Sunday night at the Gaillard Auditorium, the last concert for Spoleto Festival USA's music director for opera and orchestra Emmanuel Villaume started off with the first work he conducted here 20 years ago, Wagner's "Siegfried Idyll." The concert ended in a triumph of repeated standing ovations.
Villaume beautifully paced this symphonic birthday poem Wagner wrote for his wife. With a larger orchestra than Wagner's original version, Villaume drew waves of magical sound.
Villaume led the orchestra in Mozart's Symphony No. 35 in D Major, K.385, "Haffner" in a punchy, modern manner, with string vibrato. Intense vigor applied to this music of the classic period adds life which other conductors often ignore, rendering the music of Mozart sleep inducing. Villaume's sympathy with the more emotionally moving sections added to his interpretation.
Beethoven's Symphony No. 8 is often overlooked. However, with Villaume, there was no mistaking its excellence. Villaume captured the upbeat nature of the work and the orchestra, minus a few bobbles in the horn section, were splendid.
The audience loved the concert, giving Villaume and the orchestra repeated curtain calls and standing ovations. The first encore was the overture to Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro," an opera Villaume said he had conducted that first year at Spoleto USA. The audience refused to let him go, so he led the orchestra in the emotionally rich Intermezzo from Mascagni's opera "Cavalleria rusticana."
Villaume, who has resigned his post with Spoleto USA, will be tending to his musical duties in Slovenia.