DAL is pleased to report that this gala was more fun than glam. Oh, there was the occasional gown and a sprinkling of black ties, but mostly this was a crowd that came for the music not the clothes. And what a lot of great music there was.
The stars of the show were, of course, the magnificent orchestra and Yannick Nezet-Seguin, their irresistible, thrilling, impassioned conductor whose joy in the work seems to wrap around every one of Kimmel Center’s huge audience.
“But the big story tonight,” as Jim Gardner, the evening’s host said (“Ive never said that before,” a line that drew a collective chuckle from the crowd, already delighted by the orchestra’s providing the Action News theme song as Gardener’s walk-on music) was the singing: Renee Fleming, the famed soprano and Angelique Kidjo, the sensational vocalist.
The orchestra opened with “The Carousel Waltz” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical; soon followed by Fleming singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from that show, a show she recently made her Broadway debut in. Demonstrating her amazing range, she added a Puccini aria, and then, later sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in a duet with Angelique Kidjo an electrifying stage presence and had us all singing along with “Afrika.”
The evening concluded with the orchestra playing a selection from their Grammy-winning album, “Florence Price Symphonies Nos. 1 & 3” and then a surprise bonus, “Mambo” that had the musicians grinning and tapping their toes. In his brief address to the audience, Yannick told us that “Music’s role is to bring joy to the world.” Job well done.
[Philadelphia Orchestra Gala at the Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad Street] May 16, 2023; philorch.org