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Dec 2, 2011

André Rieu Concert Review: Fairfax, VA.

Review and Photos by Craig Hunter Ross: Over the years, the Patriot Center has played host to hundreds of sporting events and concerts, some undoubtedly more memorable than others. However, opening up the 10,000 seat arena to a large orchestra for an evening of live classical music is definitely a stretch. On this particular night, the large LED marquee outside the venue promised an evening that would be ‘unforgettable’. Combine that adjective with the name Andre Rieu, and suddenly the lofty billing takes on a whole new meaning.
The Patriot Center is located in Fairfax, Virginia , roughly 20 minutes outside Washington , DC on the campus of George Mason University. For most typical shows, when you exit off Braddock Road to the parking grounds, you’re greeted by a couple artist tour buses and maybe a handful of tractor trailers, parked by the road away from the arena. Arriving to see nine semi-tractor trailers and at least 7 motor coaches was definitely an unexpected sight. It further raised the mystery as to what sort of spectacle awaited the audience inside.

As fans descend down the concourse stairs into the arena, they were greeted by the juxtaposition of old world charm and state of the art technology. The stage set was enhanced by a breathtaking view of thousands of elegantly arranged flowers. The fine brass seating and music stands were situated in front of a mammoth LED display that rest below two massive high definition screens, surrounded by a bank of lights. 
At 8 p.m. sharp, the sound of “Seventy-Six Trombones” filled the air. The grand entrance begins. From the back of the arena, the members of the Johann Strauss Orchestra make their way toward the front in grand parade style. The men are formerly attired in full tuxedo garb. The women are adorned in colorful bejeweled gowns. They are led in all their resplendent glory by the “Flying Dutchman” himself, Andre Rieu.
Once the parade of players is positioned on the beautifully designed stage, it’s more than appropriate the evening commences with the orchestra performing “Voices of Spring” by Strauss. The sheer joy of watching Andre Rieu conduct his ‘symphony of color’ is matched only by machinations of the conductor himself. His unbridled enthusiasm carried over to the musicians on stage. This ‘all world’ assembly of players were often seen smiling and exchanging laughs throughout every piece performed. Besides being masters at their trades, they were well rehearsed in audience interaction as well. For instance, as the audience was treated to beautiful renditions of Abe Holzmann’s famous march, “Blaze Away” and Emile Waldteufel’s “The Skaters Waltz”, the sight gags among the gentlemen in the orchestra had the crowd laughing.
As for highlights of this show, literally, where do you begin? The Platinum Tenors – Gary Bennett, Bela Mavrak and Thomas Greuel – delivered a flawless version of “Heut’ ist der schonste Tag” followed by Puccini’s aria, “Nessun Dorma”. The delivery was so stirring it literally left many in the audience somewhat teary-eyed.
A flawless master showman, Rieu instinctively knew that following a highly emotional song, a change of pace was in order. Thus he led the orchestra in Thomas Koschat’s famous German folk song, “Snow Waltz.” While the LED display beamed a winter scene in Holland , those seated on the floor noticed a gentle snow begin to fall upon them. That gentle snow by waltz’s end was literally 3-4 inches deep on the arena floor to the delight and whimsy of Rieu and those who chose to purchase the less expense seats in the lower bowl and upper levels. With the crowd in absolute hysterics, Rieu proclaimed “Isn’t it nice to enjoy life!” to rousing applause.

Following a brief intermission, Rieu took the opportunity to single out those late to return to their seats, resulting in great rounds of laughter as embarrassed concert goers realized they were the focus of attention on the massive high definition screens above.

The evening would continue with classic waltzes, beautiful arias and crisp versions of legendary opera pieces and show tunes. High points included “Vilia” from The Merry Widow as sung by South Africa’s Kimmy Skota and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” from Evita, sung by Australia ‘s Mirusia Louwerse. You could have heard a pin drop during both, before being encompassed within the deafening applause and standing ovations, both of which were frequent through the night.

The evening wouldn’t have been complete without “The Beautiful Blue Danube”, perhaps the most well-known composition by Strauss, during which the house lights were raised to reveal numerous couples of all ages waltzing in the aisles. The second and final set concluded with an incredibly powerful version of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”, which sent the audience soaring into the heavens. Countless encores and a massive balloon drop would follow.
Tonight’s show more than exceeded its marquee billing. It’s no wonder that the Wall Street Journal called Andre Rieu the “Maestro for the Masses.” It’s also not surprising that Rieu’s current trek around the globe ranks as one of the top grossing tours in 2011, beating out the likes of country sensation Taylor Swift and pop icon Elton John.

The true brilliance behind Andre Rieu is this. Regardless of your musical tastes or inclinations, this master conductor gently guides outside your comfort zone to enjoy the real beauty of music. He brings you into a world of sight and sound that challenges and delights all your senses. The power of music is on wonderful display during this show and is expertly handled by this incredible violinist / composer and conductor. Yes, it was an ‘unforgettable’ evening, and then some.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great review! I was there and yes, the concert in Fairfax, VA (Washington, DC) was absolutely fantastic. One of the best ever. A great venue, and hopefully they will use it again. Happy Holidays to all!
Jennifer Dawson

Anonymous said...

And I was there, too. . .with my husband son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren from Richmond, VA.
A super review.
When asked which number he enjoyed the most, our 13-year-old grandson immediately said "Vilja" sung by Kimmy Skota. He and his sister attended Norfolk in 2007 (?) and am so happy that Andre returned to VA again this year.
Happy, happy, December, everyone.

Laurie

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Pierre and André September 30, 2016 Maastricht

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Photo Taken at Mexico City Concert ~ September 2013

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"Hello to all my fans on The Harmony Parlor!"

Soundcheck in Maastricht 2013 (RTL Photo)

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