My blogging rate is right down. Is the craze subsiding? Here, for at least journalistic (ie, as in a diary) reasons are some recent events in my life.
I saw Opera Australia’s Manon twice (and the last two acts one more time from the foyer after the Mahler 1). I went the second time (I did post about the first) to defend the production against its detractors, but in fact I ended up realising that, so far as the production was concerned, I largely concurred with most of what Peter McCallum had said. It was the music I loved. In my experience, most productions directed by Stuart Maunder are a bit boring, and Manon ultimately confirmed this.
At the Enmore Theatre I saw The Dirty Three supported by the Laughing Clowns. This was part of the Festival of Sydney. It was a bit left of my usual concert-going field, but I did enjoy it. The Dirty Three is a kind of rock equivalent of a piano trio – drums, guitar and violin. The focus of the performance is the violinist, who cuts the most extraordinary figure as he plays, back to the audience, facing the drummer with whom he spends most of his time interacting, though in fact the guitarist, who stands rather out of the limelight at the side of the stage, is also essential if less conspicuously so. They played for over an hour and a half but it didn’t feel long at all.
I went to the SSO’s Mahler 1 and Mahler 8 concerts on consecutive Saturdays. It’s great to hear Mahler 8 but I’m with Wanderer in taking more home from the Mahler 1 concert than the Mahler 8. Perhaps it is my fault for not preparing enough for the Mahler 8 (my turntable is out of action), but there is simply so much going on in that work that it is almost impossible to absorb it all, and I was too self-conscious of feeling “omg, I’m hearing the Mahler 8!” to be able really to take it in. Of the soloists, I liked Simon O’Neill the most, though it was hard to take him seriously, even in a concert work, as “Dr Marianus” when at every turn I was reminded of his insouciantly swaggering Sergei in last year’s Lady Macbeth of Mstensk
Lured by a personal connection, I went to hear the Sydney Omega Ensemble playing at the Delmar Gallery at Trinity Grammar in Summer Hill. The occasion was an apparently annual concert in connexion with a touring show of entries to the Blake Prize for Religious Art. There were readings of Blake poems.
This was an odd event. The Delmar Gallery is a fundamentally unsuitable venue for any acoustic performances unless the weather is sufficiently temperate to do without its extremely noisy air conditioning. If the exhibition is anything to go by, religious art is, in this day and age, as problematic term as military music or, to borrow a riff from Shirley Hazzard in A Transit of Venus, Bankers Trust.
I’ve also been to see 6 films at Queerscreen’s Mardi Gras Film Festival. Attendances seemed down this year, though this may in part be because I avoid the crowd pleasers which are generally films about rent boys or porn stars. I shall try to post separately about this festival.
Finally, I’m not much of a diner out, but I have been to two restaurants recently which are a cut above my usual fare.
The Friday before last, a former colleague, PG, visiting from Brisbane with K, his new-to-me boyfriend of a year, suggested we meet for dinner at East Sydney’s Universal Restaurant. PG is a bit of a reader of lifestyle magazines of a certain up-market type. When I first met him, just a decade ago, it was Wallpaper*, but apparently that is now quite passé. That’s a long way round of trying to explain why PG had more definite and more glamorous ideas than I as to where we should dine in Sydney, even though I am the one who lives here.
When, running late after rushing home for a shower and fresh clothes after a long day in Manly Local Court, I told him that I had left my wallet and money at the office, he gaily announced that dinner would be his treat.
The restaurant’s concept is that you should have about 3 approximately entree-sized courses, as well as (should you choose) pre-dinner drinks and dessert and coffee. At about $25-27 per course and with commensurate liquor prices, this turned out to be a more generous gesture on his part than he had realised when he first made it.
The remarkable aspect of the evening was the leisurely pace at which the food was served: we had booked for 8.30; I got there at about 8.45; the third course cannot have been served until after 11 and it was almost midnight before we were finished. As I’m a late diner anyway, this didn’t concern me, though I think PG and K, who are earlier risers and had Sydney bars to check out afterwards, might have wished things to move along a little more briskly.
I should add in fairness to the restaurant that we were the very last to leave, and that this leisurely service was apparently out of consideration to us or respect for the concept of the restaurant rather than because of any kitchen tardiness. Indeed, maybe it was my fault: I talked too much. I had had such a triumph at Manly , and my opposing counsel [small world] was even known to PG from the distant city where PG and I had worked together almost a decade ago.
The Friday just passed [past?], I went to Azuma, in the Chifley Centre in town, for my very old friend Mk’s fiftieth birthday. Once again, this was a glimpse of a life I do not really lead – a private room, and conversation which included references to an apartment (rented, though annually) in Italy, rare wines (including one procured from the up-market wine shop in Ultimo by selling another rare wine to them which they sought for another customer), going to “the farm” and (and hence the choice of restaurant) skiing in Japan.
Judging at least by the restaurant, this sort of thing is a taste I could definitely acquire, were it not that I could just about get a B-reserve seat at the opera for about the same amount (I don’t know for sure because although we covered the birthday boy between us I suspect the person who collected from us understated the true tariff). It is vulgar of me to be concerned about such matters, I know.
The picture at the head of this post is of one of the courses on the degustation menu which we had. The picture at the foot is of the sweets.