September 15, 2014


It is three weeks today: we still miss our cat.  He is buried in our (rented) garden. “Do you think his body is rotting yet?” asked D yesterday as we stood near the grave.


That’s not him in the dust-pan on the way to it.

He had a rather beguiling habit of nestling. I know that’s not unusual for cats, but we loved him for it.

5 sep second lot from 4gb sd card 072

The King and I and I

September 15, 2014

On Saturday night with D to this musical.

As far as I recall this was part of my “Opera” Australia subscription package – I don’t think I had exchanged the ticket for another date. If so, looking around me, it seemed that I was in the minority.

Judging from the mood of the audience as we left, everyone enjoyed it. I spotted more than a few people dabbing tears from their eyes and indeed I was one of them – tears of sentiment rather than sorrow. That’s a tribute to the book and the music as a heartstring-tugger, even though, on the way through, I wondered what I was doing there – what everyone was doing, oohing and aahing at children and chuckling at “What-what-what” and “Et cetera” running gags.

The first half drove me to drink: it went so slowly (it was a long wait to “Getting to know you”) and squirm-makingly that I had to resort to the hip flask to get me by. The second half was better, with the striking dancing and costumes of “Small House of Uncle Thomas,” “Wonderful” and “Shall we dance.”

As for the cast, Lisa McCune was reasonable (OK, better than that) though vocally a little light on at the top: she moves well. The King’s part is scarcely a singing part so Teddy was rather wasted in it; his gym-fitness came in good stead. It seemed to me Shu Cheen Yu sang “Wonderful” at a rather higher pitch than it is usually set: she showed what a real singer can do even if a few of the words were hard to make out. The juvenile tenor was a bit underwhelming. The conductor (the cast list flyer gave two names without saying which it was) conducted from the piano score. (Just saying.)

South Pacific was much better.

If Opera Australia want to do musicals, I have decided they can do them without me there. In fact, that is evidently the case: there are plenty of other people who are happy to go. I just wish they could go somewhere else and that musicals weren’t driving opera out.


September 11, 2014



That’s the caption beneath this photo, of two angry young people, published with a story about them by Geesche Jacobson in the Sydney Morning Herald in April 2011.

It starts relating how, the day their father died in July 2010, the brother and sister:

were told his former girlfriend intended to claim against his $1.5 million estate, even though his will named his two children as his only beneficiaries.

The sister:

said she was upset and angry. ”It felt so inappropriate … My brother and I haven’t had time to mourn our father.”

That was nine months ago and so far the estate has spent $22,000 in legal fees.


”I think we will win the case. It is just unfair that we will have to go through the whole process,”

[the sister said.]

By the time Justice Lindsay handed down his reasons for judgment in March 2013 (after a trial in the second half of 2012) he found that an amount equal to more than half the fund of $1,407,257.03 or thereabouts available to meet the competing claims (comprising a net estate valued at about $635,718.72 together with superannuation of about $771,538.31) had been spent on lawyer-client costs.

There had been two failed mediations and the brother and sister had joined the proceedings as defendants themselves in addition to the executors. They did this because they were not happy with the settlement that the executors had reached with the “former girlfriend” and her children at one of the mediations.

They lost, though the “former girlfriend” didn’t get everything she asked for (at the trial she asked for enough to buy a flat and a bit extra).

To be fair to the brother and sister, his Honour found their father had concealed from them and their mother the true state of his relationship with the “former girlfriend” and even actively misled them about it. She was not, as in his words they contended, “nothing more than a gold-digging welfare cheat.” The judge held that she was in a de facto relationship with the deceased [sorry: that's lawyer-talk in these cases which is hard to avoid - I'm sick of calling him "the father," don't want to use a pseudonym, and don't want pronoun confusion to suggest the judge was shacked up with her] and had been since 2004. She and her four children from a prior relationship had also been dependent upon and members of the same household as him. This made them eligible for an award from the estate.

She was awarded $175,000; her children $50,000 between them; plus costs.

The brother and sister were left to pay their own costs and repay their mother with what was left over after the executor’s costs were paid from the remainder of the estate.

On my very rough reckoning, that probably is an outcome of brother and sister – not more than $500K, “ex-girlfriend” and her children – $225K less the shortfall between what they had to pay their lawyers and what they recovered from their costs from the estate – maybe they got $175K by the end between them, and lawyers – $725K or more.

That’s inappropriate.

But what I think is really inappropriate is Geesche Jacobson’s original partisan story. How did it come to be written?


September 10, 2014


D is responsible for this renovation of a broomhead. I admire his practical ingenuity. That is his personal talent, but I can’t help thinking that growing up in China in the 60s and 70s has something to do with it as well.

Is this rape?

September 10, 2014

Not that there is an offence specifically by that name any more.

A bizarre case, reported from the first bail hearing. It is a tangled tale and one-sidedly related, but the headline charge is that the defendant, male and 22, created a fictional female facebook identity who promised to have sex with a male, 18, if he would have sex with a man. The 18-year-old met the 22 year old, and had sex with him. The 18-year-old told police he would not have consented to the sex if he had not been promised sex with Tayla Edwards [the fictional female] and her friends.

There is more alleged against him which if true would seem to ground more straightforward offences, including blackmail of the 18-year-old by threatening to send his family a video of the sex they had had if he did not have sex with him again.

The 22-year-old is said to be charged with two counts of sexual intercourse without consent. I wonder if in fact he has been charged with an act of indecency without consent. (The video could also be an aspect of this.)

It is said there may be other victims. The defendant has been refused bail.

Opera 2014

September 6, 2014


Given the paucity of offerings in next year’s Opera Australia season – a situation which seems likely to continue, as well as present projections of my future financial position, I expect this year will be a high water mark in my opera going.  As (Pinchgut or Sydney Chamber Opera  or other smaller companies aside) opera has now come to end for the year in Sydney, I thought I might make a list, before I forget.

1. Falstaff,  Deutsche Oper Berlin

2. Rusalka, Komische Oper, Berlin

The picture above comes from that production: a truly mindbending moment when the outlines of the proscenium decoration were projected onto the stage and then subjected to a surreal stretching. This is also the first time I have seen a cat brought onto the stage, quickly whisked off and replaced with an ersatz decapitated dead cat whose blood was an ingredient for Jezibaba’s spell.

3. Die Walküre, Leipzig

4. Elektra, Leipzig

5. La Calisto, Munich

6. Der Fliegende Hollaender, Munich

7. Werther, Essen

8. Der Liebestrank, Essen

9. Der Fliegende Hollaender, Essen

10. Lohengrin, Düsseldorf

11. Carmen, Sydney

12.  Turk in Italy, Sydney

12A   Elektra, Sydney (Symphony Orchestra)

13.  Eugene Onegin, Sydney

14.  Rickshaw Boy (骆驼祥子) Beijing

15.  Turandot, Beijing

16   Otello, Beijing

17   Otello, Sydney

18   Rigoletto, Sydney

19   Don Giovanni, Sydney

20   Elixir of Love, Sydney

21    Elixir of Love, Sydney (again)


A little life

August 27, 2014

Cat in a pot

Cat in box





August 25, 2014

Last night to Opera Australia’s production of Donizetti’s Elixir of Love, directed by Simon Phillips.

I was shocked at the state of the house and made a remark to one of the ushers. “It’s the third time,” she said, by way of an explanation.

That’s not much of an explanation in the brave new world of opera-Terracini where everyone, judging by the rate at which familiar works return, is assumed to be a first-timer.

Last time was in 2006, when I saw it. I was living in Perth at the time of the first Sydney outing in 2001 and so missed it.

The present return is possibly the most strongly cast.  It’s a shame that Rachelle Durkin was indisposed for the opening night because, despite whatever praise the critics heaped on Jane Ede for stepping in, Rachelle is a woman with a very special comic talent on top of her musical gifts.  I think of her as a kind of soprano Bruce Spence.  Of the other principals, only Samuel Dundas seemed a little light on vocally by comparison, though his stage presence went a long way to make up for that.  Simon Parris went later and so saw Durkin, which makes his review the most accurate.

The production itself is delightful and more, from the sets, costumes to the comic business which, for once, ocker surtitles included, (though from my front row seats I only occasionally glance up at them) is genuinely funny.  And with the famous Una furtive lagrima, the work itself takes a masterful step from the comic to the romantic.

So why so few people?  When I looked on Sunday afternoon, of the two remaining weeknight performances, 786 (on Wednesday) and 802 (on Friday) of a total of 1441 tickets were still available for sale. The final performance, a Sunday matinee, was faring slightly better with 415 tickets left but as matinees go that is a very poor house.

Maybe Mr Terracini has been too busy selling next year’s season (and himself) to the world to notice.  It is likely that people aren’t prepared to fork out the big money required for what they expect will be a mildly amusing night’s entertainment.

Whatever the reason for the present situation, there isn’t much sign of OA doing anything to shift the remaining seats by way of reduction of price.  Which, as ever, is a scandal.

BJ in summer

July 24, 2014


I’m back from behind the Great Fire Wall.

Beethoven continued

June 20, 2014

The SSO’s Beethoven piano concerti series with Emmanuel Ax continues. I went to the second on Monday night, when Tippett’s Fantasia concertante on a theme of Corelli for double string orchestra with two violins and one cello soloist preceded the third and fourth concerti.

The live streaming of Wednesday’s repeat of this program is up on youtube at the time of posting. At the end, David Robertson shows he is a man of the people by announcing the State of Origin score.

I’d have been more interested to hear a brief comment about the cancellation of the live video-cast of The Death of Klinghoffer from the Met later this year.

But back to the music.

That is, if I could frame any sensible comment in the time allowed. Suffice to say that it has so far definitely been a memorable event.

Ax hardly requires introduction – even where he takes an approach which is different from what I might have preferred or expected (for example, he saved speed in the last movement of the third concerto for the true finale) you can see why he does it and it works. How can one not be in awe of someone who can play all five concerti like that within 10 days?

I like Robertson’s Beethoven, which is in the main lean and brisk with a rhythmic spring when required. He has drawn some terrific sounds out of the orchestra: most memorably for me, a harmonium-like blend (or am I just thinking of Harmonie) of winds and muted strings in the slow movement of the third, and a kind of low strings growling at one point in the fourth. The perching of the woodwind a row higher than usual (because the horns and trumpets have been put on the floor on each side) has also helped and I expect made a great improvement in the lower half of the stalls where one usually has to take what the woodwind is doing on trust and with a bit of extrapolative imagining. The strings rose above usual form in the Tippett and new leader Andrew Haveron and principal cello Umberto Clerici have both shone in that and at other points.

Tonight I shall go to the final concert, with the fifth concerto supplemented with/complemented by Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben. I’m very much looking forward to it.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 60 other followers