“It’s going to showcase your orchestra in technicolor!” …lauded JoAnn Falletta about the evening’s program as she conducted an Omaha Symphony concert of Hector Berlioz, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and Ottorino Respighi on Friday night at the Holland Center. Everyone in Omaha should clamor to see this program on Saturday, October 30th at 7:30. Change your plans. Pour a glass of wine. Walk as far as you need to, from whichever lovely parking spot you can find. It’s marvelous. It’s Autumn. It’s perfect inside and out. Just go.
Blake Pouliot’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violon Concerto in D Major was inspired. When he wasn’t playing, he dangled his violin at his side playfully, with the comfort and familiarity of a child and his toy sword. When raised his instrument to join the orchestra, suddenly he was swashbuckling. His face was glinting with the pride and mischievousness of a buccaneer; dueling masterfully against some invisible rival. But audibly, the fruits of the happy contest were an adventure of sound. From the lowest most auburn double stop sonorities, to the most dexterous and angelic harmonics, Pouliot scaled every inch of his violin’s capacity with an apparent excitement, and palpable agility.
Some snobby writer like me, might have forced himself to tear his eyes off the captivating performance to see what the rest of the audience thought. In choosing to “sneak out” the crowd’s response as a writer, I was the only one, even if only for a moment, not transfixed by the storyteller and his violin. His face was in a continuous conversation of winks, and smiles, and insights shared with his instrument and its bow. The audience was glamoured. The young lady 3 rows in front of me was rising out of her seat with every rapturous cadenza. She couldn’t have been 8 years old and she was riveted. The retired patron beside me held her mouth in her hands, gleefully dumbfounded. My date fought back tears as she smiled and shook her head.
Then, as if in response to a cannon firing, the audience hopped up to provide a standing ovation. Praise indeed, as the piece wasn’t even over! That was just the first movement.
Falletta, offered a gracious smile and waved the stage open for Pouliot; as if to say she couldn’t imagine not stopping to clap after all of the violin pyrotechnics.
Her conducting was marvelous. Her gentle, active, and authentic gestures guided the orchestra with the same clarity and imagination as her charming discourse, when she welcomed the audience to the show. Much like the young violin virtuoso, her face was on a journey with the orchestra the entire night. Whenever she turned sideward to address another section, her mouth and eyes were sculpted into an expression of longing and joy. It was a pleasure to see a conductor so excited to take the next step, and the next, and the next with an ensemble to which she so vividly connected.
If the magic between the Omaha Symphony and Falletta wasn’t already mesmerizing; the chemistry between Falletta and Pouliot was a love story within a concert. Their eyes met over and over, like two strangers happy to share the same inside joke at a crowded party. All the while Tchaikovsky’s unique melodic gifts swirled around them, and up, and out to a grateful audience. By the end of the night, the audience stood up and sat down more than a devout crowd of Catholics on Good Friday, for all their ovations.
The second act: Respighi’s Fountains of Rome and Pines of Rome, was entrancing in kind. It elicited the same Mass of ovations: pun intended.
The concert was a triumph. The most appropriate compliment for the evening was Falletta’s own dedication to the Omaha Symphony and its patron city: “Great orchestras [like the Omaha Symphony] can’t exist without great friends like you, who take care of them, to make sure you always have this treasure."
I grew up in church music and musical theatre. From my collegiate career and beyond I've traveled through opera, the symphony, the theatre and worship as a student, a performer, an entrepreneur, and a journalistic correspondent. I'm thrilled to have an opportunity to share with you some of the incredible and fascinating endeavors I continue to undertake in music and the arts. I don't need you to see the world the way I do, but I'll do everything I can to help you enjoy it as much as I have.