Lights, Camera, Action! It's Johann Strauss Jr. Waltz time. "Salute to Vienna" at the Walt Disney Concert Hall this past weekend, Sunday Jan. 5th, 2014, brought new life and joyful atmosphere to the effervescent music of Strauss, Kalman and Lehar.
This two hour program of performances of famous waltzes, czardas, polkas and more, now in it's 19th season as an annual touring show, is modeled after the Viennese tradition of a festive New Year concert. The concert featured European opera soloists, ballet dancers and The Strauss Symphony of America. The orchestra conducted with elegant charm by Andras Deák (from Budapest) was superb. Serving as Master of Ceremonies for the event, Deák led the outstanding musicians with expert feeling and just the right tempos in the dances.
In the Accelerations Waltzes, Freikugeln Polka and the Delirien Waltzes by Johann Strauss, the orchestra accompanied the dancing of six young ballet dancers from the Kiev-Aniko Ballet of Ukraine. Three young men partnered three young women dressed in flowing gowns, as they gracefully twirled and sparkled in the skillful choreography of Aniko Rekhviahshvili. Rekhviahshvili also designed their effective and colorful costumes.
While the young ballet dancers were pleasant to watch, more impressive was the exceptional choreography and costumes Rekhviashvili created for International Champion Ballroom dancers, Yuliya Sakhnevych and Ievgen Tkachenko. They performed to J. Strauss's Wo die Zitronen blüe’n Waltzes, and Vergnügunszug Polka. While Tkachenko is a wonderful partner, it is the beautiful Sakhnevych who made the couple shine.
Sakhnevych inhabits the dance completely. Her expressive attitude, graceful precision and lithe movements embodied the elegance of Vienna of the 19th century. Her movements, enhanced by her flounced, multi-layered long dresses in either orange/pink or blue/gold, made her dancing even more hypnotic.
While the orchestra provided consistent excitement throughout the concert, the glamorous and gorgeous voiced soprano soloist, Alexandra Reinprecht all the way from the Vienna State Opera, was a special delight. Though her rich voice was rather over-miked, she performed a rousing “Heia in den Bergen” from Kalman’s operetta The Gypsy Princess. In the well-known aria of Lehar's "Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiss” from the operetta Guiditta, she moved and danced across the stage with flair, showering the hall with her opulent soprano voice.
Singing with 26 year old tenor, Martin Piskoski, she performed a temperamental, lively and stylistically correct "Watch Duet" from Strauss's operetta Die Fledermaus. The pair also sung a lovely rendition of the duet "Lippen schweigen" from Lehar's operetta, The Merry Widow.
In his North American debut, the Viennese tenor Martin Piskorski, was quite impressive. A tall and attractive young man, he already has a formidable technique and a truly beautiful, mature sound. The amplification of his performance (the entire show was miked) added a pleasing baritonal timbre to his already full voice. In the famous aria, “Dein is mein ganzes herz” from Lehar’s operetta Land of Smiles, while a bit stiff in manner, his perfectly placed high notes and long legato lines were excellent. With more stage experience, this young artist could become a world class tenor.
The surprise appearance of the reknowned Hungarian violinist, Zoltán Mága brought a huge round of applause from the audience. Accompanied by the orchestra, Mága theatrically performed the virtuosic Csárdás by Vitoria Monti setting the audience on fire.
At the conclusion of "Salute to Vienna" and following several encores, the audience began to accompany the orchestra's last polka, clapping in rhythm. Joining the fun, conductor Andras Deák turned around to lead the audience in both loud and soft clapping as the orchestra boomed out it's final phrases. This made for a delightful way to end a memorable concert, and bring in the New Year of 2014.