As the Houston Symphony Orchestra began its new season at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion last weekend, the careful planning of Pavilion Marketing/Education Director, Cindy DuBois, was rewarded with pleasant temperatures and breezes, and an overnight delay of the long predicted rain and thunderstorms. Maybe that was why DuBois was smiling broadly when she interrupted her busy evening to introduce me to the pavilion’s fine Public Relations Manager, Mandi Hunsicker-Sallee. The upbeat mood even extended to the pavilion plaza areas where families could enjoy various craft activities for the youngsters, as well as entertainment from the popular Class Act Productions group.
Under the able baton of conductor, Rebecca Miller, (humorously attired in a Seuss inspired “Cat in the Hat” style chapeau), the program began with Rossini’s “La Gazza Ladra” (The Thieving Magpie). Opening with the proud and regal splendor of this Rossini masterpiece, the orchestra beautifully captured the thrilling escalations of the work’s ever-increasing excitement, and the stately elegance of the explosive conclusion. One appreciative young toddler in the audience, arms spread wide, was happily assisting with the conducting. Next on the bill was Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Dance of the Birds” (from his Suite- “The Snow Maiden”). With especially bird-like qualities from the flutes and strings, this was yet another work with a “bird” theme, leading up to the featured work that would follow.
The next bird-inspired masterpiece was Stravinsky’s classic, “The Firebird.” The orchestra beautifully performed the hypnotic opening passages, with the strings seeming to speak in a mysterious and whispering delicacy as the music ascended in power and spread its wings for the exciting finale.
Then it was time for the featured work that had attracted so many families with young children: “Dr. Seuss’s Gertrude McFuzz,” by Kapilow. Telling the story of an insecure bird that longs to be lovely, it featured fine vocal performances from Hilary Fingerman and Vera Mariner. With some feathers, a few props and a modest set, these talented artists joined the orchestra for an enthusiastic performance that was fun for fans of the Seuss stories, but not a musical style that had special appeal for this critic. Never the less, the audience went home happy, especially those who had taken advantage of the concert sponsorship of the Houston Community Newspapers, and several other pavilion partners who made free lawn seating available to the general public.
For tickets, and more information about The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion’s 2006 Performing Arts Season, call 281-364-3024.