The combination of the stunning Kirstenbosch Gardens and the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra is one of complete transcendence. With the intoxicating sounds of the orchestra drifting through the trees as you gaze upon Table Mountain, your imagination is at the mercy of the conductor’s baton, carrying you through the scenes and emotions of the various operas.
With excerpts from Verdi, Wagner, Bizet and Puccini, conductor Brandon Phillips masterfully guides the orchestra between the different styles and sentiments. From the romantic duet of La bohème to the sultry, playful Carmen, each piece had a unique flavour. Surprisingly, it was a Wagner composition that most perfectly encapsulated the evening’s atmosphere: his ‘Forest Murmurs’ is saturated with motifs that sound like birds chirping, a river running or wind blowing through the leaves, all of which add to breathtaking setting.
The orchestra was joined by soprano Goitsemang Lehobye and tenor Lukhanyo Moyake for a few pieces, including Moyake’s world-class performance of the famous Rigoletto aria ‘La Donna è mobile’. Lehobye also entrances the audience with her vocal control and goosebump-inducing high notes, but it’s her duets with Moyake that are truly astounding. Their voices meld exquisitely and the vocal runs and trills in their La traviata duet delight the audience in the penultimate piece of the show. The evening ends with a grandiose bacchanale from Samson and Delilah, using the full voice of the orchestra to immerse the audience in the throbbing pulse of the composition, which has a slightly eastern feel.
Even though this bacchanale is a phenomenal crescendo, bringing the audience to their feet on Sunday with their final resonating note, it is the extract from the ballet Gayane that showcases the orchestra in full flight. The layering of the instruments creates an expansive, ebullient sound that leaves you in blissful awe. Kirstenbosch is, as always, a fantastic backdrop to any performance, but even more so with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, who transform the beautiful gardens into something magical.
The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra performed at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden on 28 February 2016 as part of the Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts series.