While this wasn’t my first classical performance at a major venue, it was my first at the Sydney Opera House, which is, let’s be honest, a pretty big deal to anyone interested in the arts. The performance: Vivaldi: The New Four Seasons + Nigel Kennedy Dedications, a favorite concerto of mine. It was performed by legend Nigel Kennedy, an English violin prodigy who’s made a name for himself as a rebel in a discipline of squares. After two red wines from the bar and my dress shirt surprisingly still intact, I made my way to my seat in what quickly filled up to a sellout crowd.
Nigel’s entrance to the stage — led by his guitarists playing and dancing to an upbeat folksy rhythm — was rollicking and unconventional. He threw fist pumps and heel kicks in the air all while dressed in his neon joggers, velvet jacket, and signature tall spiked hair. Not something I expected for an opening of a 300-year-old composition.
I knew this would be an interesting evening. Without a word to the crowd, the performance gradually transformed into a rendition of ‘La Primavera’, segueing into each subsequent season and a second act focused on his dedications.
Nigel has seemingly rewritten the rules of classical performance. Technically speaking, he’s a master of the violin. Nobody can deny that his ability to play Vivaldi effortlessly is anything short of breathtaking, as heard on his benchmark Four Seasons recording back in 1989. However, hearing his free ability to twist and liberate the score to his own will allows the original piece to submit to Nigel’s rebellious tendency. He’s retooled it to become his own. It’s if he’s paying homage to a friend, instead of bowing down to a master.
His two-hour-long performance came to an end with not one, but two encores. The first an astoundingly complex Jimi Hendrix piece, full of floor pedal distortions and a light show to match. The second, a subdued and melodic Ennio Morricone piece, passionate and tear-jerking.
This was the moment I felt Nigel Kennedy’s performance could truly be summed up: only an eccentric and brilliant musician could seamlessly combine Vivaldi, Hendrix, and Morricone in the same set of music at a world-renowned opera house and get away with it.
Alex Tafreshi is a freelance filmmaker, photographer, and writer currently searching for the cure for wanderlust in the South Pacific. Check out his research and findings on Insta & FB @theglobehop
‘Vivaldi – The New Four Seasons + Nigel Kennedy Dedications’ ran 27-28 January 2017at the Sydney Opera House. The venue is accessible.
Nigel Kennedy’s next Sydney performance is Sat. 11 Feb. at The Basement. Buy tickets now.