Irritation overload: Go Compare’s tenor performing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

He is officially the most annoying man in the country.

This is no snobby reviewer’s hyperbole. Tenor Wynne Evans is the face of Go Compare’s omnipresent TV ads – recently voted the “most irritating” by audiences for a second year running, infuriating an unprecedented 59 per cent of viewers.

Not that he is complaining, with recent reports suggesting he banked £450,000, and a six-figure album deal, off the back of those moustache-twirling antics.

Fitting then, that on this evening he was parachuted in to sing O Sole Mio, best known for the Cornetto ad, and Pavarotti-a-thon Nessun Dorma, familiar to millions as the BBC’s signature Italia 1990 World Cup coverage.

But this was a night packed with memorable melodies best-recalled from the goggle-box – there was 2001: A Space Odyssey’s centrepiece, Strauss’ On the Beautiful Blue Danube; the Sabre Dance, which litters countless episodes of the Simpsons; while Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King has featured on screen more time times than one can count.

Of course, the Royal Philharmonic were fantastic, leisurely striding through these timeless themes. The hushed reverence of a conventional concert replaced by a music-hall feel, theatrical conductor Stephen Bell merrily cracking jokes.

Soloist and leader Clio Gould produced a heart-wrenching display of dexterity, traversing the gypsy pyrotechnics of Pablo de Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen on her Stradivarius violin.

The highlight of the evening was the infamous Overture of Rossini’s last opera, William Tell, while the thunderous roar of Ravel’s Boléro was a fitting finale. Until an encore of the Can-can, that is.

But like devouring a whole box of chocolates, it felt strangely sickly to feast on all these pieces in one sitting. With their plethora of marketing connotations, one easily becomes desensitised to these bite-sized chunks’ charms, something to endure not enjoy.

Of course, pulling memorable moments from classical masterworks is nothing new, but a billing this blatant sets out a worrying precedent – does it represent the dumbing down of classical music, or a viable future for 21st century concert programming?

Either way, in this case the classics came, went, and conquered… Croydon at least.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performed “Here Come the Classics” at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls on February 2, 2011

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