Heartfelt and tear-inducing but ultimately healing
By Bradley Storer
As part of the collaboration between Arts Centre Melbourne and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne audiences are extremely lucky to experience this concert of the music of Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli films as conducted by their original composer, the legendary Joe Hisaishi.
After a preliminary speech by both MSO Managing Director Sophie Galaise and Consul-General of Japan in Melbourne, Kazuyoshi Matsunaga, maestro Hisaishi entered the stage to rapturous applause before launching into a suite of dramatic themes from the epic Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds. The first act of the concert was a journey of contrasts – this suitably dynamic start to the evening contrasted with a soothingly peaceful but bright suite from Kiki’s Delivery Service, before flowing into the chilling, explosive violence of Princess Mononoke.
Hisaishi was a commanding and masterful presence throughout the evening, switching seamlessly between conducting and accompanying the orchestra on grand piano. Australian guest artist Antoinette Halloran appeared to lend her powerful operatic soprano to several pieces, a charming fairytale vision in her pink gown. The Australian Air Force Band made a surprising entrance to provide a wonderful rendition of the Laputa: Castle in the Sky score under Hisashi’s direction, before a small section of the MSO returned to deliver a very intimate performance of the jazzier Pocco Rosso as the act one finale.
The second act began with the stunning Howl’s Moving Castle opening theme before morphing into the gentle beauty of The Wind Rises. Scenes from the original films projected overhead reflect how inextricably the scores are intertwined with the story and scenery of each world, a testament to the enduring power of Miyazaki and Hisaishi’s partnership. Japanese guest artist Mai Fujisawa was introduced to provide her blissful airy vocalizations to selections from Spirited Away – Hisashi uttered his only words for the evening after her initial performance to introduce Fujisawa as his daughter, drawing delighted gasps of shock from the audience.
The evening was brought to a close with the entire ensemble of musicians and vocalists performing the cheerful and rambunctious songs of My Neighbour Totoro, before Hisashi ended the evening offering a message of support for the Australian public after the Bush Fire crisis along with the final image of Princess Mononoke: a destroyed forest returning to life. An absolute pleasure of an evening, heartfelt and tear-inducing but ultimately healing in its vision of simplicity and harmony – a treasure for die hard fans and first timers alike!
Venue: Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Kings Domain Gardens
Dates: 29th February and 1st March
Bookings: artscentremelbourne.com.au or 1300 182 183
Photography courtesy of The Arts Centre Melbourne