Review by Paul Nelson
RAYMOND Gubbay, the entrepreneur, must surely now rank as an impresario absolute,
and this cannot be better illustrated than by taking a look at his Johann
Strauss Gala, a collection of waltzes, marches and polkas, mostly written
by the Strauss family.
Not merely Johann Strauss the Elder, beautifully represented by Tales from the Vienna Woods, but also his son, who eclipsed him, Johann Strauss the Younger, and his younger son Josef Strauss. The programme also includes work by Oscar Straus, who met his near namesake and upon whose advice abandoned a classical future for operetta, and here he is represented by 'My Hero' from The Chocolate Soldier.
The evening is also a matter of moment for the legendary choreographer, Geraldine Stephenson, celebrating fifty years as choreographer and incidentally her twenty-fifth year working on the Johann Strauss Gala.
To her credit, she has a sure eye for a dancer, and she has chosen eight of the most romantic and elegant exponents of the art who illustrate perfectly the long gone style of what can only be called 'chic'.
These eight, and they must be named since they add so much to the evening are, in alphabetical order Stephen Brennan, Lucy Burns, Heather Craig, Simon Horill, Rodney James, Lucy Potter, Julianne Rice-Oxley and Christopher Lee Wright.
I feel I have to mention them alphabetically because their contribution is so much that of a company rather than as individuals, and it is their togetherness (there is no other word) which so beautifully illustrates the style of a bygone and romantic age.
The music is, however, the main draw, and no less than twenty-three items are presented.
The Johann Strauss Orchestra, directed from the violin in the traditional manner by Christopher Warren-Green is superb, and the evening is completed by the soprano Rebecca Caine, a very attractive and experienced singer who, unfortunately to my ear, did not have the precise diction necessary for the concert hall, but whose voice more than compensated for any shortcomings.
The evening is now on an extensive whistle-stop tour playing most first class cities until February 10th.
Mr Gubbay is simultaneously presenting a national tour of the Russian National Ballet in a programme which includes The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake.
Johann Strauss Gala, presented at the Royal Festival Hall by Raymond Gubbay
featuring the Johann Strauss Orchestra, directed by Christopher Warren-Green,
with Rebecca Caine (Soprano) and the Johann Strauss Dancers, Choreographer
Geraldine Stephenson. Currently on tour.