Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in Concert with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra – Live Review

Two years ago, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra was set to perform Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Then, a little pandemic put a stop to it, not once, but twice. Tonight, I got the chance to enter Melbourne’s Hamer Hall, take my seat and pinch myself that it was actually happening. It is a very strange feeling to be sitting amongst a crowd ready to consume the art that is about to be performed in front of us. The arts industry is back, and I couldn’t be happier!

For those that are not sure what a film concert performance is, let me lay it out for you. Imagine going to the cinemas to see your favourite film for the umpteenth time, but the film is accompanied by a full symphony orchestra to perform the score for you, live. Not only is in a unique experience, but the performances also highlight the importance of music within film. Tonight’s performance of Half-Blood Prince by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra was conducted by the amazing Nicolas Buc.

Following on from the events of the Order of the Phoenix where The Dark Lord’s return has been acknowledged by the Wizarding Community, Half-Blood Prince follows Harry Potter in his sixth year at Hogwarts. Hormones and emotions are at fever pitch during this film. Potter and his two best friends, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, played by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint respectively, are starting to give into their desires to seek love and companionship amongst their peers. It is hard enough being a hormonal teenager but throw in some magic and an ever-present threat of impending doom, and you have one hell of a roller coaster of emotions. And if that isn’t enough, Potter is tasked with a secret mission to fill in the missing pieces from Tom Riddle’s memories. A crucial task that will uncover an important tool in the fight against The Dark Lord.

With all of your favourites front and centre, this film sees the addition of a newly appointed Potions Master at Hogwarts, Horace Slughorne. Performed by the incredible Jim Broadbent, we are introduced to Horace at the beginning of the film. He has a quirky yet cautionary persona that I really enjoyed, and Broadbent brings this character life brilliantly. We also get to see another, more driven side of Albus Dumbledore that actor Michael Gambon brings to the surface. I could easily go on and on and about how each actor is fantastic in their respective roles, I literally cannot fault this film or anyone within it, and I think that is what makes Half-Blood Prince so damn good. Even the characters that are barely on screen in this film are equally as brilliant as the main characters. I know it sounds like a cheap cop out, but everyone really is fantastic!

Exceptional cast aside, what we are really here to discuss is the incredible score by Nicholas Hooper. Hopper has magically captured the feelings of angst, jealousy, love, heartache, danger, and excitement throughout the entire score. Right from the opening title screen, it is all doom and gloom with deep tones and the thumbing of a bass drum. Hooper then brings the mood back up as Harry and Ron are laughing at the first years wandering the halls, but then the music quickly switches to a stressful tone as they are busted by McGonagall and are sent off to take the new Potions class. The high paced uplifting piece as Ron takes out the win at Quidditch is fun, dynamic, and exhilarating.

There are two clear standout pieces of this entire film, (*spoiler alert*) ‘The Killing of Dumbledore’. I then found my gaze drifting over to Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s Rohan de Korte on Cello as he performed the harrowing piece during ‘Dumbledore’s Farewell’ and felt tears fall down my cheeks. I think that vision of Rohan de Korte playing that piece as the wands of Hogwarts turned skyward will stay with me forever. Even just recounting that memory as I put it into words has made me feel that emotion all over again. That is what makes these live film concerts performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra so damn special, and I will be forever grateful for the experience.

Back in August 2019, I wrote a review for the MSO’s performance of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, with the score composed by Nicholas Hooper. I wrote that this film was up there as one of my favourites of the franchise, and that still rings true. However, Half-Blood Prince also sits at the top of my Wizarding World Tier List, and it is no coincidence that this film not only marks the return of director David Yates, but also but the return of Nicholas Hooper as composer. Whilst David Yates is a fantastic director amongst the franchise, it is the music that draws me to these two films. Perhaps Hooper is the magic ingredient that makes them stand out to me, as his score for Half-Blood Prince is exceptionally exquisite and hearing it performed live was an absolute delight.

You too, can experience all of the emotions and trills of this live film concert event. The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on Thursday the 10th of March, Friday the 11th of March and their final performance is tomorrow! 1pm on Saturday, 12th March at Art Centre Melbourne’s Hamer Hall. This is a must-see experience for every Harry Potter, film, and live music fan.

For more information and ticketing, visit:
https://mso.com.au/performance/2021-harry-potter-and-the-half-blood-prince-in-concert

Photography by Liam Hennebry.

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