It was a bit of a schizophrenic weekend as Saturday night we soared into the rafters with the pitch-perfect high notes of the People’s Diva Rene Fleming, those notes taking a drastic U-turn and dropping to the deepest crevices of the acoustically near-perfect Schermerhorn Symphony Center , as the hall resonated to the deep, rich timbre of Jazz Legend Al Jarraeu.
It was an interesting contrast socially as well, as Saturday night there was a quietly sophisticated buzz of anticipation among the beautifully coiffed and opening gala attired opera buffs that filled the audience, eagerly awaiting the moment Rene Fleming would majestically sweep onto the stage. And sweep she did, in her billowing and obviously designer gown while instantly leaping into “Four Last Songs”, one of Fleming’s favorite Strauss works, as our own Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero led the Nashville Symphony in accompaniment.
A night of elegance and culture on Saturday night, audience and performers alike, whereas on Sunday evening, the awaiting audience felt, animated, eager to get started, ripe with anticipation, with excited murmurs filling the hall. The cameras were clicking near to non-stop (no photos during the concert, please), with eager fans dressed to the nines in fashionable apparel. The crowd was, as a whole, a bit on the “jazzier” side, more typical of a night at an upscale blues or jazz club; still lovely, but noticeably different from the sophisticated night of opera with Fleming, because on this extraordinary night, the jazz legend Al Jarraeu took the stage – and the audience – the ushers even – on a ride unlike any I’ve been on before.
Al Jarreau, 74 years old, full of energy, enthusiasm and personality, made that stage come to life in a way I’d imagine only he can, seamlessly engaging the audience in his performance, never at a loss for words, movement, sound or praise for our wonderful symphony orchestra who sat proudly behind his band.
It continues to baffle me, how a venue can change personalities from one night to the next, as does our symphony hall, persistently surprising us with bigger and better entertainment season after season. Case in point: coming up, in this order are; Copland’s Billy the Kid, Don Williams, America’s Got Talent, Casablanca with the Nashville Symphony, Hugh Laurie (Dr. House ring a bell?), The Beach Boys, Chris Botti, Teresa Caputo, Dueling Pianos, Halloween Movie Night featuring The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Michael McDonald – and here’s the kicker – all of those are performing by the end of October.