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13th September 2016

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Review: Last Night of the Proms 2016

The BBC’s Last Night of the Proms 2016 was a musical feast, and a showcase of musical and cultural fusion; from Peru to the Imperial seas. The night started off with a flag frenzy outside of the hall, as supporters from either of the political spectrum attempted to get both EU and UK flags into the hands of eager Prommers. Thankfully the ‘Great Flag War of the 2016 Last Night of the Proms’1 didn’t distract from the great display of music! As soon as it began, the audience got carried away with the usual frivolities and silliness of this special once-a-year occasion.

“[Juan Diego Flórez] blasting out Rule Britannia dressed as a 13th century Incan leader caused the hall the erupt in hysterics”

Juan Diego Florez excited the audience with a dazzling performance

The star of the evening was the world-leading tenor soloist Juan Diego Flórez. He amazed us with his close-to-perfection rendition of Rossini’s La Cenerentola (you could tell the Rossini meant a lot to him as it had kick-started his career at the Rossini Opera Festival in 1996) and we all shed a musical tear for his beautiful imagining of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore – Una furtiva lagrima. I felt truly caught up in the moment, feeling the emotions that Flórez was so expertly portraying. His on-stage personality was contagious and he showed us his great Proms spirit with a hilarious serenade to Paddington bear (a nod to his Peruvian heritage), attempts at popping a balloon throughout Donizetti’s Ah! Mes amis, and then later blasting out Rule Britannia dressed as a 13th century Incan leader, which caused the hall to erupt in hysterics.

“Music is a universal and true representation of the human spirit, and [it] unites us” - Sakari Oramo

Another highlight were the nods made to Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary. Firstly in the form of the world premiere of Jonathan Dove’s Our Revels now are Ended, featuring Prospero’s last speech in The Tempest. And secondly, a once-in-a-lifetime performance of Vaughan-William’s Serenade to Music (with a word-setting from a speech from The Merchant of Venice) sang beautifully by the voices of 16 rising stars of the classical world.

The end of the second half was full of the usual traditional jollity fit for the last concert of the biggest musical festival in the world: sing-alongs, bobbing, party poppers and plenty of laughs and cheers. The crowd sung along with British favourites Pomp and Circumstance, Fantasia on British Sea-Songs, Rule Britannia, Jerusalem and God Save the Queen, all barely audible over the audience’s participation and excitement!

The night ended with a true festive-filled atmosphere. And though there were perhaps more contemplative moments than usual (and a lot more EU flags than ever before) it really was an incredibly successful celebration of music from across the world. The Proms was perfectly summed up by Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo in his speech: ‘music is a universal and true representation of the human spirit, and [it] unites us’.

the Royal Albert Hall was the venue for a showcase of musical and cultural fusion
  1. Sawer, P., Last Night of the Proms becomes battlefield as Remainers seek to turn event into show of support for EU, The Telegraph, 11 September 2016,
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/10/the-great-proms-flag-war/, accessed 12 September 2016
  2. References:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/music/what-to-listen-to/the-last-night-of-the-proms-2016-review--the-music-laid-its-spel/
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07w0p5n/bbc-proms-2016-last-night-of-the-proms-part-two