Archive for January, 2012

Sign of the times

January 20, 2012

If you recognize this spot, you will understand why I make a point of stopping there and realise that this picture scarcely does it justice, even leaving aside the skewiff horizon.

Another attempt, at a different angle. It was hazy and late in the day:

It wouldn’t be rural Australia without something like this:

Who writes this stuff?

January 18, 2012

Last Saturday night with D to Opera Australia’s Magic Flute.

Our normal row-A seats had been bumped back a row and we chinned up to an extension stage over the row where we would usually be sitting with no view of the orchestra. It all felt just a little claustrophobic, and that feeling carried over to the set and the various puppets swooping around in it.

The production did not weave the spell on us that it is said to have woven on others. Maybe we were too close. Maybe things were different further back, where the puppets were more of a plus compared to what they would otherwise expect to see. Mind you, I didn’t feel a particularly powerful audience response to the performance.

There were children in the audience but not an overwhelming number. Saturday night is probably not the best night to see the response in that department.

Attracting the children is surely the justification for the substantial cuts (to make things “family friendly”). Why else ditch centuries of theatrical wisdom about the use of an overture? And this, after all, is a very famous and popular overture.

All of this probably means it was not likely to be the performance for me.

It is true (thinking back) that The Magic Flute can almost always be annoying in some ways including in the Mozartean tenor department at least with Opera Australia. Andrew Brunsdon seemed uncomfortable as Tamino – if he wasn’t then I think he should be rethinking his approach.

For me, the last production did a much better job of the second act than the present one does. In this production the ordeals were cut back too much so they lost any real structure and the “tower of fire” bit was a total fizzer.

The title of this post, however, refers to the article in the Sydney Morning Herald, quoted somewhere I am sure by Opera Australia in their publicity (“this production is a triumph”). I’m calling it an article because it is clear that it is not Peter McCallum’s review, because that review included some criticism of the cuts or at least assessment of their effect that this article lacks.

Here are some sample passages:


The opening-night audience gasped when a flock of tropical birds fluttered over the heads of those in the first few rows. Later, huge bears, pink flamingoes and yet more exquisite birds danced to Mozart’s ”magical bells”, leaving the audience stunned.


this is a richly-imagined production, sung in modern English and performed with spoken text.


Among its young cast are future stars.

(1) speaks for itself. (2) is true and probably useful information for newcomers to opera: all productions of MF have dialogue. (3) just seems odd although the language is on a par with “gasped” and “stunned” in (1).

Opinions are expressed, but there is no by-line.

Who writes this stuff?

Brush with death

January 12, 2012

Late on Monday night, D and I went for a walk around Petersham and Lewisham. 

After rounding a few corners and circling a few blocks, we came down Terminus St from Crystal Street.  Terminus St  runs along the railway line. We could see and now hear a strange contraption moving slowly along the railway track closest to us, festooned with floodlights and orange-vested crew on a flat top bogie. One of the crew wielded a metal wand on the end of a hose against the retaining wall of the railway cutting – it looked something like a high-pressure water cleaner. 

D couldn’t see the point of going to such an effort.  His view was that it’s not as if “tags” do any damage. I tried in vain to explain the conventional slippery-slope wisdom that graffiti leads to disrespect leads to vandalism. D remained unconvinced. 

Oddly enough, D took a sterner view of true graffiti of a political nature (as we climbed the footbridge over Petersham Station, we passed an anarchist example on the opposite side of the line). D thinks that sort of thing should be controlled whereas tags, because incomprehensible to most, are harmless. Perhaps equally and oppositely oddly, I found myself inclined to allow an exception from the conventional wisdom for true political graffiti on the grounds of permissible expression of dissent, whereas I’m really not keen on tags and the great mass of spray-can art which for me have neither sense nor charm. I’m not sympathetic to “leaving your mark” in this way. (Don’t we have social media for that sort of thing?)

Riding past today I saw that the device the railway people were using did not clean the graffiti off, but rather painted over it.

One rationale is presumably to deter graffiti by depriving the practitioners of the gratification of seeing their work displayed. Ironically, it just clears space the next graffitist.

You can see the painting-over technique on channel 7’s report of the death of the young man hit by a train two nights later just a few hundred metres along the track, including (at about 0:53) what is said to be his “tag” on a recently painted-over space.

Looking back

January 5, 2012

On the occasion of the new year, a short tally of live performances I attended in 2011.

My records (kept primarily to manage bookings and avoid clashes but yes, Narcissism is an issue) show that I went to :

  • 2 ballet or dance events (both blogged here);
  • 3 4 plays (none blogged here);
  • 12 chamber music concerts  – not all, I think, blogged here.
  • 18 performances of opera (but to 13 operas owing to some repeat attendances) – all productions if not all attendances blogged here, as far as I can recall (I haven’t checked); and
  • 23 orchestral concerts – maybe two-thirds of which have been mentioned here.

That’s about the same attendances in total as 2010 and 2009, about 20 fewer than in 2008 when I embarked on what I suspect was in part a blog-induced frenzy of playgoing and when the Sydney Piano Competition bumped up the figure, a few more than in 2007 and 2006 and slightly fewer than 2005, when the Philharmonia’s Bach Cantata series provided a boost.  That is as far as consistently maintained records (ie, preserved on this computer; in a sortable Word table for each year) go back.

The thing that puzzles me is my relative neglect of theatre, because in my youth I was quite an enthusiast.  It shows in both my attendances and the extent to which they are blogged.  Ballet really gets me in for the music.  My higher blog rate for opera over concerts can probably be put down to the occasion of the production – concerts seem more generic and I have said most of the meta-musical things I have to say about them.

I anticipate a degree of retrenchment this year, and that’s even before adjusting for the to-me relatively unalluring Opera Australia program – however “democratic” and “Australian” Mr Terracini may claim it to be.