The performance started with Maestro Robert Moody (previously with Phoenix Symphony) conducting portions of Richard Strauss’s Salome. This work is one of Strauss’s earliest operas where he was developing his composition style. Consequently, you hear hints at several of his later pieces, most notably some chords from Der Rosenkavalier, and a movement in the strings, although voiced differently, in Die Frau Ohne Shchatten. The festival orchestra was flawless under Moody’s baton as was Christina Major, the Soprano singing the part of Salome.
Intermission was to be had and then we embarked on a journey into the Middle Ages in a performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, the epic choral piece about the baser side of life and love.
I must admit this was a real treat for me as I have been listening to this piece since 1975. I was definitely not disappointed by the orchestra, chorus, or Maestro Moody’s conducting. It was so wonderful that at one point it brought tears to my eyes at hearing this performed live. Maestro Moody had a few tempos that were different from what I was accustomed to but there was a method to the madness, if you will, as he was able to put a special emphasis on those sections. The soloists, Christina Major – Soprano, Daniel Stein – Tenor (actually Counter tenor), and Theo Hoffman – Baritone, performed their respective parts exceptionally well, and the Festival Orchestra was a delight to hear performing with the precision that is required by this challenging piece. The Festival Chorus was superb in their execution of some very tricky passages, and with the addition of the Phoenix Girls Chorus, made it that much more spectacular. I was tapping my toe and “rockin’ out” in my seat for much of the performance. Having listened to Carmina Burana more than 300 times over my lifetime, it was nice to hear it performed live and sound almost record (yes, I am dating myself) perfect.
Thank you to Arizona Musifest, the Festival Orchestra, Festival Choir, Phoenix Girls Chorus, and last but not least, maestro Robert Moody for providing an afternoon of musical bliss.
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