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Tuesday, August 9, 2011


(Conductor Leslie Dunner)

Another entertaining professional production by the KZNPO. (Review by Maurice Kort)

Delightful well-balanced Starlight Pop Opera delights and enthralls invited guests, with even the weather co-operating, resulting in yet another most entertaining professional production by the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra.

Although the weather was cruelly wet and stormy on the preview Friday night performance for the special audience from old age homes and almost as bad for the night open to the public on the Saturday night, no-one could have asked for better weather for the Sunday night performance for the invited guests of the main sponsors First National Bank (FNB) who once again pulled out all the stops. This, the 13th Starlight Pop Opera, lived up to the reputation the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra has set over the past years with a very well-balanced programme with items to suit every taste and perfectly executed by the orchestra and the various invited artists.

The event was once again held at the Chris Saunders Park, Umhlanga Ridge, as it was last year, having moved from the Durban Country Club because of its proximity to the Moses Mabhida Stadium during the World Cup. The MC was once again Leanne Manas, not surprising as she did such a wonderful job last year and her warmth and rapport with the audience again shone through. The conductor was the popular American Dr Leslie B Dunner who has built up a large following in Durban. The entertainment opened with brief welcoming speeches by Bongani Tembe and Preggie Pillay, Chairman of FNB KZN.

Interspersed between the orchestral numbers - Wagner's Lohengrin: Prelude to Act 3, the beautifully performed The Cowboys: Overture by Williams and the delightful Die Fledermaus: Overture by Strauss and Arr. Custer Duke Elington! which were understandably and deservedly audience favourites - were vocal numbers by the various invited artists. Much was made by the MC that many of them were KZN born and bred or had originated from KZN, and it was so nice to see them here again.

The very popular Joseph Clark, regrettably not seen in Durban for a long time, enthralled with Kiss From a Rose (Arr. Arthur) and a great take on Freddie Mercury's The Great Pretender (Ram arr. M van Dijk) which was another audience favourite. In a duet with Juanita Kruger they enthralled with Moulin Rouge: Come What May (Baerwald arr. McLea) and she rendered Pocahantas: Colours of the Wind (Arr. Cheyne).

Homegrown John Ellis raised the non-existent roof with his Elvis: Rock 'n Roll Medley (Arr. Cheyne) getting the audience up onto its feet and both he and the audience were overwhelmed by his hit song A Million Lights (Arr. Holloway) being given the full KZN Philharmonic Orchestra treatment. Further audience favourites were the numbers by the Cape Flats Tenors, their Turandot: Nessun Dorma (Puccini) and the Santa Lucia / O Sole Mio Medley (Trad / Di Capua). Additional highlights of the evening were by last year's South African Idols runner-up, Lloyd Cele's Make It Easy (Arr. Bassingthwaighte) and When a Man Loves a Woman (Sledge arr. Holloway), another audience hit.

Completing the bill of the very well balanced programme were Hanli Stapela's Vespri Siciliani: Merce Dillette Amiche (Verdi) and the haunting The Merry Widow: Vilia (Lehar) which literally brought the house down and Shannon Mowbray on saxophone and penny whistle with her African Medley (Arr. Andrews) and Woza Waltz (Arr. M van Dijk). For the resounding finale, John Ellis, Joseph Clark and Lloyd Cele combined their enormous talents in All for Love (Kamen arr. Cheyne) and their encore So Good.

May the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra continue to enthrall Durban audiences with their very popular Starlight Pop Operas in future years. – Maurice Kort