Archive for September, 2012

Family Provision 2

September 27, 2012

I’ve posted about Family Provision before.  I still think of it as that though now it is simply “provision” under the Succession Act. I’m using acro-pseudonyms in this post to protect the young, more from search-generated publicity than anything else.

The funeral service for MM, who died on 4 November 2009, was held at St Peter’s Watson’s Bay on 11 November 2009.

The memorial notice described him as:

Late of Watsons Bay.
Loving son of
P, loving father of X, cherished brother and brother-in-law of Y and
Y2, Z and Z2, fond uncle of [etc].

Aged 57 years

That’s an early death these days.  MM died in his sleep at his home. of cancer of the throat  There was a big turn-out, and an article in the Wentworth Courier.  MM had been a teacher at Paddington Public School for two decades and by all accounts (not just in the article) had been an inspiring one.  Dozens of former students packed his funeral, the paper reported.

Obviously, dying of cancer of the throat is not the nicest of endings, but there were other respects in which MM’s final years had been less than ideal.

In 2006 he and his wife had separated. In 2007 they were divorced.  She got primary custody of their son, X.  MM saw X occasionally but eventually this stopped after an incident in 2008 in which X, then aged 15, stabbed him in the arm.  X, for his part, alleged that MM had assaulted him.  Criminal charges were brought and interim AVOs taken out.  Those charges and the AVO were ultimately dismissed on 23 April 2009 when X simply did not turn up to court on the appointed day.

During this time, Family Court property proceedings were still afoot.  MM’s health must have already been poor as his brother Z was appointed litigation guardian to conduct his case.  A settlement was reached in March 2009. It does not appear to have involved MM undertaking obligations towards either his former wife or his son.  He had been a primary school teacher; she had for some years been the CEO of Sydney Airport Corporation and before that an executive for the Macquarie Bank airports venture.

On 4 September 2009 MM made a fresh will leaving his estate to his two brothers, Z and Y (who was his twin).  He also wrote a letter on that day explaining why he did not leave anything to X.  He referred to the stabbing incident and its aftermath.  He further wrote:

3. Since that time I have made occasional attempts to restore relations by text messages on his birthday and regarding his grandmother’s serious medical condition. He has rejected my approaches clearly expressing the wish to have nothing more to do wish me.

4. X is an only child and his mother is CEO of Macquarie Airports and extremely wealthy. X has been entirely maintained by his mother since his relationship with me has broken down. I anticipate that his mother will meet all X’s needs in life until he is independent and that he will ultimately inherit a very significant interest from her estate.

5. I do not believe that anything I might have left to X would make any different to his life.

MM’s estate consisted chiefly of his house in Watson’s Bay, and superranuation which could either be paid to the estate as a lump sum or (at X’s election) paid to X at about $250 per week until X turned 25, which would be in 2018 or until he stopped undertaking approved studies if that was later.

MM’s former wife, KM, commenced proceedings in the Supreme Court as X’s tutor for provision (“Family Provision”) for X out of his father’s estate.  After X turned 18, an order was made enabling KM to continue as X’s tutor even though he was now of age.

The matter finally came to trial before Associate Justice Macready.  By that stage the house had been sold and the likelihood was that after legal costs on both sides there would be an estate of about $2.1 million.

At the time of the trial, X lived with his mother.  He owed her $14,000 which she had lent him to buy a car.  Apart from the car, he had golf clubs worth $2,000 and was part-way through a course at Bonny Doon golf course in pursuit of his ambition to become a professional golfer.

X (or perhaps more accurately, his mother, KM) sought an order that he be be provided with the whole of MM’s estate.  The following needs were put forward as being needs for which X should be provided:

(a) the purchase of a home unit in the Darling Point area in the range of prices between $775,000 to $1,975,000;

(b) costs of purchase and fit-out of $100,000;

(c) a bigger car of $21,000-22,000;

(d) golf expenditure and clothing expenditure of $13,500 per annum;

(e) running costs of the car of $10,000-11,000 per annum;

(f) food and groceries of $15,000-16,000 per annum;

(g) golfing fees to bring him up to professional status of $50,000;

(h) counselling costs.

This sort of list is often referred to in the trade as a “wish list” – not that this is particularly a term of art.  It certainly seems extravagant and you have to wonder at the idea of someone of that age undertaking a diploma to become a professional golfer, but the estate was large, X was the only eligible person (not even Y, MM’s twin, was an eligible person) so that the only competing consideration was the respect that the court should pay to to the testator’s wishes.

The reference to counselling costs is in part because quite apart from his parents’ divorce, X’s upbringing had not been an easy one.  He spent his first five years in an orphanage and arrived in Australia with no education and no English.  He had had behavioural and learning difficulties at school and a psychiatrist mentioned “impulsive behaviour and history of aggressive behaviour when provoked.” Unless his sporting ambitions came good, it was unlikely that X would be able to earn an income commensurate with the lifestyle to which he was accustomed.  Apart from sport, X’s employment prospects would at best be in the hospitality industry or some other manual work

The defendants, MM’s brothers, conceded that X was an eligible person under the relevant legislation (now the Succession Act) and that as adequate provision had clearly not been made for him (given that he had some provision should be made for him. They proposed that X receive one third of the estate.  Essentially their line was that X had rejected his father (when MM had texted him about his MM’s mother’s declining health, he had replied “Never text me again. I am trying to get on with my life.” – admittedly he can only have been 15 or 16 at the time) and that X’s mother was more than able to provide for X’s welfare and was likely to leave him a sizeable inheritance.

Associate Justice Macready did not accept either of these arguments.

As to the estrangement, he found that it was for a relatively short period.  “It was a difficult time” but about a week before MM’s death, X had visited him (with a friend – Macready AsJ makes no comment about that though you do have to wonder) for about half an hour and made some kind of rapprochement.  The breach between X and MM was not such that his Honour would reduce or decline provision on that account.

As to the wealth of KM and the prospect of a sizeable inheritance, anything that she might leave on her death was likely to be a good while off yet, and she was not obliged to provide for X while she was alive now that he was an adult.   MM had a responsibility to provide for his son out of his estate and the comments in para 4 of his note were “an attempt…to abdicate from the
responsibilities.”

His Honour ordered that X receive a legacy of $1.1 million.  This was based on $850,000 for a flat in the eastern suburbs (but not necessarily Darling Point or the like), $50,000 for costs and fit-out, $12,000 for a new car (he commented that X could trade in the present one), $63,500 for the remainder of his golfing course and a buffer (actually, by my calculations, about $124,500) to give him some years to establish himself as a golfer or alternately follow some other path. He assumed that X would then take the pension under his father’s superannuation.

There is remarkably little argument as to support this – for example, his Honour did not deduct any amount to take into account the superannuation.  It looks very much as though he has simply decided to give X about half and let him take the super.

After costs, the likely effect of this is that each of the brothers will receive about $500,000 from MM’s estate.  That’s $200,000 less each than they had proposed, though they each also stand to receive about $360,000 from their mother’s estate (an amount which is presumably increased because MM did not survive his mother to take a share).

On reflection, the outcome is not particularly surprising.  Misconduct in the young is less likely these days to count as what was once called “disentitling conduct” and even when it sometimes counted for more (in the days of the bifurcate jurisdiction in the Supreme Court of the two M[a]c Associate Justices –Laughlin and – -ready) Associate Justice Macready was always the AsJ less inclined to take that approach.  For some years there has been a developing theme of attempting to rescue children from the fallout of divorces when the time comes for either testamentary or family [now under the Succession Act] provision.

It was probably impossible for MM to exclude X from sharing in his estate, even if, at the time and as part of the Family Law property settlement (when MM’s death was probably on the fairly near horizon) some express and substantial settlement had been made by KM for X’s benefit.  Still, you can understand why the brothers might have dug their heels in, and not simply because they wanted the money for themselves.   Why shouldn’t KM have put her hand in her pocket now and settled some money on X, rather than run a court case to take it from them out of the estate of MM after all that had happened?  If you’ve had to park a car at the airport recently, you’d probably think she could easily have afforded it.

Unnoticed notes

September 25, 2012

More for my own later benefit than anybody else’s, in between (still) the endless claims of looking for a suitable residence I have been to:

  1. SSO – 7 Sep – This had a quiet half and a loud half.  First, Debussy, Prelude d’apres midi etc; Takemitsu, From me flows what you call time (for percussion soloists and orchestra, written for the centenary of the Carnegie Hall) and Copland 3.  I like the quiet the most and had I been able to I would have loved to hear the Takemitsu again.  So many gorgeous sounds, and the music also compelling.  The Copland was enjoyable despite some really scrappy fiddling in the Hoe-down rewrite (forgive me but I find hard to think of the symphony other than a a bigger version of Appalachian Spring).  Liked Robert Spano (conductor).
  2. 18 Sep – OA dress rehearsal of Madama Butterfly – my old friend and former student Db’s mother doesn’t subscribe to the opera but she is a friend and picks up dress rehearsals and the odd rush ticket.  She couldn’t go to this so I got to go.  Probably the 6th or 7th time I’ve seen this (I still have an old American Express card with Cheryl in the title role) but first time from upstairs.  Japanese visiting soprano good as Cio-cio san and probably even better if closer for the acting bit; James Egglestone not yet really up to the mark as Pinkerton though at least he was credible when he took his shirt off; Michael Lewis having difficulties with some of the top notes of Sharpless and subsequently indisposed for the first night.  Dress rehearsals far from ideal way to see opera (all those people with desks and lights in the stalls and extremely chatty types in the lighting box behind us in the circle) but hey it was free and it was good to catch up with Db.
  3. 21 Sep – SSO, Angela Hewitt, Mozart concerto 20 – not really brooding or romantic enough for me; preceded by Dutilleux Mystère de l’instant – tribute to Bartok (string orchestra, percussion and, instead of celeste, cymbalon) which was fascinating and the highlight (for me); followed by Beethoven 4.  Hannu Lintu conducted. I never really got into the groove of the Beethoven, in part because I allowed myself to be distracted by a bunch of Chinese nationals behind me who couldn’t sit still and had jackets and possibly other items of clothing made of incredibly noisy fabric.
  4. 22 Sep – Australia Ensemble, with D and my old friend Ub on tickets usually used by my friend P.  Sculthorpe and Beamish on wind and water combinations (clarinet and piano and flute, oboe and harp respectively), then Beethoven Clarinet Trio.  It was a bit hard to relax in the Beamish because I was right in the line of sight of the harpist looking over her glasses at the music and concentrating rather fiercely.  This made me wonder if, rather in the way that people grow to look like their pets, harpists are possibly rather highly strung: it must be difficult to relax when the sound is all attack and you are endlessly plucking in the way that you must on the concert harp.  Schubert’s Death and the Maiden in the second half was pretty intense in a very satisfying way, especially in the second movement (based on the song).  Ub came away from the concert a convert to sitting up close – she had been to the AE once before but was either too tired or too far away and found it all too much.  I suspect on that occasion, given that I don’t remember running into her there, she may have slipped away at interval, and so missed the Schumann Quintet.
  5. 24 Sep – SSO without the orchestra – Angela Hewitt on her own doing the Goldberg variations drew a full house.  In her program notes she discounted the old Forkel story about Keyserling having the music played to help him get to sleep.  Musicologists discount it because the published work lacks a dedication.  My own experience on this occasion backs them up for a different reason: I found it almost impossible to banish bits of it from my brain in favour of sleep afterwards (a common sign for me of a work making an impact is how it works me up).  Towards dawn and after a quarter of a sleeping pill, the general G-majorishness became oddly merged with the Sarabande from the G Major French Suite.  Then again, maybe things would be different once familiarity and domestic repetition bred content.

Hill Station

September 16, 2012

Today, rather amazingly (given its fame) for the first time to Mt Wilson on the way back from a Saturday night birthday party in Katoomba.

It is possibly unique as a hill station in NSW.  The first sales of land occurred there in about 1875, shortly after a railway stop was established about 10km away where the railway to Lithgow crossed Bell’s line of road at Bell.  Prior to that this area had been practically inaccessible, and it remains quite isolated: there are no shops closer than Lithgow or Mt Victoria.  The land was taken up by speculators and rather a lot of NSW government insiders who were (by modern standards) slightly suspiciously “in the know.”  And [G&S reference] a good job too!

Just now, Jewel in the Crown is having a fresh airing on ABC television.  A lot of the image in my mind of a hill station comes from that series’ (and Staying On‘s) depiction of Simla.  Without really thinking much about it, one begins to think of a hill station as a place to which one would resort as respite from the heat and the crowds and the natives.

As if.

From the perspective of the sort of people who established Mt Wilson, we are the natives.

As I was saying

September 13, 2012

Don Aitkin, former V-C of Canberra University, also went to Opera Australia’s (or the Lincoln Center’s) production of  South Pacific recently.

As he said in his blog, riffing off the elsewhere-reported comment of a woman patron that “Surely this isn’t opera!”:

I too was a bit puzzled at the Australian Opera’s staging this Lincoln Center production. Did it need some quick coin? Is it trying to attract a new audience? Either would be an acceptable response, because the first rule of opera companies is ‘Survive!’

He judged the show “a great night out.”

And from the moment we emerged, cheerful, humming, holding hands, like so many other opera-going pairs, I’ve been thinking about where ‘opera’ starts and finishes.

What differentiated opera from other musical forms, and did the distinction matter? Professor Aitkin rather thought not. After all, Mozart originally wrote the part of Papageno in The Magic Flute for an actor who could sing a bit, and Rossini’s Barber of Seville and La Cenerentola are light-hearted pieces with little pretence to profundity.

Does anything in particular distinguish them from the best of what appears on Broadway? I can’t think of what it might be. What distinguishes them from the best of Gilbert and Sullivan? What, if anything distinguishes the best of G&S from Jacques Offenbach? Where does The Phantom of the Opera sit? And so on. I think these distinctions are artificial.

“All in all,” he concluded, “I don’t think there is much difference in the works themselves.”

This perturbed me. I have commented there but I will reproduce that comment here, which answers a bit more of the argument of the post but tries to address specifically this question of whether there is any difference between opera and musical theatre. Italics Aitkin; Roman, me.

Rossini’s La Cenenterola, the story of Cinderella, was another immensely popular fairy-story opera. Rossini’s Barber of Seville isn’t a fairy-story opera, but is a comic opera of the highest quality. Does anything in particular distinguish them from the best of what appears on Broadway? I can’t think of what it might be.

I can. La C and B of S require a classical orchestra and singers capable of the singing. Cinderella, moreover, is an archetypal fairy-tale plot. Do not underestimate the music of Rossini – he is a standout composer in this style. In Berlioz’s Les soirées de l’orchestre, set in the 1840s opera pit and ostensibly made up of conversations between the orchestral musicians (only the bass drum player never relaxes into conversation, which is an early equivalent of a viola joke), performances of Rossini pass without any conversation, because of the quality of the work.

The best of what appears on broadway is a commercial venture designed for long runs, aimed generally quite determinedly towards the middle brow (not simply in terms of plot but also the music) for that purpose; nowadays performed by actors/singers/dancers with microphones. It only requires a small orchestra. There is less music than in an opera because of the spoken parts. It does not need the resources of an opera company to put it on: witness that “South Pacific” is being mounted elsewhere than in Sydney by the Gordon Frost organisation.

What distinguishes them from the best of Gilbert and Sullivan?

In Gilbert & Sullivan, the vocal parts are relatively undemanding and the orchestration undemanding; they are not through composed and there is a lot of pretty dated dialogue; the music is tuneful but simple.

What, if anything distinguishes the best of G&S from Jacques Offenbach?

Assume you are not talking about “Tales of Hoffman” which is obviously different. Put broadly: the English Channel and about 20 years; inferior music (that is: even the best of G&S is inferior to Offenbach) and higher vocal accomplishment (in the Offenbach). Otherwise, perhaps not so much as in general the objects of Offenbachian satire are as obscure today as those of WS Gilbert’s, though generally we get less dialogue in Offenbach here.

Where does The Phantom of the Opera sit?

Nine miles from Gundagai. Or rather, on the coat-tails of Opera and on the way to the bank for Lloyd-Webber as copyright owner but obviously part of musical theatre. Actually, I don’t know why you ask that question at all.

I think these distinctions are artificial.

I disagree. They are distinctions principally about the resources which are necessary for a company to perform them. An opera company needs classically trained singers, soloists and chorus, able to sing without microphones. The fact that one singer in Magic Flute need not be (if he is in so small a theatre as that where Mozart initially conducted the work) does not detract from this. Unless they have multiple casts of soloists, they need to do their works in repertoire because the soloists cannot repeat the work every night. That of course is what makes things expensive as then sets need to be struck. The existence of a company helps sustain the art form because of the continuity of work and hence opportunity to develop levels of attainment that this entails.

Musical theatre/comedy does not require these things. Musicals are not something that only an opera company can put on and indeed opera companies are not necessarily suited to putting musicals on: as with SP, they probably need to hire a different chorus for a start because of the singing and dancing requirements and will generally not be able to draw on their regular roster of principals. which leaves them with the fixed cost of their chorus to deal with when the musical is running – perhaps OA was hoping to slot in 2013’s Brisbane run during SP‘s 2013 return period because the chorus would hardly need all that time to get ready for Götterdämmerung.

Whilst there are some silly operas and some straight-out funny operas (as you have mentioned – though Magic Flute is an exception in the repertoire which probably wouldn’t be there but for Mozart’s music, even such of it which was not cut from the latest OA production-lite), when they get dramatic they dig a very great deal more deeply than you can possibly say South Pacific does. SP is a great night’s entertainment (from which I too emerged in a glowingly good mood) for which you have to make a thousand excuses once you start to think about it. It really is hardly dramatic at all beyond some spectacle and comedy and its tunefulness. Those excuses or exonerations which are offered (oh, it’s so sound about racism for 1949) are pretty lame really.

I realise that’s getting towards a high-culture/middlebrow culture argument, which a comment here is hardly the place to embark upon. That’s why I’ve tried to concentrate on just the logistic and more straightforward aesthetic distinctions.

So I can’t join your enthusiasm in welcoming the prospect of annual two-month seasons of “musical comedy” by Opera Australia into the indefinite future. Maybe it has to be done (though I’d even prefer more wall-to-wall Puccini if that is what it takes or if that were possible on top of what we get already) but it’s a big pity that things must be so, if that is in fact the case.

-This last paragraph was a response to Professor Aitkin’s own final paragraph which was as follows:

So, let us look forward to the Australian Opera’s staging more revivals of the great musical comedies. It has put on, and very successfully too, some great G&S. If it makes a decent profit, even better! The 2012 South Pacific season comes to an end in a few days, but there will be two solid months of it in September and October next year — nothing else will be on offer.

The last sentence suggests the enthusiasm I attribute to him might more accurately be described as “modified rapture.” (That’s a G&S allusion, in case you missed that.)

Amanda Thane

September 11, 2012

I belatedly caught up with the news that soprano Amanda Thane recently died.

It’s never been clear to me why we stopped hearing her at the Australian Opera. I last heard her sing in 2007 when she sang Frauenliebe und -leben at the Con. I think that this was not so long long after she and her husband, Glenn Winslade, returned to live in Australia. A return recital at the Con in 2008 was cancelled and I did wonder if she had some health problems.

In any event it is an early death for an artist whose performances gave me much pleasure.

Steampunk in Marrickville

September 6, 2012

Last night with my old friend, Ub, and her son, Dv, to see “The Tempest” at the Sidetrack Theatre at Addison Road in Marrickville.

This was a last-minute invitation as Ub’s husband was offered work which he took up. I doubt if I would have gone otherwise.

The production has been publicized as a “Steampunk” production, including in the SMH (though it hasn’t managed a review as far as I can see).

I can’t say I’d encountered the term before, though the concept is familiar. It’s hard to sum up, but it refers to revisited and now technologically obsolete visions of the future. The film Brazil is probably the earliest example I can remember. The 1940s-look film of 1984 has elements of something similar by reference to a slightly later period. Jules Verne and H.G.Wells are also often invoked.

A lot of work has gone into realising the Steampunk aesthetic. The set (within the limitations of the theatre), properties and costumes were impressive. I felt invention flagged in the second half once all of this had been established. Without any kind of stage machinery, the masque of Juno, Iris and Ceres which opens Act IV has a hard time of it, and the play itself has to rush to a resolution.

Ub said she found it more memorable than the Bell production which she had last seen; I’m not sure it eclipsed my memory of a Belvoir St production in 1990 but that had a more starry cast. In this case, the acting was variable – from better than New Theatre standards to rather worse in some minor roles. There were some longeurs; but there was also some real magic.

The two areas where I felt the magic was compromised was in a shortage of poetic delivery (which is what I think made the rush to a conclusion seem rather perfunctory) and the lack of any live music – all was recorded, save for a few of the songs which were simply sung unaccompanied by the actors and in at least one case, just tunelessly shouted/grunted.

Still, it was an honest attempt at the play and definitely a labour of love which has sent me back to the text and to thinking about it more afterwards, which must be the point of any Shakespeare production. I enjoyed it. I’m grateful to U and her husband’s employer for giving me the chance.

The production certainly deserves to be seen by more than simply friends of the cast. It’s a short run: it opened last Saturday and finishes this Saturday. Tickets are $33. The performance started at 8 and was over by 10.30.

You’ve got to have a dream

September 3, 2012

On Saturday with D to see South Pacific.

Undeniably, Opera Australia has a hit on its hands. I checked the website: many of the remaining performances are totally sold out (even if we know that does not actually mean totally) and the others have at most a handful of seats left. I can understand why they have yielded to the temptation to bring it back for 6 weeks next year.

I still regret that this is at the expense of two months’ worth of actual opera.

That really focuses attention on what the difficulty is with an opera company staging a musical. A musical put on by an opera company is to operas as Indian Mynahs are to other birds: it doesn’t run in repertoire and so it forces operas out of their habitat. It would be great if South Pacific could be put on somewhere other than the Opera Theatre (as My Fair Lady was when its run was extended), but there is a shortage of suitable venues in Sydney. South Pacific presumably wasn’t sufficiently self-evidently a sure thing far enough in advance for it to supplant or nudge aside either The Addams Family which starts at the Capitol next March, or The Lion King, slated to open in December 2013.

Unfortunately, it’s not practical to have some operas scheduled on standby against the possibility that The Addams Family flops and South Pacific could move to the Capitol.

The production is totally bought in – you can see it in its entirety on Youtube (search for SP and Lincoln Center and you’ll find it soon enough). Opera Australia’s contribution is limited to the orchestra (but not its chorus), its time-slot in the Opera Theatre, its subscriber base as a starting point for the audience and bearing the risk of the Sydney season. I’d say the orchestra (which by modern musical standards is luscious) is the least critical of these though it is the one distinctive element: OA is putting up a 33-piece band whereas other mountings of this production all seem to be confined to 25.

But enough business analysis.

The staging is very effective. With the exception of a stage which slides out over the customized-at-front orchestra pit, the scene changes are mostly worked by fairly simple sets which swoop down from the fly tower. The stage for the second-act-opening show-within-a-show is rolled in on castors. In his review, Bryce Hallett puts it rather neatly when he says:

In almost every sense the deftness of the staging matches the musical’s pithy and effective characterisation, and fluent score. It also allows room for the imagination and, of course, for the suspension of disbelief.

Certainly, just as in some operas, a certain amount of suspension is required. Who would have thought that Princeton-educated Lieutenant Cable and French plantation-manager Emile De Becque, inserted by submarine as spotters on a Japanese-held island, would court detection by transmitting their messages, not even in morse code, but totally en clair with a microphone of sufficient sensitivity to even pick up background shooting and other noises? And who would have thought that ordinary sailors would have been told the source of the intelligence (“the Frenchman”) behind their sudden wave of military successes?

If you stop and think a little more (and it doesn’t take much) you will need to brush aside a dollop of Orientalism-brand exoticism – not that the show makes very clear distinctions between the indigenous inhabitants of the island and the shipped-in (just as with Indians to Fiji) “Tonkinese” labourers. The musical is famous for its “message” about/against racism (“You’ve got to be carefully taught” – though I’m not sure that I agree that the teaching need be careful). Cable, who sings the song, is motivated by the reception he imagines his new-found Island love, Liat (who doesn’t even get to sing, mind you) would get back home in Philadelphia if he were to marry her and take her there. He then dies in combat. That conveniently delivers him from the risk that he would have done a Pinkerton once the time came.

For that matter, running away to become a plantation manager in a colony seems a strange career path in social justice for a man like Emile de Becque – forced years ago to leave France after killing (in self-defence) a hated local tyrant in his (conveniently close to the sea) home village back in France.

There are a few nice touches in the production catering to our own times. My own little favourite was the hint (well, more than a hint in my opinion, but maybe less than one to members of the audience less sensitive to such questions) that the female officer in charge of the nurses was a lesbian.

The production is of course amplified. It’s done well but it’s problematic for a musical written in the pre-amplification era. That’s most obvious for Teddy Tahu Rhodes, taking the “opera-singer” role of de Becque. At first I thought it was just a matter of the volume to which he was amplified, which seemed overpowering, but I would be surprised if they couldn’t have got that right if that was really the issue. I think the difficulty is that his vocal production already has such in-built amplification that there is a strange kind of overkill when the electronics also kick in.

On the other hand, no amount of amplification can give meat to a voice which lacks it. “Australia’s sweetheart,” Lisa McCune, has a light voice. While this was fine for “Wash that man,” and passable for “Cock-eyed optimist” McCune just couldn’t vocally fill out “I’m in love with a wonderful guy” or the belty bits of “Honey Bun” (in the second half). I expect most of the audienced loved her and I suppose she is not to be blamed if it is apparently compulsory to star a soapie identity to get the bums on seats. Her acting was fine, if a little deficient in the plot-crucial Southern accent.

Teddy was great – amplification issues aside. It was always going to be the acting rather than the singing that was a challenge for him. I’d seen him on the monitors from the foyer earlier in the run and based on that very imperfect impression, I think he has relaxed into the role, French accent aside.

I don’t really want to do a roll call of the whole cast, because I’m not a critic. If I say nothing in particular about Eddie Perfect that doesn’t mean that I don’t think he did a good job as Luther – who is a kind of comic Milo-Minderbinder character.

Still, I do want to save a special word of praise for Daniel Koek as Cable and Kate Ceberano as Bloody Mary, the Tonkinese “Little Buttercup” to the sailors who panders her daughter to Cable. Ceberano is known to all. Koek, a South Australian Opera young artist of the early years of this century who has since made a career in the UK in musical theatre, including the London and UK run of this show (he is up to his 400th performance of the role) was not, at least to me (but see here). Koek’s big number was “Younger Than Springtime” a dose of concentrated lyricism (tenorial, to boot) which stood out against the more popular-Broadway-style foil of the rest of the show. Cerberano’s performance of “Happy Talk” poignantly mixed sweetness and slyness in a way which was utterly distinctive. For me these were the two most captivating songs in the show.

I read somewhere the poetic suggestion that when the audience (including Mr Menzies) left the first Australian production in 1952 they were probably all humming/whistling “There is nothing like a dame.” Maybe D and I are not the most fertile ground for that song to take root. It was “Happy Talk” that we found ourselves singing, on Sunday afternoon, as we clambered round Oatley Park in the company of two good lesbian friends.