The magic of Hogwarts come to life with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Image: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Live in Concert via SSO.
I’m usually sceptical of anything claiming to be a ‘Once-in-a-lifetime cultural phenomena’ but perhaps it is an apt claim for the astonishing worldwide success of J. K. Rowling’s creation Harry Potter and his Hogwarts chums.
American conductor Jeffrey Schindler exuded enthusiasm and excitement as he bounced on stage to introduce the performance. ‘You can let loose!’ he encouraged the audience, and, as he admitted ‘There’s a little bit of Slytherin in every conductor!’
And let loose they did, cheering as each favourite character appeared on screen, and booing for all the baddies. Dobby the House Elf received a huge round of applause; Hagrid, Keeper of the Keys and Grounds, and Professor Snape, played by the late Alan Rickman, were the other two big crowd favourites. Interestingly, there were only a few children in the audience, but the movie is now 15 years old, and the book even older, so I suppose the core fans are now grown-up Millennials.
The bespectacled teen wizard is entering his second year at Hogwarts as The Chamber of Secrets opens. Imprisoned in his room by his miserable muggle family, Potter is rescued by the Weasleys and their fabulous flying car, a pale blue and white two-tone Ford Anglia. And so the fun begins on the big screen suspended high above the Concert Hall stage at the Sydney Opera House.
Everyone in the audience appeared to know (and love) the film but seeing it with a live orchestra gives it a new dimension. Schindler is an absolute master of movie scores and conducted this one with flair and precision.
The SSO were superb, creating a brilliant soundscape for the film with the score by legendary film composer John Williams. The musicianship was so taut and defined that every nuance of the music came to life. Their pacing in the rousing passages accompanying the Quidditch match was just superb. The orchestra played seamlessly throughout but a special mention to Emily Granger who displayed a wonderful touch on the harp and to the woodwinds who gave a warm depth to the music.
There were a few technical glitches on opening night. Schindler made his introductory remarks standing in the shadows, the spotlight seemingly unable to find him, and there were a few breaks in the projection during the first half – a few more, and I think there would have been a Potter riot. It’s also a bit distracting having English subtitles on the screen during an English language movie.
The orchestral amplification was surprisingly crisp and clear, but it did necessitate the Concert Hall being unceremoniously draped in black curtains to absorb the sound. It’s always a shame to see such a beautiful space wearing these widow’s weeds.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Sydney Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Jeffrey Schindler
Composer: John Williams
Playing at the Sydney Opera House until 7 October 2017.