The Hamilton Spectator
Hamilton is now officially Straussed out rather than stressed
We're loose, happy and prepared for all 2002 can do to us as
The Strauss Symphony of Canada -- an enlarged Hamilton Philharmonic
by any other name -- wished us Happy New Year with what has
come an annual event. It's the Salute To Vienna, a concert inspired
by the New Year's Day concert by the Vienna Philharmonic in
the famed Musikverein that airs on TV to literally billions
of people the world over.
These imitations now take place live and simultaneously in 30
cities across North America and are a charming way to spend
New Year's Day and a very successful one for the concert promoters,
since Hamilton Place was packed to the rafters of the second
One of the reasons for this year's edition of the show being
a sellout was soprano Donna Ellen's appearance.
She toured Europe with the Canadian Orpheus Male Choir -- who
sat in serried ranks in the second balcony -- when starting
a career that took her to Vienna and world fame.
She is in the prime of her vocal powers and simply delighted
the crowd with a sumptuous performance that included a Voices
of Spring Waltz that sparkled with perfectly executed coloratura
and shining high notes.
But it is her ability to convey deeply felt emotion, even in
the midst of all the wit and humour of the creamiest and most
frothy of Viennese arias, such as The Merry Widow's Lippen Schweigen
and a wonderful My Hero from The Chocolate Soldier, that touched
the heart with such ease and simple grace.
Her partner, the dashing tenor Alexander Kaimbacher, seemed
just a little under-powered at times -- I would never ask a
reinforced HPO to play really quietly, but a mezzo forte would
be nice -- yet he was charming and convincing in staggering
off to Maxim's and joining Donna Ellen in duet.
The essence of the whole concert was served up by maestro Ernst
Dunshirn who came from the Vienna Staatsoper to bend and mould
our orchestra's musical line and to make it dance and sway in
that inimitable Viennese way.
He and they did remarkably well and served up bouquets of Strauss
waltzes and polkas for the gowned and tuxedoed Ballet Jörgen
dancers, who, with simplicity and economy of choreographic detail,
brought a Viennese ballroom and its little stories and dramas
to our city.