Audience tunes into BSO

Sarina Tracy
Journal Staff

It was with humble pride that James Levine walked upon the Boston Symphony Orchestra stage to conduct the opening of the symphony’s 130th season on Saturday night.  After more than seven months away from the podium for Boston’s regular season, as well Tanglewood’s Summer Session in the Berkshires, Levine showed no signs of the back problems that caused his absence. Appearing before the earnest and elaborate audience, the maestro proudly smiled, clapped his hands to his heart, and got down to business.  The conductions atop Levine’s chair were fluid, yet decisive, all the while remaining majestic and on-par with the reputation he is so renowned for.  Showing the critics and naysayers wrong, it was as if Levine had never left.

The hour-long musical interlude followed a pre-concert reception, and preceded a black-tie dinner.  While fairly short-lived, the show did not lack in substance.  The concert consisted of an all-Wagner show of orchestral and vocal excerpts, with bass-baritone Bryn Terfel of Wales.  A man with a booming, passionate voice, Terfel did not disappoint the audience with his performance.  Levine paired instrumentals with vocals from three different operas, including The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, The Valkyrie and The Flying Dutchman.  All three segments were emotional, exhilarating works, executed with fortitude in a relatively short amount of time.   Including in the show was Richard Wagner’s Prelude to Act I, Hans Sach’s Monologue, Ride of the Valkyries, Wotan’s Farewell, Magic Fire Music, and The Dutchman’s Dialogue.  Although the titles of each work may not strike a chord to the average college student, some of the more famous works, such as the vibrant Ride of the Valkyries, would reverberate in the minds of many.

Karen Shoebacker, impressed with the show, voiced her satisfaction over opening night’s performance. “I really enjoyed it.  I like Wagner and the program, I thought it was great. I went to a few [shows] last year, and I liked this one better. I thought it was great to have one composer for the whole concert, it really sounded very unified,” she said.

A unified show for an audience united under their appreciation for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Levine’s conduction and Terfel’s voice superseded many expectations, and lived up to those of the most devoted fans.  Additionally, one thing remains certain: hopes and well-wishes for the continued healthy direction of the Maestro.  Under the chandeliered lights of Symphony Hall, James Levine heroically rose from the skepticism and doubt that many had cast upon him.  With the exceptional aid of Bryn Terfel, both men, as well as the symphony itself, captivated the Bostonian audience and proved the endurance of their musical power.

Note: For college students interested in attending many of the Symphony’s incredible shows, the BSO College Card gives Boston-area college students the opportunity to hear 19 of the 26 programs scheduled throughout the BSO’s 2010-11 season for only $25.  Further discounts are available for groups of five or 10.  Visit and take advantage of this fantastic offer.