November 19, 2017, 2:30 pm
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TARJA TURUNEN & MIKE TERANA & Orchestra - Sounds of The Ages 2011
Thursday, 22 September 2011 12:19

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I don't know how often in his or her career a performing artist receives a 3-minute standing ovation even before singing a single note, but this is exactly what happened to Tarja Turunen in the full to the rafters Roman amphitheatre in Plovdiv in the rainy evening of September 21.

After several days of extreme worrying about the weather and a rather nerve-wrecking aquaplaning on the partially flooded highway, we, accompanied by Pink Floyd's The Wall, take our places in the ingeniously constructed ancient theatre and anxiously anticipate the appearance of the Finnish diva.

The Plovdiv philharmonic orchestra quietly tune their instruments and at 8 p.m. sharp they start playing

the famous overture of 'Carmen'. The lad next to me wonders out loud if it is time to start screaming “Slayer”. - No, dude, it is not a good idea – screaming “Slayer” at concerts is a terrible cliché. And screaming “Slayer” at a classical concert is even inappropriate.

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The theatre's acoustics is absolutely perfect and the warm sound of the full orchestra wraps the hushed audience. Hardly anyone would dare complaining about the sound, though one never knows.

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After the end of the overture on the stage appears Mike Terrana. He's wearing a three-piece black suite and a tie (!) and the audience erupts in ovations, which are only the prelude to what would follow when Tarja Turunen gets on the stage. Everybody jumps on their feet, chants her name, clap their hands and scream. There are Finnish flags in the crowd, somebody even manages to outshout the general hubbub and greet her with “Tervetuloa” (“Welcome” in Finnish), while I wonder what comes across the mind of the Finnish ambassador Her Excellency Tarja Laitiainen, who was sitting in the government box.

final_3Tarja Turunen is trying to calm the people down, but they just won't stop. This clearly touches her to tears. It looks as if the rapture has reached its high point, even before the actual beginning of the spectacle..

This is indeed a spectacle, because the event that transpired in front of the 4000-strong audience in the Roman amphitheatre was something much different than your ordinary classical or rock concert..

When the audience finally grows quiet, Tarja performs 'Blute Nur' from Johann Sebastian Bach's religious cycle. The people are calm for the time being, until Tarja thanks in Bulgarian, present the Plovdiv philharmonic and the conductor Levon Manukian and says a few words about the spectacle Beauty and the Beat.

What follows is a lyrical aria in German by Richard Strauss and the stage is again taken by Mike Terrana who dives into a virtuoso performance of the overture of 'The Barber of Seville' by Rossini, accompanied by the philharmonic orchestra.

The guy next to me is headbanging, the crowd is clapping in rhythm, while the boy behind me cannot contain his awe. I confuse Rossini with Mozart. Again. My theory that the opera can be very modern an interesting, when represented in an unorthodox manner, is confirmed.

After a few false starts (Mike had his notes upside down), they play a part of the Dvorak's 'New World' symphony – Mike bangs on his drums like a madman, juggles with his drumsticks and goofs around with the audience, while Tarja shimmers in her white dress, sitting on a chair in the gloom of the backstage tunnel.

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The 20-minute intermission is preceded by Tarja's performance of an aria from Dvorak's opera 'Rusalka' and 'The Reign' from her first album, 'My Winter Storm'.

In the beginning of the second part on the stage appears a choir, in which seemingly unnoticed slips Mike Terrana, but his blonde mohawk sticks out and the audience starts laughing and pointing at him. Tarja quickly uncovers him and sends him off to the stool behind the drumkit with the promise to sing with him in the dressing room after the show.

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It looks like the classical part of the concert is over for the time being and Tarja, the choir and a grand piano perform a cover of Queen's 'You Take My Breath Away'. It looks like too few people recognise it, perhaps everybody being too busy with putting on raincoats and opening umbrellas (!) in the rain, which was persistently picking up.

The second album of the Finnish diva (not counting the one with the Christmas songs) is represented by 'Witch Hunt' and 'Rivers of Lust' and the Nightwish era – with 'Swanheart'.
A few rows in front of me a guy stands up and ritually puts on a worn out Nightwish hoodie and takes his time pulling it down and adjusting the hood. Somebody several rows behind me growls with great enthusiasm.

The explosive performance of Offenbach's 'Cancan' gets the crowd clapping and moving on the marble slabs. If there was more space, somebody would've danced.

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The dance party continues with a very artistic performance of 'I Could Have Danced All Night' from the musical 'My Fair Lady', during which Tarja dances around, swirling her skirt. It is followed by Rossini's overture from 'William Tell'.

The spectacle ends with 'Underneath' and since state officials (the Governor of the Plovdiv region Ivan Totev) were involved in the organisation, on the stage are magicked three huge flower baskets. Much more touching and natural is a girl who gives Tarja a modest yellow sunflower.

The encore begins with the famous aria of Carmen - 'Habanera - l'amour est un oiseau rebelle' from Bizet's 'Carmen'. The naughty mood reaches its height with 'I Feel Pretty' from 'West Side Story' - Tarja is fully immersed in her part – she flutters her eyelashes and smiles playfully.

Of course, there isn't a classical concert without Mozart.

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Mike Terrana rushes on the stage all dressed up in a wig, a shiny jacket and a puffed-up shirt, which brings the audience to hysterical laughter. Mike puffs up his chest, blows raspberries at the audience, sits behing the drumkit and picks up 'Eine kleine Nachtmusik'. Mozart was the rock star of his time and it is fully appropriate to headbang.

The grand finale, 'I Walk Alone' is welcomed by the standing singing audience, who applauds and chants for a while, in spite the already pouring rain. Tarja, Mike and Levon take another curtain call and this is the end of a fantastical and unique (pardon the cliché) spectacle, which will be remembered for a long time.

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We had the great opportunity to see Tarja in her original role as an opera singer – quite different from what we are used to see in her regular concerts or the old Nightwish videos. Mike Terrana demonstrated that the classical music is very rock'n'roll, while the Plovdiv philharmonic, the choir and last, but not least, Levon Manukian, convinced us that when there is will, you can always find a way.

Upon leaving, the lady sitting next to me noted that she has never seen the Roman amphitheatre so full.