A huge Cheshire Cat grin was plastered to my face as I walked towards the lit up Sydney Opera House. A little girl dressed in her best enthusiastically skipped up the walkway babbling non stop to her mom about the show she was just about to see and I was a little bit envious that I couldn’t jump up and down and yell that I was going to the Sydney Opera House too.
I scouted out possible tickets for a show my second day in Sydney and found that there was an orchestral performance in the Concert Hall, the largest of the theatres, with a full choir and I could get a ticket for $40! Sold! So on Thursday night after a hike around Manly, I dressed myself up as much as my limited backpacker wardrobe allowed and headed out to the concert.
My seat was in the gods but any seat would have been perfect. I sat in the audience and watched the Sydney Symphony Orchestra file in, take their seats followed by the almost 400 strong
Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and the Conservatorium High School Choir, my skin startled to tingle with anticipation. It was hard not to turn to the person next to me and go, “can you believe where we are? We are about to see hear Mendelssohn’s Elijah! In the Sydney Opera House!”
To be honest I knew nothing about the piece. So here is a little bit of information that I have gathered. The story is taken from the Book of Kings in the First Testament and is based on the German oratorio and considered to be one of Mendellsohn’s greatest works. First performed in 1846 while it lessened in popularity in the 20th century it is considered to personify the Victorian Era in England. It is performed with a full orchestra, full choir – matching each other perfectly in volume and intensity and four soloists. What was extra special about the night that I got to go was that it was opening night for the show but also the first time the new resident conductor Paul McCreesh took to the Sydney Opera House stage.
The lights dimmed and the hall filled with the hum of instruments tuning. McCreesh walked on stage, introduced the piece, tapped in the orchestra and the first note was struck. I was mesmerised. The choir joined in and the sound was amazing. My hair stood on end, my throat tightened, I just sat captivated, trying hard to not sniff to hard and hide the tears that may have been welling up.. Something that is hard to beat or explain. Thankfully I wasn’t the only teary eyed person in the audience as the guy in front of me was wiping his eyes, making me feel better,
At half time I treated myself to ice cream and a cup of Earl Grey tea and, as you do, started chatting to the lady next to me as I needed to discuss the concert with someone at this point. I apologised for my sniffles, explaining how I used to sing in choirs growing up and I can remember the feeling of singing with a full orchestra from my Halifax Honour Choir Days when I was little and it was such an amazing feeling. As it turned out, she understood me completely and was enjoying the concert as much as me. She was normally in the Philharmonia Choirs but had taken a year hiatus. It must have felt strange to watch them and not be on stage with them.
The evening came to a close and I walked home in a happy daze so pleased that I had bought the tickets and made myself go as I had been unsure about going on my own at the beginning. The concert finished with multiple standing ovations for all parties. The show even has a bit of comic relief as the conductors baton was misplaced at intermission, he quickly ducked out and found it taking the event in stride. Elijah might not be played very often but if you love choral and orchestra arrangements and get a chance, jump! Not to mention see any show in the Opera House it is well worth any cost as the evening put me on a natural high for a week and I am sure I bored the ears off people at the hostel as I became the enthusiastic girl I had seen skipping down the path telling everyone what I had seen.