Johann Strauss Gala, Norwich

CHARLES ROBERTS This is an annual event at the Theatre Royal towards which one looks each year with happy anticipation. First and foremost, it effortlessly offers delight to eye and ear.

CHARLES ROBERTS

This is an annual event at the Norwich Theatre Royal towards which one looks each year with happy anticipation.

First and foremost, it effortlessly offers delight to eye and ear. For here we have a beautifully directed and choreographed medley of orchestral music, of beguiling song, exhilarating dance – and a strong vein of irresistible visual wit and humour.

But it is still more than these felicities: it is one of those uplifting, inspirational entertainments which sends us out of the theatre, glad for having been there.

The Viennese Golden Age of romanticism and innocence which it conjures up may never have existed. Yet like all endearing myth and fantasy, it takes on a life of its own, to which audiences are willing conspirators, as two packed houses – a total of 2600 people – illustrated yesterday.

Christopher Warren-Green directs the orchestra from the violin with the lightest of light touches, and proves a charming and genial host. Under his guidance, his musicians produce a performance of Tales from the Vienna Woods such as I cannot recall having heard before… such woodnotes wild, sunshine and shade, delicacy, warm affection and potent evocation.

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His guest soloist, soprano Rebecca Cain, has a lovely flexible voice, unerring accuracy and splendidly sustained finishing, which are at their very best in her sparkling interpretation of The Laughing Song from Die Fledermaus. But in the first half particularly, there is a cool, ice-maiden veil crying out for Viennese sunshine.

Then we have the dancers, eight of them, who radiate happiness in whatever they are doing. It would be unjust not to name them all: Lucy Burns, Stephen Brennan, Lucy Potter, Christopher Lee Wright, Heather Craig, Rodney James, Julianne Rice-Oxley and Simon Horill.

Whether in the elegant sheen of the true Viennese waltz; in enchanting set scenes (their Blue Danube Waltz is a series of gorgeously projected episodes through a blissful day and a starlit night in the 19th century's capital of music), or in the tantalising energies of colourful dance from the Hungarian end of the empire, their involvement is complete, their skills honed to perfection, their humour contagious – and their sense of superlative timing consistently stunning.

The Johann Strauss Gala is sure to be back next year. If you still haven't caught up with it, make a note in your diary for next time round.

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