Maestro Rieu: Putting the -al(e) in Australia
In a world where The Wiggles cover U2 songs and Rolf Harris breaks out the wobble board to massacre Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven, nothing is sacred.
Even to -- or perhaps especially to -- a man whose per-concert outlay is reputed to be around the three million Euro mark and whose Strad has a bodyguard. (Like the President's attendant who carries the "football" -- the briefcase with the nuclear codes in it -- I picture a secret service type with very dark glasses and a violin case cuffed to his cuffs.) [Yeah, yeah, yeah... I know the football carrier is a uniform, not a Secret Service agent!]
André Rieu is a phenomenon. He's Pavarotti, the Boston Pops, Nigel Kennedy, Liberace and PT Barnum rolled into one. He's a heart-throbbing chart-topping star of the Morning Melodies set. His popularity puts the Three Tenors to shame. (Indeed, the low point of his first Australian concert on Thursday night was a Three Tenors-style rendition of Nessun dorma. It was an abomination. And it scored a mid-set standing ovation... which prompted me to scribble the neologism "abominovation" in my notepad!) [© Chris Boyd, 2008]While I am inclined to attribute this gent's failure to stand to superior
taste, I must in fairness point out that he arrived in a wheel chair!
Rieu's appeal, surprisingly, extends deep into the serious music listening public. (My father turns out to be a closet fan.) I can't really comment on Rieu's playing; apart from a clean and lyrical solo in Waltzing Matilda, Rieu's principal duty seemed to be blarney and delegation... not unlike Goran Bregovic. But, also like Bregovic, Rieu surrounds himself with extraordinary (and extraordinarily enthusiastic) artists.
Unless you're of a certain age or listen to the midnight-to-dawn shift on talk radio, you might be blithely unaware of Rieu. Well, you might have been until news broke of his plans to bring Austria to Australia... a full-scale replica of the Schönbrunn Palace in fact. Nowadays, you'd have to be a pinball wizard (deaf, dumb and blind) not to know of his existence. Not to know that 100 grand was spent reinforcing the underground carpark at Telstra Dome to make sure that the palace didn't sink into the mud. Not to know that the maestro demands more than a grand for a meet and greet with cashed up fans, post performance.Note the youthful demographic...
But why see him live? Even from up-close -- I had about ten rows in front of me and close to ten times
that number behind me -- you still have to watch the screens to get an idea of the scale of the event. Actually, it's cutely democratic. From the bleachers, in the 99-buck seats, you can see the ballet dancers and 'debutantes'. From the $286 seats, you're below the action and can only see the footwork via the big screens.
When an ostentatious horse-drawn carriage thundered into the stadium, we were torn. Do we watch The Real Thing in the middle distance -- catching the odd glimpse of feathers over heads -- or watch the close-ups on screen?
This photograph captures one of those countless indecisive moments. Do you go for the experience and wait for the DVD release? (Saturday night's performance is a live pay-per-view broadcast with a DVD to follow.)
There were fountains, a roadtrainload of flowers, squads of dancers and skaters, an angel, a princess, Krispy Kreme donuts, you name it...
The Lockett-end Fountain
Finally, the stunt that worked -- the one thing that needed to be experienced live -- was the late entry of as many as 100 bagpipers. (I know, it's unusual of me not to have counted... I can tell you there were 22 chandeliers in The Hypocrite and a line of 24 lights in Batsheva's Max...)
Their long march through the audience was spine-tingling. 3D. You had to be there.
I was there -- at Thursday night's concert -- kinda by accident. I had one of those "what are you doing tonight, Chris?" conversations with Miss Moneypenny, my Editrix. The Herald Sun's music critic is close to full-term, so a marathon concert in a plastic and concrete stadium on a stinking hot night might not be such a good idea! So... three hours later, I was part of the masses flowing over the bridges towards Docklands.
An hour after that -- cop this -- I had the Maestro [MaestRieu?] himself high-fiving me as he stormed his way up the non-VIP aisle. All I could think of was that vintage cartoon violinist line: "Not the hands!" (At least I got his bow hand... so no need to, er, fret!)
I've gotta say, the reception on Thursday night was less than ecstatic. I reckon attendance might have something to do with that. Attendance and the fact that the extra concerts were scheduled before the first concert to go on sale. So... Rieu's Australian debut concert was barely half full. (18,000 out of a possible 30,000.)
The first Melbourne concert to go on sale, tonight's show, promptly sold out. The second, last night's show, all but sold out. When a third Melbourne concert went on sale, it was scheduled for the night before that. Unfortunately, that was nowhere near capacity.
Shame, really. All of Rieu's most rabid fans will be out tonight!
Highlights of Thursday's concert:
The brilliant first song (in German) sung by Rieu's Three Tenors. (It's in the set list as Winckler's Chianti Song, but that doesn't look right to me. Any fans out there? Help me out here!)
A sugar-shock sweet rendition of O mio babbino caro.
Aussie soprano Mirusia's Botany Bay (sans wobble board) and a song from Phantom of the Opera.
Granada, Strauss's Emperor Waltz and Blue Danube, Purcell's Trumpet Voluntary and the Bolero.
Lowlights of Thursday's concert:
All except the ravishing last note of 'I belong to me.'
The Australian medley in its entirety. (We got everything except Hey True Blue... I'm talking theme songs from Bananas in Pyjamas, Burke's Backyard and Neighbours, plus Advance Australia Fair -- one way to get a crowd to its feet I guess -- and 'The Road to Gundagai'. We also got 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport'. Sigh...) (No offence, Rolf, but there's a time and a place!)
My review is scheduled to run in Monday's Herald Sun.
André Rieu's World Stadium Tour. Telstra Dome, Melbourne, Thursday November 13, 2008. Final Melbourne performance tonight. [Also available on pay-per-view through Main Event at 8pm for $24.95. Bookings: 1300 783 833 or www.mainevent.com.au]
Then AAMI Stadium, Adelaide, November 18-19. Subiaco Oval, Perth, November 22. ANZ Stadium, Sydney, November 27-29. Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, December 3-4.
USA & Canada in 2009. Dates and cities TBA. ["We are currently planning concert dates. As soon as the concert tickets are officially on sale, it will be announced here."]
UPDATE: Thanks to Sally at André Rieu Fans we now have 2009 North America tour dates.
Labels: André Rieu, concert, tour dates