Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra

Shrewsbury Orchestral Society

Review - Wednesday 20th March 2013 in The Abbey, Shrewsbury

Shrewsbury Abbey was the perfect setting for a concert performance of Verdi’s opera ‘Aida’, presented by Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra and Community Choir and five soloists , and conducted by the inspirational John Moore. This epic work explores the devastating consequences of a classic love triangle involving Aida, an Ethiopian slave-girl, Amneris, the King of Egypt’s daughter and Radames, the Captain of the Guard.

‘Aida’ was composed in 1871 when the mature Verdi combined the heroic quality of grand opera with vivid character depiction and a wealth of melodic, harmonic and orchestral colour. All the solo singers provided some thrilling moments but special mention must be made of tenor Shaun Dixon (Radames), whose rich- toned voice and impressive vocal range were quite memorable. Naomi Harvey (Aida) and Kathryn Turpin (Amneris) were both convincing as the competing lovers while the roles of the opposing Ethiopian and Egyptian kings were sung by baritone Simon Thorpe and bass Jonathan May with power and conviction.

The Community Choir fulfilled its role with enthusiasm but the distance between them and the orchestra meant that they had to work hard to be heard. Accompanying an opera provides a stern test for any orchestra and great credit goes to the Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra (leader - Paul Bramwell) for its remarkable concentration and stamina. It supported the singers well and the famous ‘Grand March’ was played with appropriate vigour and crisp rhythms. There were a few moments of insecurity ; the string sound needed greater projection and some indifferent tuning meant that intonation took a little time to settle, ; but the slightly out-of-tune trumpet fanfares somehow seemed right, giving the feel of an outdoor performance in somewhere like Verona - all we were missing was an image of a Sphynx and a herd of elephants barging in through the west door of the Abbey to complete an authentic picture.

The ambition of the Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra is to be applauded - programming is adventurous and the end-product remarkable for an amateur group. Long may this continue; What a good aida!!

© Bob Wysome (reproduced by kind permission)