltzes,” also by Strauss Jr.
The sweet-voiced Breechen who is a first year doctoral student at the IU Jacobs School of Music, charmed the audience with her superb rendition of “Villa,” from The Merry Widow, “Adele’s Laughing Song,” and “Audition Song,” both from Die Fledermaus. Wearing a full length, burgundy strapless gown, white kid gloves and pearls, Breechen was a picture of elegance during a glamorous evening that demanded no less.
Replicating another Viennese New Year’s concert tradition of including a dance element, Dance Kaleidoscope was the perfect ISO collaborator for an event that was transportive as it was grand and festive. Adding to the concert’s old world ambiance while providing a modern twist, the members of Indiana’s premier professional contemporary dance company were absolutely captivating. With the women dancing in flowing ankle length dresses and men in tuxedos with white tie and tails (all in shades of brown) during the first act, and the same costume design except in shades of blue in the second act, the company was beautiful in body and spirit. Performing ingenious choreography created by Hochoy which mixed traditional waltz and polka with modern dance steps, the dancers exhibited great control as well as dexterity as they performed in what appeared to be a very limited area in front on the orchestra. However, the lack of space did not seem to limit the athletic company’s ability to glide, turn and lift effortlessly. Nor did it serve as an obstacle for dancer George Salinas who managed to execute spectacular mid-air leaps. DK was exceptionally showcased in “Tritsch Trastch Polka, ” by Strauss Jr. “Spharenklange Walzer” by Josef Strauss and “Emperor Waltzes,” by Strauss Jr.
Closing the program was the “The Radetzky March,” by Strauss Sr., during which Newhouse (again following a tradition that began in Vienna with a piece that was once popular with soldiers) encouraged the audience to clap along during the chorus and which they participated in enthusiastically as he conducted them. Following the curtain call the orchestra played “Auld Lang Syne,” while the crowd sang along. The concert which commenced at 9:00 p.m. and was approximately one hour and forty five minutes in length with an intermission, ended shortly after 11:00 p.m. Nevertheless, staying true to the theme and in a spirit of “as if,” Newhouse initiated a countdown to midnight and was joined by the audience which was more than game. At the appointed hour, the excited crowd who by then were wearing paper hats and blowing on noise makers, screamed, whistled, and cheered as a mass of balloons cascaded from above the hall. Afterwards, many in the crowd stayed to celebrate the actual arrival of the New Year by drinking champagne and dancing to the Paul Burns Band in the lobby.
Coming up next is for the ISO is its performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, Jan. 7-9, followed by Marvelous Marvin Hamlisch, Jan. 15-16. in a Pops concert. Tickets may be purchased by calling (317) 639-4300 or toll free (800) 366-8457, going online at www.IndianapolisSymphony.org or in person at the Hilbert Circle Theatre Box Office.