While Dutch violinist André Rieu may not be a household name in America, his popularity in Europe is hard to measure and is without peer. With more than 500 Platinum awards, three Classic Brit awards for Album of the Year and more than one billion views on YouTube, Rieu is one of the best-known solo male touring artists in the world, with a career spanning decades. Known as the King of the Waltz, Rieu has sold more than 40 million records and DVDs, released 30 No. 1 hits worldwide and has brought hundreds of thousands of fans to his live shows.
Rieu grew up the small town of Maastricht, Holland, where he still resides, in a castle called De Torentjes, famous for being the site where musketeer and swordsman D’Artagnan ate his last breakfast before taking a musket ball in the throat at the Siege of Maastricht in 1673. Rieu’s love of music began early: His father was a conductor in the town orchestra, and young André took lessons in piano and violin. The violin, of course, became his instrument of choice, and in 1987, he created his own 60-piece Johann Strauss Orchestra, the largest private orchestra in the world. The crew travels with Rieu all over the world, sharing classical music with devoted fans.
This July, we had a chance to watch the Master of Maastricht perform in his hometown, where he puts on a series of concerts spanning three weekends each year. While Rieu tours for many months of the year, watching him play here is an experience that’s hard to capture. Each night, more than 10,000 fans who travel from all over the world pack the Vrijthof town square for an outdoor show that lasts hours, culminating in people dancing in the aisles. If you had preconceived notions of classical music being a staid affair, Rieu’s show will give you a whole new perspective. Along with the orchestra, there are soloists, a choir and a very special guest who’s usually a surprise—this summer in Maastricht, it was David Hasselhoff, whose popularity in Europe is even greater than his popularity in the United States.
After more than three hours of waltzing in the aisles, it seemed no one wanted to go home. The audience couldn’t get enough of Rieu’s music and the fun that the orchestra was having onstage. “It’s always every night like that. But I’m never bored with it. That’s why I do it. The classical music you very often see, the orchestra and the conductor [tell] the audience, please go home. But in my case, I want the audience to stay,” Rieu says with a laugh.
The audience is responding to the music, of course, but more than that, Rieu’s charisma is infectious, as well as his hilarious banter with his orchestra members. There’s a little bit of comedy thrown in, and one gets a sense that the 60-plus people onstage are family, which they are. They travel together and have a tight bond. Rieu is more than conductor and boss; he’s a patriarch who makes sure everyone is taken care of, and he says he picks the members of his orchestra from the heart. “Most of them have been with me 20, 25 years—the oldest one 30 years with me,” he says.
When the crowds finally dissipate in the square—during these weekend concerts in Maastricht, by the way, the whole town is packed to capacity, from hotel rooms to every restaurant reservation—you get the sense that you’ve just witnessed something spectacular, something singular. From the picturesque square to the perfect weather to the energy of the crowd and the beauty of the music, you realize what it is as you walk back to your hotel—André Rieu has a magic touch.
In anticipation of his show in Las Vegas, we ask Rieu what his performances are like in other cities. “It’s the exactly the same,” he says. “Of course, it’s special to us that we play in Maastricht, but not because of the audience. It’s the same everywhere—the audience come, we bring the music.”
Get a little of that magic for yourself October 20 at The Orleans Arena. Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets start at $42 plus tax and fees, and can be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000; online at orleanscasino.com or ticketmaster.com; or in-person at gift shops inside The Orleans, Suncoast, Gold Coast and Sam’s Town. Tickets may also be purchased the day of the show (depending upon availability) at the venue box office.