Yesterday's Beethoven Pops Orchestra program, "Opera Galore," had almost all the prerequisites for the sort of musical entertainment that Fiedler and the Boston Pops have made famous.
The Beethoven Pops performed in the ballroom of the Capital Hilton. The audience sat on salon chairs and enjoyed a spread of goodies during intermission. John Chester of WGMS provided genial and toastmasterly comments, and Mrs. Clarence Milton Fisher, Beethoven Society President, who is the energy and spirit behind all of this activity, appeared from time to time to exhort the audience to buy Beethoven T-shirts and lollypops and to continue to come out to the Pops concerts.
A full house of the elegant and some of their younger offspring seemed to be pleased with the excerpts from a host of operatic favorites, sung with considerable style by Beethoven Voice Competition winners Cassandra Hayes, Juliana Bishop Hitpas, Sarah Johannsen, Carol Joy, Gordon McNeal Hawkins and Gary Leard. Baritone Michael Ryan substituted expertly for Roger Saylor who was out with the flu. And a good-sized orchestra, under the sturdy direction of Richard Weilenmann, sounded fine in the elegant ballroom.
The one ingredient missing from this mix was a sense of orchestral fun. The Overture from "Die Fledermaus" was almost rubatoless. The Prelude to Act III of "Lohengrin" was low-key and matter of fact, and the rest was competent but faceless.
In his day, Fiedler and his orchestra were a show in their own right, over and above the music they were playing. Weilenmann needs to establish a personality for his pops orchestra.