Friday, October 10, 2008

Final performance: VERONA

Verona is the city of which Shakespeare wrote - "There's no life beyond these walls" - and upon entering the city you understand why. Verona enchants immediately with its cobbled streets all centred around the splendid arena.

It is easy to understand why Shakespeare chose Verona as the setting for the most romantic story of all time, 'Romeo and Juliet'.

And it appears that the Verona audiences fell in love with the Sydney Symphony. The performance at the Verona Teatro Filarmonica was a sell out. Following the first half of Ravel's 'La Valse' and Liza Lim's 'The Compass', the audience was treated to a spectacular encore by William Barton on didgeriodoo, combined with his own puppetry hand movements. The encore had people shouting in their seats for more.
The all-Ravel second half delighted audiences again with calls for two encores.
Verona audiences are notoriously conservative at concerts, but we saw no evidence of this. They showed their appreciation with cheers and a standing ovation.

The Verona concert was a magnificent way to end the Orchestra's Italy Tour. The performance summed up what we felt from audiences throughout the tour - an admiration for the Sydney Symphony and its exquisite music-making and an appreciation of bringing the sounds of Australia through the didgeridoo and Liza Lim's The Compass to Italy.

The tour has been extensive and exhausting for everyone involved. But the Orchestra works so tirelessly because we realise the value of international touring and introducing overseas audiences to the Sydney Symphony and Australian culture.

A tour as extensive as this is only possible thanks to the hard work of everyone involved behind the scenes - the tour manager, orchestra manager, technical crew (pictured here with their thank you bottles of wine from the Orchestra) - the list goes on and on.

But of course, it's the musicians of the Sydney Symphony who deserve the most praise. Without their fine music-making, the Orchestra would not have enjoyed the rapturous applause it recieved at every performance. Their professionalism and commitment to artistic excellence is what has made this tour such as success.

Following the final performance, the Orchestra celebrated in true Italian style - some great food and even better wine.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Today, Thursday 9 October, is the Orchestra's final day in Italy. We are in the beautiful city of Verona where tonight the Orchestra will perform at the Teatro Filarmonica.

Two days ago, the Orchestra performed in Modena at the Teatro Comunale Luciano Pavarotti. During the tour, the Orchestra has played in some of Italy's most distinguished concert halls and this hall was no exception (pictured).

Before writing about tonight's final performance in Verona, we have a special guest writer, harpist Genevieve Lang, who here gives her reflections on the Sydney Symphony's 2008 Italy Tour:

Bueno sera! On the Sydney Symphony’s penultimate day of touring from the window of my hotel room, the muted colours of Verona are captured by the sunset on another perfect day in Italy and give pause for reflection on what has been a truly magnificent journey. It’s hard to believe that almost two weeks have passed since we arrived, let alone seven concerts in seven cities, 2,400 kilometres of travel through Italian countryside, countless gelati and many, many unforgettable sights, sounds and experiences.

Venues, concerts and destinations can blur in the memory when moving from place to place so quickly. For soloist Rose Plummer, the concert in Torino (Turin) was a real stand-out: ‘I was sitting in the audience beforehand listening to the orchestra rehearse [Ravel’s] La Valse, and I knew that it would be a good concert. The balance in the hall was excellent and there was room on stage to feel comfortable in performance.’

The stage layout also revealed the theatricality of Liza Lim’s The Compass – percussionists drawing fishing line through the strings of the piano, creating an eerie, almost pitchless sound; woomeras arching through the air; and the sound of a hundred cicadas in crescendo.

For Rose, another highlight was performing, as an encore, Rossini’s La Scala di Seta (The Silken Ladder) in Milan. ‘The famous La Scala theatre was just down the road, so that direct sense of contact with Rossini was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And the audience responded really positively to the Lim. This piece has sparked a genuine curiosity here. At the reception after the concert [in Milan], lots of people were coming up to me with questions about what they’d seen and heard on stage.’

Hearing Beethoven’s 7th Symphony in the breath-takingly beautiful Chiesa di S’Agostino in Siena was also unforgettable. The acoustics of this church were such that every instrument and section could be heard clearly, and the sound of the orchestra as a whole rang forth effortlessly and radiantly.

Touring is always a tremendous challenge for all involved. For the musicians, soloists and conductor, it’s a question of stamina, maintaining physical health, and ensuring sufficient reserves of energy to give inspired performances. Our most heartfelt thanks go to all of the accompanying Sydney Symphony staff, physio Bronwen Ackerman, and doctor Paul Duff for managing, massaging and medicating any and all issues that arose. Their combined efforts have contributed immeasurably to an unforgettable experience of la dolce vita in bella Italia. Grazie!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Monday 6 October: ROME

For its sixth concert on its 2008 Italy Tour, the Sydney Symphony was honoured to play at the Teatro dell’Opera (Rome Opera Theatre) where Maestro Gelmetti is Music Director.

A number of special guests were at the Orchestra’s Rome performance including special guest of honour the Australian Ambassador to Italy Amanda Vanstone plus representatives from various Italian companies who have supported the Orchestra’s tour such as Ansaldo and Magaldi, as well as representatives from Tourism NSW.

The audience were treated to a two-hour performance of works by Ravel and Beethoven and encores of Schubert and Mascagni.

Following the performance, Amanda Vanstone hosted a reception for invited guests and the musicians. William Barton dazzled the assembled crowd with a didgeridoo solo while Amanda Vanstone spoke about the cultural diversity of Australia and how special it was for the Orchestra to tour Italy.

Sydney Symphony Chairman John Conde AO was also present at the Rome concert and spoke at the reception thanking supporters of the tour as well as paying tribute to Maestro Gelmetti.

It was special night for Maestro Gelmetti having brought his own Sydney Symphony to his home theatre to perform. The night was made even more special for him as his elderly mother was in the audience (pictured above).

Monday, October 6, 2008

4 and 5 October: Caserta and Rome

After a 400k bus trip from Siena, the Orchestra arrived in Caserta ahead of the night's performance. For this concert, the Orchestra was playing at a stunning outdoor venue - Cortile dei Serici: Belvedere di San Leucio. The weather looked ominous all the way into Caserta with rain on and off for the whole trip but as we arrived in Caserta, the rain clouds parted and the concert was going ahead.

The Orchestra arrived at the venue at 7pm for a quick rehearsal before visting a local restaurant for dinner.

As the concert started at 9pm the temperature had dropped to around 10 degrees but with scarves on, the musicians soldiered on to the delight of the audience all of whom had braved the conditions to see the performance of music by Beethoven and Ravel. The musicians were delighted at how appreciative the audience was, giving the Orchestra a standing ovation at the end of the performance.

The next day, Sunday 5 October, it was time for the Orchestra to make its way to Rome. Approximately 80 musicians opted to leave Caserta early and spend the day in Pompeii, while the rest of the tour group opted for a sleep in and to get to Rome around lunchtime.

By 7pm, the whole tour party had arrived in Rome.

The feeling among the group is upbeat and there is an air of excitement in anticipation of the concert in Rome on Monday 6 October at the Teatro dell'Opera with invited guests including the Australian Ambassador to Rome, Amanda Vanstone.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Friday 3 October - SIENA

The picturesque town of Siena was home for the Orchestra on Friday 3 October. After a long bus trip the day before (Milan - Siena), the musicians were ready for a bit of rest and relaxation before the night's performance. About 30 musicians took a bus trip to a village called Pitigliano, about a 2.5 hour drive from Siena. This is where the family of Sydney Symphony clarinet player Frank Celata originally comes from. (The town is pictured above).

The other musicians walked around the beautiful streets of Siena doing a spot of shopping or people watching in the town square.

The performance in Siena was at the stunning Chiesa di S'Agostino. The old church with its marble pillars provided a fitting setting for the night's music which included Beethoven Symphony No.7 and music by Ravel.

So as to fit in with the Italian way of life, once the performance was over at 11.30pm (the Orchestra's concerts in Italy start rather later than in Sydney, usually 8.30pm or 9pm), the Orchestra headed to the main town square for a nightcap and catch-up before the next day's bus trip: Siena to Caserta (400kms).

Friday, October 3, 2008

Day 2, 3 and 4 - Milano, Torino and Siena

Thanks to the excellent road nextwork in northen Italy, our 310k bus trip from Blozano to Milano on Tuesday 30 September was uneventuful and the Sydney Symphony arrived in Milano in time for some very quick sightseeing before our second performance of the tour at the Auditorium di Milano on Tuesday night. It was a delight for the Orchestra to perform in the 1400 seat Auditorium which had a bright and lively acoustic. A very enthusiastic near capacity audience braved a public transport strike to hear the Sydney Symphony perform our Ravel and Lim program.

Australia's Consul General in Milan, Tim Gauci and a number of Milan based Australians attended the concert along with representatives of Tourism NSW and a large group of Italian tourism operators. Representing the Hon Ian Macdonald, NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Energy, Mineral Resources and State Development, Richard Sheldrake, Director General of the NSW Department of Primary Industries and his wife Carol flew in to attend the concert and meet with representatives of Australian Wool Innovation who sponsored the Milan concert. While in Milan, Mr Sheldrake also met with north Italian importers of Australian fine wool and contacts of AWI.

We were delighted that the Sydney Morning Herald's European correspondent Paola Totaro also flew into Milan to cover our visit and performance. And it was a great pleasure to meet with Mr and Mrs Hefti-Meni who won the Kambly prize of a trip to Milan to hear the Orchestra (Kambly is presenting partner of the Orchestra's Tea and Symphony Series).

After the peformance, the Orchestra and our guests celebrated our Milan visit and William Barton generously provided everyone with an extra special performance on the didgeridoo.

The Orchestra arrived in Torino (Turin) on Wednesday afternoon with little time to explore this gracious former capital of the Kingdom of Italy. Our performance at the prestigious Auditorium Giovanni Agnelli del Lingotto was the first concert of the 2008/9 season and once again, a large and appreciative audience gave the Sydney Symphony, Maestro
Gelmetti, Rosamund Plummer and William Barton a very warm welcome. The Auditorium is situtaed in the former FIAT factory, the Lingotto complex and Orchestra were able to stay in the complex which has been renovated in true Itaian style. As in Merano and Milano, our program of Ravel and Lim delighted the audience and William Barton played an encore on the didgeridoo which will be remembered in Turin for some time to come.

On Thursday 2 October, we took the long bus trip from Turin to Siena (480k). The Orchestra is in great spirits and in spite of the gruelling schedule are being energised by the support and interest of the Italian public and the camaraderie which is part of the touring experience.

The Orchestra has a free day in Siena today, Friday 3 October, before this evening's performance.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

First performance a resounding success

The first concert on the Sydney Symphony's 2008 Italy Tour occurred last night in the picturesque spa town of Merano. It was standing room only with the Orchestra playing to a full house. After a two hour performance, the audience wanted more clapping for two encores.