Girl’s Night Out

Simone Young and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Guests, Adelaide Town Hall, 9 August 2019

***1/2

One can be ambivalent, even resentful about Richard Strauss, with his ‘stress-without-storm’ tone poems, dalliances with flaxen-haired girleens, Daddy-jokes, and general frivolity, even (and perhaps especially) concerning Nazis. Yet who could resist an evening of his pieces by the ASO conducted by Simone Young, featuring 4 great female singers, the romantic feminine being the essence of his oeuvre?

The programme of works says it all: included were interludes from Intermezzo, Capriccio and Salome; snippets from Ariadne auf Naxos, duets from Arabella, and a selection from Der Rosenkavalier. And more. Young kept Strauss’ noisy orchestrations within bounds, providing mezzo Catherine Carby, and sopranos Lisa Gasteen, Miriam Gordon-Stewart and Emma Matthews, with the chance to soar, which they duly did.

The highlights for The Varnished Culture were the closing exchanges from Rosenkavalier, which evoked memories of the Met performance with Renée Fleming, and the presentation of several of Strauss’ lieder by Lisa Gasteen.  What a lovely bonus for us to have a return from the sublime Brünnhilde of the Adelaide Ring (although she returned several years ago now, actually courtesy of Ms Young).

Regrettably, we did not hear from Elektra, that radical bridge from Wagner to the atonalists, but the selection of pieces was both substantial and made with taste and discretion, cleverly balancing the effects and resting the singers’ dulcet tones aptly. All in all, this was an evening not to miss, even for those of us who’d liked to have punched Strauss on the nose at least once (that list includes his wife).

Bouquets all round: Carby, Gordon-Stewart, Young, Matthews, Gasteen.

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