Listeners ready to strap themselves in for a context-less rollercoaster ride got their money's worth, as the MSU Choral Union and symphony thronged the stage to summon up one grand finale after another.
Some numbers came off better than others. Chorus and orchestra did a fine job opening up the grand sweep and pathos of Cavalalleria Rusticana (or, to wise guys, the music from The Godfather III). Lots of well-coordinated orchestra-chorus doublings (sopranos and woodwinds, baritones and cellos) helped blend the hordes of performers on stage into a single, soaring voice.
The haunting Humming Chorus from Madame Butterfly was a welcome interlude amid the thunder, although there were persistently open mouths, wobbly with vibrato, in the chorus. (French humming, perhaps?)
Maestro Gustav Meier mustered the forces with calm assurance, keeping the tempi clear and holding everything pretty much together despite a trumpets-in-the-balcony stunt during Aida that slid off the rails.
In fact, Meier seemed to be celebrating the first concert of his final season as music director by loosening a button or two. After the first couple of intros, he got impatient with pulling the microphone in and out of its stand every time he had something to say. So he leaned over, lifting one leg way off the ground, to introduce each work, like a mischievous kid sticking his head into a snapshot. Anyone daring to entertain the thought of not missing the veteran maestro when he's gone had to reconsider after that.