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“You never know what you can do until you try,” proclaimed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to his son Karl when asked about his whirlwind childhood as a musical prodigy. This magical message carried through a wondrous performance by the North Carolina Symphony of "Mozart’s Magnificent Voyage," presented courtesy of Classical Kids Live! as a part of the Young People’s Concert series. Conducted by David Glover, the program presented excerpts from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro, Symphony No. 1, Don Giovanni, and Eine kleine Nachtmusik.
Touring actors Elic Bramlett (Wolfgang) and Andrew Redlawsk (Karl) brought immense life to the stage in a semi-staged play format in front of the orchestra. They recounted tales of Mozart’s childhood and opera stories as fantastical fairy tales, and the music was a living soundtrack to their imaginative storytelling. The subject matter could have been incredibly difficult to present to young children, but the addition of the vivacious Karl and his want to learn about his father’s life made the story relatable and exciting. The actors were highly professional but versatile – during a brief pause to deal with a technical issue, they improvised a few lines to keep the audience’s attention, Mozart marveling at the wonders of technology these days and Karl hoping the issue wasn’t his fault.
The orchestra itself did an admirable job in keeping up with the myriad of excerpts that were timed seemingly seamlessly with the dialogue. Glover even kept his cool when Redlawsk leaped upon the podium to conduct the first movement of Symphony No.1; he maintained eye contact with the players as Redlawsk actually did a fine job keeping time.
Several soloists were delightfully and subtly talented as well and deserve special mention. Mozart cannot be performed without a superb pianist, and Donna Jolly was certainly that, interacting with the actors to play Variations on “Ah, Vous Dirai-je” (“Twinkle, Twinkle, Litte Star”), which the children were invited to sing along with. Much of the opera The Magic Flute was used as a fairy tale, and it is impossible to perform any of this exciting show without an amazing flutist such as Anne Whaley Laney.
Mozart – father and son – would not give spoilers to the story of the opera but began embarking upon their “magnificent voyage” together as a family. This loving rendition of a father and son using their imaginations to explore the power of music is relatable to all generations (even the young childless couple sneaking in the back of the concert hall to write a review had a grand time!) and just serves as an example of the shining star that is the North Carolina Symphony. These children’s concerts are one of the greatest young people’s series since Leonard Bernstein’s eponymous success story, and you can be sure that there will be a full and exciting 2015-2016 series full of more fun!