Palazzo Mauro de André was built outside of downtown Ravenna in 1990 for big sports events and conventions, and is capable of holding 3,800 spectators. Probably 3,799 showed-up last night in Ravenna for Riccardo Muti and the Wiener Philharmoniker in a weird Austria + Spain flavored program, Schubert + Mozart and Ravel's Spanish Rhapsody and De Falla's Sombrero, like eating Wiener Schnitzel washed down with some gazpacho made by a French guy or something. ne way...
The crowd packing into the balloon-topped structure with such enthusiasm that the concerto started 20 minutes late to accommodate the swamped at-call windows, the claustrophobic line to get in (it was like being wedged into a slightly more elegant NYC Times Square Countdown-to-New-Years-crowd), and the process to find seats.
Muti was in high spirits, dressed in frac, much more comfortable on stage than I had seen him in NYC, or in Ravenna for Don Pasquale, and much happier than he was when a OC friend saw him in Florence last month for Gluck's Orfeo e Euridice -- after 30 years of special relationship with the snarky Viennese musicians, he really works SO well with his Wieners. sry. You can't even imagine all the wiener jokes that you have been spared by second edits.
First up was Schubert's Die Zauberharfe Overture D 644, a piece of flowery Apollinean beauty (there's a killer Fritz Lehmann version out on DG) and a gorgeous, rich sound swelling from the orchestra. Three omg omg females filled-in the ranks of the boys club and their sausage-fest: two strings, and one on harp. What is this blasphemy?!
Next was Mozart's Haffner Symphony (KV385), which is still giving OC little goose-bumps in all the right places. Muti -- the most extraordinarily intuitive conductor alive -- is just brilliant light and gorgeous force when he conducts Mozart -- he just gets it, in a unique manner -- he just gets it right with his scary, unique bond with the composer who was "charged with such boundlessness", in Muti's words, making the works seem as light as wind -- un soave zeffiretto, fo'reals. I swear Mozart talks to him at night when he's in his Moroccan-style bed with a tower of pillows at his feet, and whispers conducting pointers in his ear. And last night when the andante began, after a few bars you really thought the entire stage was about to lift itself up and levitate, fly away toward the basketball arena's dome. It's unreal his Mozart. Muti breaks your heart with Mozart.
Then time for intermission, which OC drifted through, still under the influence of Muti's Haffner. After the break, that mix of unabashed brilliance and utter vulgarity, Ravel's Spanish Rhapsody, which we are not huge fans, but the Wiener flaunted superb technique and wonderful mastery of tempi changes, dynamics, and style.
The last work on the program was the super-banal Manuel de Falla's El sombrero de tres picos...which was so boring that I stopped listening at some point and started thinking about making a chess set or something out of wood or clay or cork that would include chess piece in the likeness of all the great maestri, including debate over who would be the King & Queen (does Plácido or Fischer-Dieskau count?), all the way down to the pawns. Anyway, the concert ended in an enthusiastic climax, shouts of bravi and bravo for both maestro and Wiener.
Then after a bunch of ovations (half of the floor gave him a standing ovation), old bankers mooning the parts of the audience that didn't join in, along with bejeweled old ladies waving big foam hands with "MUTI RAWRKS" written on the palm.
Muti then spoke to the audience in soft Italian. He said that it's been a peculiar program, and with the set list beginning with Schubert, he would choose Johann Strauss as an encore, because Schubert opened the door for him. And then he was like 'here is the Wiener and we are going to play Strauss for you'. At that point, he turned around to face his orchestra, but an old lady's voice broke loose in the silence with a strained 'bravo'. Muti didn't turn around to confront the audience, but like an impatient father, he dropped his hand to his side and motioned for her diminuendo. omg so hawt. like emperor ming with an execution order or something.
So the Wiener played Johann Strauss's jr overture to Indigo And The 40 Thieves laying thick their famous rubato like Sacher Torte chocolate, and OC can count herself among the special who have heard the VPO's rubato live. Of course, it was breathtaking. They were like, "We're the Wiener. Strauss is what we do. Deal with it."
More standing ovations, applause, and then everyone disbanded to go eat some agnolini. yum yum yum. At the end of the night, it was clear that we were all -\(º_o)/-wned by MAESTRO MUTI!