Under the direction of Professor Nancy Hermiston, UBC Opera educates and promotes gifted young opera singers while preparing them for international careers. Nine singers with the ensemble will take the stage alongside the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra for Viennese Delights, Jan. 19-21. (Tim Matheson photo)

Okanagan Symphony offers taste of Vienna

The Okanagan Symphony Orchestra presents Viennese Delights in Jan. 19-21

It’s a performance to ring in the New Year, steeped in years of global tradition.

The Okanagan Symphony Orchestra presents Viennese Delights Jan. 21 in Vernon, Jan. 19 in Kelowna and Jan. 20 in Penticton.

“It (performing Viennese compositions) has been a longtime New Years tradition globally,” Rosemary Thomson, OSO music director said. “We’re not having it on New Year’s Day, but it’s a tip of the hat to that tradition.”

Waltz classics and operettas crafted by 19th century Austrian composers, including Johann Strauss Jr. and Franz Lehár, comprise the soundtrack Thomson and the OSO cultivated.

“In it’s early days, waltz was considered quite scandalous due to the close personal contact. If they could only see us now,” Thomson laughed.

And, Thomson said, no Viennese Delight would be complete without ballroom dancers on stage. Vernon’s own City Dance Studio ballroom dancers Heather Stranks and Jens Goerner will grace the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre stage to accommodate such a requirement.

“They will be there to bring the waltz to life,” Thomson said of Stranks and Goerner.

While waltz is traditionally an instrumental form of music, the OSO take on these Viennese classics also features nine singers from the University of British Columbia Vancouver Opera Ensemble Studio to sing excerpts from two famous operettas: Lehár’s The Merry Widow and Strauss Jr.’s Die Fledermaus.

“Operettas became a very big thing in Austria in the second half of the 1800s,” Thomson said, adding that this will be the OSO’s third collaboration with the UBC Vancouver Opera Ensemble Studio. “The quality (of the studio) is so high. Many of their graduates have gone on to lustrous careers.”

The combination of all four components — the orchestra, City Dance Studio ballroom dancers, UBC Vancouver Opera Ensemble Studio singers and the greatest hits of 19th century Austria — is a match about which Thomson is personally excited.

“Everybody loves that all the relationships work out in waltz. In the end, it’s very happy music,” Thomson said of the composition choices. “I think it was such that theatre was a place of real escapism, a place to go to have your spirits lifted. It’s so beautiful and I’m just instantly transported to a place with so much optimism.”

To add to the illusion of pre-First World War Austria, the orchestra will take the stage in full ballroom regalia.

“You have to imagine the ballroom full of dancers. It’s this formalized beauty,” Thomson said, adding that the audience is also invited to don their ballroom-best.

With the beauty of ballroom dancing, Austrian operetta and waltz numbers, Thomson hopes the evening will act as an auditory transporter for the audience as it has previously done for her.

“It reminds me of being a kid and my dad would teach me to waltz by dancing with my feet on his. It’s a very nostalgic music,” Thomson said.

“I hope people will come and be swept away.”

The Okanagan Symphony presents Viennese Delights, the third installment of the OSO Masterworks series, at Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre. Jan. 21 at 7 p.m., at the Kelowna Community Theatre Jan. 19 at 7:30 p.m., and the Cleland Community Theatre Jan. 20 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $56.25 adult, $49 senior, $26.75 student and are available www.okanagansymphony.com or in Vernon from the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.

RELATED: Vancouver Symphony set to play in the Okanagan — Masterworks Series I

RELATED: OSO reignites French classical romantic era — Masterworks Series II


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