Wednesday 6 Feb – from Korimako
And now for some light relief! In the midst of a fairly solid line-up of chamber music, along came the “opera” The Magic Trombone. (see Euan Murdoch’s previous post on this concert)
Hanging from the pulpit was a disclaimer: All persons appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely accidental, and probably one of the many oversights in this concert. Which gave us a clue what to expect
BonaNZa is a trombone quartet, entertaining with a mix of serious, light (and zany) music: trombonists David Bremner and Matt Allison of the NZSO, David Cross and Tim Sutton of the Auckland Philharmonic. Their first-time narrator, so he said, was itinerant percussionist and NZSO oboist Peter Dykes.
The plot of The Magic Trombone, unlike most operas, ends happily. Basically, Bassaganus and Tenorius, two medieval knights, are trying to claim back their magic trombone which has been filched from Boneville by the Oboemanians. They are joined in their quest by Doug and Altonius respectively a wench and a swain.
The cast was in costume (Doug wearing a brassy wig), the set was minimalist and the plot set to music, which was what we had come to hear.
Anyone expecting either formal brass band or orchestral music would have been sadly disappointed.
Verdi’s Overture The Force of Destiny, pared back to its core like many other pieces, segued into a little Gershwin, Rhinestone Cowboy and then an abbreviated Scherazade. Nessun Dorma, complete with a very small Pavorotti handkerchief, went to Girl from Ipanema and the Wizard of Oz.
BonaNZa sang When the Saints in four parts then played it. Narrator Dykes stripped to his red Oboeman jumpsuit (identifiable by the big O on his chest) and flourished his oboe. Later he joined the quartet for a brief riff of Just The Way You Are
After the Great Gate of Kiev was breached the boisterous foursome found and won the purple Magic Trombone and marched into the sunset. The happy ending came with the stately Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral from Wagner’s Lohengrin for Doug and Altonius’ wedding (and a delicte flourish of confetti). We were left though to wonder where Kiev fitted into the plot and who Elsa was.
It’s difficult to comprehend such intricate, delicate playing from a slide trombone. The entire “opera” had great arrangements and harmonies, a thoroughly professional approach to each and every piece of music; and with humour on the side.
How could we encourage more when stamping feet on the stone floor had no effect? Enthusiastic and sustained applause (did I hear whistling?) was rewarded with two encores, first Birdland written by Joe Zawinui and finally a thunderous William Tell, complete with horse whinny (Stan Freberg has a lot to answer for).