Briefly noted

Last Saturday I went to hear the SSO with Diana Doherty and Lothar Zagrosek. The program hardly have been more popular. It was:

BEETHOVEN
Symphony No.1
MOZART
Oboe Concerto in C, K314
SCHUBERT
Symphony No.6 (Little C Major)

Of these, I know the Mozart in its flute, D major version best. My elder sister was a flautist and we heard it very very often at home (J-P Rampal/Erato recording, almost certainly). I also accompanied her in it at an age when music imprinting sets in deep.

As I have mentioned before, I sit in the middle of a bunch of South Africans. There was an empty chair at the back of the second violins in memory of Pieter Bersée, a member of the section of some years’ standing who died suddenly in November. My neighbour asked a number of his friends, more than once, “Is that Elijah’s chair?” He was obviously pleased with this joke.

The hall was almost full. One of the same neighbour’s friends from the row in front turned to him and commented on this: “You see, put on some good music and the people will come. Why don’t they learn?’ In fact, I think the full house owed almost as much to the presence of the enormous cruise ship, Millenium, at the Overseas Terminal at Circular Quay. That would be a very nice kind of holiday – coming into harbour on your ship, strolling round the quay to the world famous opera house, and hearing a not too difficult concert. There was a lot of clapping between movements.

On Sunday, on impulse, I rushed off to the Chauvel to see La Damnation de Faust – one of the series of Metropolitan Opera HD broadcasts being screened (in this case, delayed) in cinemas. This was my first time at one of these. The production, directed by Robert Lepage, was technologically innovative and spectacular, mounted on an enormous vertical scaffolding grid with front and back-projection for the scenic detail. We can’t do opera like that in Sydney.

The shine was taken off it by the inattentiveness of the projectionist for the second half, who managed first to choose an image size which left off the subtitles from the bottom of the screen, and even after (when a few people finally left the cinema to bring it to the management’s attention) managed to adjust the picture so that every head shot cropped the singer off at about the eye line. I then went out and asked for a further adjustment, which was grudgingly and still insufficiently made so that we at least got to see the singers’ eyebrows, but still missed about the top 5% of the frame. The sound system was adequate, though often too loud and without sufficient air around the big moments, especially the singing of the chorus. If I go again I might see if Cremorne, where these films also screen, is any better.

As a footnote to another topic, Susan Graham was Marguerite. We saw a bit of her in Sydney when she and Edo de Waart were an item, but don’t recall that being publically disclosed at the time.

After that I went to Coogee for my first sea bathe of this summer, at Wiley’s Baths. I love this place because I hate sand (which it lacks) and because there are clean changing sheds with hot showers. Clovelly, the other non-sand option, conspicuously lacks these since the lifesavers took over the original changing sheds for themselves and a dark and grubby new changing shed was built behind the kiosk, though provided you are relaxed about the stormwater drain which feeds into it Clovelly does offer a greater variety by far of aquatic life. The [sea] water was an entirely reasonable 20 degrees (Celsius, that is).

Monday, to work, though not much on. I left early and rode into a tremendous downpour in order to have a nap prior to going to the last night of David and Jonathan. To cap it all off, I then got a flat tyre, which on the wet road was quite a scary experience. A very helpful subcontinental taxi driver with a station wagon drove me home. There are lots of drivers who, seeing a cyclist in wet weather, might well not have stopped, so I was grateful to him.

So I feel all the worse about my failure to stop when I witnessed an accident right before my eyes as I drove over ANZAC bridge on the way in. A taxi was in front of me, going rather slowly, though probably just under the speed limit, up the incline of the bridge. With hindsight, the tell-tale signs were there that he was getting ready to change lanes – though arguably going slower is precisely the wrong way to approach this.

I was just saying to myself “What on earth are you doing?” when the taxi edged into the left lane, bouncing off the crash barrier two or three times a little Smart car that I had previously admired at the traffic lights as we both waited to get on to the Westlink. It must have all been over in 3 to 5 seconds, at the most. The terrible thing was that I saw it coming. Could I have stopped it had I blown my horn? Probably not. For one thing, the horn on my car is pretty pathetic. Of course I lacked the presence of mind even to think of this: I was worried for myself. As the accident unfolded before me, I slowed down, hoping nobody would run up my rear and and that neither car would bounce off against mine and set off some larger accident. Then, as the taxi pulled over in front of the Smart car(both cars were by now undrivable I think: though that is hard to tell) and ran back to the other car, I kept driving.

I saw some other cars stopped to help, and I don’t see that my presence would have added anything but more obstruction. The question of who was at fault would have been self-evident. But all of this reasoning is suspiciously self-serving, because of course I did not want to be late to the opera, and I had a friend waiting for my spare ticket (D has been called away from Sydney for work).

As to D&J, I’ve so far over-run the limits of briefly noting that, like another blogger, I’ll have to defer anything more I have to say (if anything) to another post on the subject.

7 Responses to “Briefly noted”

  1. Sarah Says:

    I found Cremorne a more pleasant venue for the HD broadcasts than the Chauvel (far fewer people, too – the place was practically empty for the Sunday showing of Salome) and there’s the added bonus of the Mighty Wurlitzer. But I think the sound is (quite a lot) better at the Chauvel.

  2. Sarah Says:

    I think that’s probably right. However, I like the Orpheum so much more that I’m giving it one more go before giving up. If the sound for Thais isn’t an improvement on Salome then I will bite the bullet and go back to Paddington.

  3. wanderer Says:

    Disclaimer – I haven’t heard the Met Opera at Cremorne, but Sarah’s evaluation is similar to others. The Chauvel (I have no interest in, or axe to grind with, either) installed a Lenard Audio “Cinesthesia” cinema sound system in April this year. I heard the ‘Peter Grimes’ and ‘Tristan and Isolde’ at Chauvel, and thought the sound very good. I saw the ‘Salome’ in the country and the sound was dreadful.

    Remember the “HD” tag with which the Met markets their transmission refers to video quality only. The sound is another matter, and most sound reproduction problems are at the speaker level, all other things being reasonably equal. M, the problems you had with the La D de F may have originated at source, although, that said, if anyone knows how to record their opera, it is the Met.

  4. wanderer Says:

    Link is

    Lenard Audio Chauvel

  5. marcellous Says:

    The main problem was the volume (generally too loud of course and never realistically quiet), the fact that the sound still just comes from speakers into the unprepossessing acoustic of a cinema, and in particular the chorus sound and some thicker orchestral moments. One of the harps came through brilliantly (obviously from the far edge of the orchestra). The thing is that I am never a hi-fi snob, but sitting in a theatre makes me more of a real sound snob. From all accounts it isn’t the sound system, qua sound system, which is to blame.

  6. Nick Says:

    The overheard comment, “You see, put on some good music and the people will come. Why don’t they learn?’ is very interesting, especially in terms of the SSO, which seemed to do its share – even more than its share, I would say – of Beethoven “festivals” in the Gelmetti era. I am not sure you are right about the cruise ship, but the clapping between the movements would surely seem to support your theory. I will continue to read your blog with the greatest of interest. Your musings on the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra were fascinating, and I am delighted to have discovered your blog. I will look forward to reading more from you when concert activity picks up. Sorry about the camera (and the mobile!!)

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