The Orchestra of Opera North’s New Year Viennese Whirl, Leeds Town Hall , Sunday, 29th December, 2019

Dvorak’s exuberant Carnival Overture excited a capacity audience assembled for the Orchestra of Opera North’s scintillating New Year concert, conducted by Paul Daniel. The indistinct nature of Mr Daniel’s introductory remarks and jokes was a slight disappointment.

Josef Strauss was represented by just one work - his gloriously symphonic Delirien Waltz. The younger Johann Strauss, not surprisingly, accounted for half of the programme including Fruhlingstimmen (Voices of Spring), the overture to the Gypsy Baron, the witty Tritsch- Tratsch Polka, the Hungarian-spiced Eljen a Magyar and the brilliant polka, Elektrophor. Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s unabashed admiration for the Viennese ‘Waltz King’ was acknowledged by his sumptuously orchestrated Straussiana. Strauss’s frothy Vergnugungszug or Pleasure Train Polka celebrated the mid-19th century expansion of the Austrian rail network. Charles-Valentin Alkan’s breathtakingly fast perpetuem mobile, Le Chemin de fer (the railway) is regarded as the earliest musical representation of a train. A cue for the Orchestra of Opera North’s fun loving percussion department to put on their traditional gold-braided railway hats.

Gavan Ring is an acclaimed young baritone who has now debuted as a tenor. The singer firmly nailed his rich tonal colours and tasteful phrasing to the higher vocal mast with four charming numbers, two each in German and Italian. Franz Lehar’s You Are My Hearts Delight (from the Land of Smiles) and Girls Were Made to Love and Kiss (from Paganini) are the best loved songs written by Lehar especially for the legendary Austrian tenor Richard Tauber. The meaning of certain lines has changed beyond recognition since Tauber’s era. So it was just as well that Gavan sang the original, and more musical sounding German text. The County Kerry born tenor then subtly conveyed the ecstasy of Paolo Tosti’s L’alba separa dalla luce l’ombra and the longing of Torna a Surriento. These joyous proceedings ended in rousing clap-along style with the Thunder and Lightning Polka and (as encore) the Blue Danube. Geoffrey Mogridge