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National Youth Orchestra Perform Classics of Opera at Carnegie Hall

Isabel Leonard (L) and Conductor Sir Antonio Pappano (R), photo ©2019 Chris Lee

A fabulous footnote to a superb season at Carnegie Hall was the appearance—on the evening of Saturday, August 3rd—of the amazing musicians of the National Youth Orchestra under the distinguished direction of Sir Antonio Pappano.
The program began magnificently with an enthralling performance of Hector Berlioz’s astonishing song-cycle, Les nuits d’été —set to beautiful poems by Théophile Gautier—luminously sung by the stellar mezzo-soprano, Isabel Leonard, who looked characteristically gorgeous in a black-and-white gown with a grey and silver shawl. She began enchantingly with the sprightly “Villanelle,” which memorably contrasted with the more melancholy if tender and exalting, “La spectre de la rose.” More somber was “Sur les lagunes,” followed by the plaintive “Absence” and the more dramatic “Au cimitière (Claire de lune),” concluding joyously with “L’île inconnue.”
The second half of the concert was devoted to a thrilling account of Richard Strauss’s dazzling tone-poem, An Alpine Symphony, which mesmerized from the hushed opening section, “Nacht” and the exhilarating “Sunrise” through to the mysterious close. Wondrous too was a transporting encore: Edward Elgar’s unearthly ninth of the Enigma Variations,“Nimrod,” a stunning finish to a glorious evening.

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