Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: A CLASSICAL GALA, Royal Albert Hall

An afternoon of sparkling music in tribute to Raymond Gubbay CBE

Review: A CLASSICAL GALA, Royal Albert Hall

Review: A CLASSICAL GALA, Royal Albert Hall A leading promoter and producer of opera, ballet and classical music for the last 50 years, the fact that Raymond Gubbay CBE is not a household name is baffling. For those who are in the know, he has been a tireless champion of the arts and has brought trailblazing innovation to many of his productions.

In partnership with the Royal Albert Hall, he has staged over 1500 shows, including the world-famous, arena-style Swan Lake and Madame Butterfly, complete with Japanese water garden. He also pioneered the use of laser and light shows in classical concerts, something traditionally only used in pop concerts.

It is now over 58 years since he first stepped onto the stage of the Royal Albert Hall and A Classical Gala was staged in his honour, including many of the works he has been involved in. Featuring the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Barry Wordsworth, this fantastic show was a fitting tribute to a man who has contributed so much to the industry.

Highlights included a ravishing rendition of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue", featuring a virtuoso appearance by Steinway Artist Frank Dupree. Dupree gave an expressive, animated and mellifluous performance, with fingers darting over the keys with breathtaking speed.

Iconic soprano Susan Bullock gave a sparkling performance of Mascagni's "Voi io sapete, o mamma" from Cavalleria Rusticana, moving on to welcome Raymond himself to make his stage debut as an indifferent Sweeney Todd, as she sang a darkly funny version of Sondheim's "By The Sea".

English National Ballet's light-footed Francesca Velicu, Adriana Lizardi, Jung Ah Choi and Julia Conway navigated a narrow space to give a precise and lively version of Swan Lake's "Dance Of The Cygnets" by Tchaikovsky.

The BBC Concert Orchestra were on particularly good form for Ravel's "Bolero". Conductor Barry Wordworth beautifully balanced the relentless snare-drum to underpin the dramatic build-up, until the insistent repetition of the melody exploded. It was spine-tingling.

The Brighton Festival Chorus joined proceedings to give a hearty, if a little muffled, rendition of Orff's "O Fortuna" and a clearer, melodious version of Verdi's "Chorus of the Hebrew slaves" from Nabucco.

The gala ended with a rousing rendition of Saint-Saens' Organ Symphony, featuring organist and Royal Opera House Associate Artist Anna Lapwood. It was a suitably bombastic finale to a thoroughly entertaining concert.

If there is any criticism for this show, it was that there simply wasn't enough time to fit more in. As a taster of Gubbay's work, it was delicious.

Photo Credit: Aliya Al-Hassan

Related Articles View More UK / West End Stories

From This Author - Aliya Al-Hassan