By BRUCE DENNILL
Viennese New Year’s Concert: Opposites Attract / Johannesburg Festival Orchestra, conducted by Richard Cock / Linder Auditorium, Parktown, Johannesburg 7
The traditional kick-off for both Johannesburg’s classical music calendar and the annual Johannesburg International Mozart Festival (JIMF), the Viennese New Year’s Concert (VNYC) is a feel-good, family-friendly mash-up of popular compositions, opera and ballet – a phrase that will have purists palpitating in their penguin suits but an event that has has the effect of leaving its audiences cheerful and upbeat about the season it introduces.
The JIMF’s overall theme for 2018 is “Papageno/Papagena”, using the name of Mozart’s characters from The Magic Flute to suggest the way opposites attract, and the VNYC’s programme was carefully chosen to reflect that. So Franz Von Suppé’s Poet & Peasant Overture takes the feuding classes and shows how they can make beautiful music together; Camille Saint-Säens’ The Swan sees Joburg Ballet’s Nicole Dill Ferreira and Claudia Monja as the Black and White Swans from Swan Lake in an adapted pas de deux; and Alexander Borodin’s music swells behind the lyrics for Strangers In Paradise.
The Johannesburg Festival Orchestra is a tight, capable unit, and was augmented on the night by soprano Siphamandla Yakupa and tenors Nic Nicolaidis and Lukhanyo Moyake. All were good, but Moyake’s powerful, expressive voice and knack for physically communicating aspects of the storyline behind the solos and duets he is responsible for marks him as a performer to priortise when picking out tickets for specific future shows.
And, showcasing the best sort of predictability, conductor Richard Cock was his usual multi-tasking self, excelling – in addition to his fluid conducting – as MC, historian, singing tutor, marketing man (on behalf of the upcoming JIMF programme) and occasional stand-up comedian.
Plenty of exuberance, just as much control and a sparkling variety of music to enjoy. Another gentle success.