Review: Johann Strauss Gala

JASMINE DAVIES would only recommend this if Viennese classical music really is your thing.

Corn Exchange Opera Viennese

Friday 12th, 7.30, Corn Exchange. £26.

It is always awkward when the parents come up for the weekend.  Of course it’s great to see them, but they are not going to appreciate a day in the library and Clare Cellars. So, in a moment of genius I thought Mum would approve of, I took her off to the Gala Night set to Johann Strauss and felt very pleased with myself for being so generous. Turns out a Gala Night set to Johann Strauss wasn’t her idea of a dream evening, or mine.  Though we could both appreciate that it fulfilled its description perfectly Viennese classical music isn’t a good night out.

The sickly atmosphere was that of a musical, only lacking any narrative.  Set in the 1800’s it was the epitome of upper class and all terribly, terribly nice. Nauseatingly nice.  The ladies swished and swooned in perfect unison and the audience made little ‘aww’ noises at the right moments.  My Mum and I were the only two without white hair and the out of time clapping and constant coughing did add a certain something to the evening.

Musically, the orchestra did justice to Strauss, but didn’t add any depth to define it from any other performance.   Quite clearly this is my Mum’s input, with her degree in music and vat of cultural knowledge.  Apparently, it was just a recreation of the 1st Viennese School in performance, with all the glitz and superficiality of the original. The conductor seemed a bit nervous but the audience warmed to him and laughed when they were meant to at his not-so-witty remarks.  They went to town on the really spectacular costumes, making the stage come alive with silk, glitter and feathers, which if you’re Betty Boop is lovely, but I would have preferred something a bit darker.

For the steep ticket price I wanted at least an affair and ideally a murder to spice things up a bit.  If that makes me a sick individual then you should have been in my place for the evening of lighthearted, emotionally shallow music and dancing that Strauss’s Gala is.  The show does what it promises very well, I just chose badly.