Classical Notes: Phantom superstar, local soprano treat crowd

Concert review of Phantom of the Opera stage star Peter Karrie performing with Vernon-based soprano Melina Moore and the Okanagan Symphony.

Five years ago, when superstar tenor Peter Karrie (who performed in Phantom of the Opera all over the world) wanted to do a concert tour of the Okanagan, he arranged to rent Vernon’s Powerhouse Theatre for his show.

And when he asked rentals manager Joan Karstensen to recommend a local soprano who could sing with him, she had no hesitation in putting him in touch with Melina Moore.

Thus started the five-year vocal partnership, which brought them together again on stage Sunday for the Okanagan Symphony’s concert in front of a packed house.

Music of the Night featured famous songs from The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Les Misérables by Claude-Michel Schönberg.

And what a treat!

Rosemary Thomson, musical director of the OSO, has often shown herself to be quite the entrepreneur when it comes to bringing world class performers to the Okanagan.

Karrie has sung Phantom in numerous countries, including the show’s original production in London, as well as in Toronto and Vancouver. And for the first time here he was singing in front of a full orchestra.

We’re all used to seeing local productions where performers sing to pre-recorded music tracks (and sometimes only a piano). We readily accept this, knowing that live theatre budgets in the Okanagan cannot accommodate the 50 musicians needed. But nothing can compare with a live orchestral backing. We’ll pay big money to get this on Broadway or in Las Vegas, and here we were at a fraction of the price, utterly transported with these fabulous songs.

Both singers had requested their own favourites from other shows. Moore sang Nella Fantasia, written for Sarah Brightman after Gabriel’s Oboe, the main theme from the 1986 film The Mission by Italian composer Ennio Morricone. Moore also showed considerable comedic talent with Frau Blücher’s song from the musical Young Frankenstein.

Karrie brought us The Anthem from Chess by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus (formerly of ABBA), with lyrics by Tim Rice. With Karrie’s dynamic range, this was powerful stuff!  He also sang Michel Legrand’s Piece of Sky from Yentl.

But the first half of the show was really dedicated to Phantom, opening with the iconic duet that begins with those powerful organ chords sweeping through the theatre.

And we were given all the memorable songs from that show. They finished with Music of the Night, which was, of course, a showstopper.

The second half was dedicated to Les Miz, and both singers gave truly heartfelt renderings. We had Valjean’s Soliloquy, I Dreamed a Dream, Fantine’s Death, Bring Him Home, ending with a duet arrangement for One Day More.

The two shows featured are the two most successful musicals ever produced.

Les Misérables is the longest-running musical in London’s West End (followed by The Phantom of the Opera). In 2010, Les Miz played its 10,000th performance in London, and celebrated its 25th anniversary with three productions running in London.

The Broadway production closed after 6,680 performances. It was nominated for 12 Tony Awards and won eight, including Best Musical and Best Original Score.

Jim Elderton is a freelance contributor who writes about the Okanagan Symphony for The Morning Star.