The New York Pops opened its 34th season, at Carnegie Hall on October 14, largely singing of love, in songs, familiar and rare, by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner, in arrangements by Johnny Green. Broadway soprano and tenor Laura Osnes and Colin Donnell and operatic baritone Nathan Gunn were the distinguished guest soloists, lending their voices to Loewe’s beautiful melodies and Lerner’s witty lyrics, and supported by the Pops, under Steven Reineke’s baton, and Essential Voices USA, directed by Judith Clurman.
Reineke and his players began with an effervescent potpourri overture, a romp through the likes of “If Ever I Would Leave You,” “With a Little Bit of Luck,” “The Night They Invented Champagne,” “Almost like Being in Love,” and “The Rain in Spain.”
Gunn was King Arthur, celebrating his most unusual kingdom, in the title song from “Camelot,” in collaboration with Essential Voices USA. Gunn, with Osnes as Queen Guinevere, wondered about their subjects’ simple pastimes, as they joined forces in singing, whistling, and dancing “What Do the Simple Folk Do?” Donnell lent a graceful tenor, rather than the usual hardy baritone timbre, to “If Ever I Would Leave You.”
Turning to “Paint Your Wagon,” set during the California Gold Rush, Donnell and Osnes capped romantic duet “I Talk to the Trees” with floated high notes, and Gunn and Essential Voices evoked the Old West with an at once propulsive and plaintive “They Call the Wind Maria.” Osnes eagerly anticipated seeing her beloved in a charming “How Can I Wait?” and Essential Voices excitedly hailed contact with the land left behind and whatever lies ahead in a spirited pairing of “There’s a Coach Comin’ In” and “I’m on My Way.”
From “Gigi,” Osnes offered lilting romanza “Say a Prayer for Me Tonight” and, in a glittering, bubbly brindisi, Essential Voices USA toasted “The Night They Invented Champagne.” Gunn and Osnes portrayed older lovers, sharing reminiscences, however different their memories, in a gently nostalgic “I Remember It Well.” And Gunn tenderly limned his young love in title song “Gigi,” backed by Essential Voices USA.
Following a rousing “Brigadoon” overture, Donnell invited, in the irresistible love song, “Come to Me, Bend to Me,” complete with high head tone, which he followed up by dashingly declaring, “I’ll Go Home with Bonnie Jean,” assisted by Essential Voices USA. Gunn and Osnes joined voices for the lovely, light-hearted “Heather on the Hill” and a very grand “Almost like Being in Love.”
The remainder of the program was devoted to music from “My Fair Lady,” Lerner and Loewe’s biggest success, which opened on Broadway 60 years ago. A Cockney quartet, drawn from Essential Voices, introduced Osnes’ playfully wistful “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” with the rest of the chorus men soon participating, singing and whistling. Pupil Osnes, tyrannical teacher Gunn, and crony Donnell’s triumphant “The Rain in Spain” followed, and Osnes celebrated a personal victory in an ecstatic “I Could Have Danced All Night.” The full chorus kept up the Cockney in “Get Me to the Church on Time.” Donnell contributed a refined “On the Street Where You Live.” Osnes blazed in a dramatic “Show Me.” Gunn gave us a most bel canto rendition of “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.” And the full company reprised “I Could Have Danced All Night,” with the audience invited to sing along, for a joyous finale.
The Pops observes Veterans Day with “Concert for Courage,” on November 11 at 8 p.m., featuring the Soldiers’ Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band. Visit www.nypops.org
for further information.