Sunday, April 06, 2014

Gladiator at the Sydney Opera House

Just a quick review tonight as I'm off on another adventure to Japan tomorrow. This was another concert where a live orchestra performs while a full movie and dialogue is displayed on a big screen behind them. Today's film at the Sydney Opera House was Gladiator with music by Hans Zimmer (and friends) and Lisa Gerrard as performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Vox - Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and Ms Gerrard herself, conducted by the American Justin Freer.

I'm not the world's biggest Hans Zimmer fan. I tend to think he music is like junk food - instantly tasty but lacking in sophisticated flavour - when compared to composers like John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith. Many of his soundtrack albums are overproduced, so it was interesting to hear the music live.

I was seated in the "X" box, adjacent to the choir and overlooking the orchestra from the side. This was actually a rather interesting perspective as I had a great view of most of the orchestra and was able to identify which instruments were producing each sound. This particular work involved some less common instruments, including the cimbalom, duduk and zurna, along with a variety of percussion pieces.

Lisa Gerrard, standing directly below us, played the yangqin as well as providing her distinctive voice.

The large horn section were kept very busy for much of the time. The music tends towards to brash and bold and can tend towards an overwhelming listen, but that is the nature of the movie. There are some more reflective moments, such as the ethereal sequences where he dreams of Elysium (heaven).

The orchestra played an overture beyond the end of the credits while behind the scenes shots from the movie were displayed. Then they were given a rousing applause and Gerrard blew kisses to the audience.

I have the soundtrack at home, but it was not the music I would have chosen prior to a flight to Japan (though "Now we are free" was used in a Qantas advertisement). Zimmer's superior Last Samurai score would have been a closer fit, but beggars can't be choosers.

I actually prefer the concerts without the film showing as it means less distraction from the music. Of this style concert, I think I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean concerts better. Still, it was still a fun afternoon and and certainly worth the experience.

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