Opening Night Fit for a King
Giaochino Rossini: La gazza ladra: Overture
Sergei Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67
Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier Suite, Op. 59
Sir Ben Kingsley (narrator)
Houston Symphony, Andrés Orozco-Estrada (conductor)
Sir Ben Kingsley
The Houston Symphony’s glitzy opening night concert hit many high notes, chief of which was Sir Ben Kingsley’s debonaire, charismatic narration of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. Imbuing every single word of the story with enormous amounts of character, Kingsley enhanced the superlative playing of the orchestra. The piece is a showcase for the principal woodwinds, and the excellent quartet of soloists delivered flawless performances. Orozco-Estrada kept the piece flowing like clockwork, seamlessly weaving the narration into the musical structure.
Preceding Peter and the Wolf, Rossini’s overture to La gazza ladra kicked the evening off with appropriate fireworks. Once more, woodwind and horn solos sparkled throughout, while tutti passages featured perfectly-tiered crescendos and utmost agility from the strings. Rossini’s always-exciting trombone writing added thrilling heft to the rendition.
While the Rossini and Prokofiev works were aptly lighter, Richard Strauss’ Rosenkavalier Suite gave listeners a preview of the upcoming season’s meatier, more nuanced repertoire. The ecstatic opening was brilliantly played by the orchestra’s always-impressive horn section, which continued to thrill throughout the score, expertly diving and soaring through Strauss’ demanding passagework. Orozco-Estrada’s many years in Vienna likely informed his subtle but infectious lilt in the waltz passages. The electricity of the evening may have eclipsed some of the more magical and nostalgic sections of the suite, but the blazing forth of the final waltz left a exhilarating vibe in Jones Hall that undoubtedly continued through the evening’s festivities.
Marcus Karl Maroney