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Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in Concert


The best of the Harry Potter films and, arguably, the most sophisticated score in the series, made for an excellent latest installment in the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s team-up with JK Rowling’s Wizarding World.

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For those unfamiliar with the concert concept, the ASO, backed by singers from the Elder Conservatorium, perform the film’s soundtrack live, in front of a giant screen at the Entertainment Centre.

In April, the orchestra performed the Chamber of Secrets, causing this reviewer to whinge about the audience leaving during the credits – normal behaviour at your neighbourhood cinema, but a bit odd when the ASO was playing its heart out with selections of John Williams’ wonderful score.

Saturday night was very different: the vast majority of the audience stayed throughout the lengthy end credits to offer a huge ovation to the players.

Prisoner of Azkaban, the third book and film in the Harry Potter series, is considered by many fans to be the best.

Alfonso Cuarón, a Mexican director previously known for smaller, arthouse productions, was brought in to direct his first blockbuster with this film, and he brings a new sophistication to Hogwarts.

The story is deeper and more complex than the previous instalments, with Harry learning more about his parents’ life and death, discovering new depths of inner strength, and the intricate fun of the Marauders’ Map and Hermione’s “time turner” playing crucial roles in the plot.

Cuarón shows us the interiors of both the Hogwarts castle and the characters, in a more intimate fashion than previous films in the series. Likewise, Williams’ score widens its scope. While the familiar themes are there, the score takes new flights of fancy, with a distinctly medieval feel emerging. To this end, the ASO – under the baton of Hamish McKeith – brings in guest players on recorder, to add those textures.

The Elder Conservatorium Chorale and Graduate Singers have a more prominent role than in the previous outing, lip syncing perfectly (how?) with the Hogwarts choir on the Shakespearean “Double, double, toil and trouble”, and with carolers in the nearby town of Hogsmeade.

There are plenty of opportunities for the full orchestra and chorus to soar, with the frenetic journey of Harry (with appropriate score) through the streets of London in the “Knight Bus”, to the young hero conjuring a Patronus charm to save Sirius Black from the swirling, sinister Dementors, with the strings shrieking and the horns blaring.

Mischief very well managed.

The ASO will present the fourth film adaptation in this series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in Concert, in September 2019.

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