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A magical performance by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
The audience at the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra's performance of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a truly diverse one - parents who read the novels to their children for the first time, the people in their twenties who grew up with Harry Potter, eagerly awaiting the release of each new book and film, and the young children who have been introduced to the magical world of Hogwarts only recently. With this kind of crowd, the power of JK Rowling's creation is truly visible – where else can you find such a mix of people so excited to experience something they all hold so dearly? Harry Potter has shaped the lives of so many, and looking at the audience it seems clear that everyone has a special reason for why they love the series so much. But this performance was all about experiencing our favourite story in a new way, and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra was the perfect way to do just that.
The enthusiasm for Harry Potter obviously didn't extend only to the audience. Conductor Nicholas Buc strode onto stage with a wicked grin and gleefully invited the crowd to forgo traditional theatregoing etiquette and cheer and hiss for their favourite heroes and villains. As he asked for the audience to applaud for their favourite Hogwarts houses, it was clear how much pleasure he and the orchestra took in allowing the public a new insight into such a beloved series. When the lights dimmed and the orchestra launched into those first iconic notes of the Harry Potter score, the excitement was palpable – here was something so familiar to the crowd, but given new resonance and depth with the addition of the live orchestra.
The MSO highlighted the brilliance of John Williams' iconic score and being able to see the orchestra playing it right in front of us allowed us to see the whole scope of each piece. Those who were familiar with live orchestral music and those who were new to the experience were equally enchanted, so seamless were the MSO that at times it was easy to forget we were watching a film with live music. The addition of a live orchestra highlighted certain moments in the film, making us take notice of different scenes, like Harry's first visit to the Weasley house, or heightening the excitement of a Quidditch match. And of course, the ability to cheer on our favourite characters both united and divided the fans in the crowd. Characters like Hermione Granger and Dobby the House Elf both received tremendous applause, whereas everyone's favourite villains Snape and Draco Malfoy received equal parts cheers and boos.
The music of Harry Potter has become integral to the way we think about and experience both the books and films. And when the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra takes on the challenge of performing one of the most iconic film scores of all time, the results are spellbinding.