Archive for October, 2012


October 30, 2012

In the past 2 and a bit months, D and I have been casting around for a new place to live after our landlord in Dulwich Hill gave us notice.  It is a wrench.  We have been here 10 years.

Dulwich Hill is a relatively obscure suburb in the “Inner West” of Sydney: many people from out of the district have to ask where it is and indeed I confess that before I moved here it was a bit of a mystery to me too.

If you’ve been in a long tenancy, all new lettings look horribly expensive.  We found Dulwich Hill beyond our means and looked further abroad.  We found affordable places in Arncliffe.  Arncliffe too is a bit obscure, though less so than Dulwich Hill because several prominent roads meet there.  It is in the unnamed orange section of the maps above between “The Shire” and the Inner West.  That’s a part of Sydney that doesn’t even merit a name or a map from its own perspective.

Finally, after protracted negotiations with one agent, it was looking almost certain that we would be moving to Arncliffe.  A deposit was paid; removalists were organised; a date was set to sign the lease and pick up the keys; the initial rent and bond were paid by EFT.

The new house was good inside but I wasn’t crazy about the location and the locality.  When a member of the Dulwich Hill gang with whom I go to concerts asked how the move was going, I told him that we would be hanging up our harps and weeping on the far side of Wolli Creek, but that we would never forget Dulwich Hill.

Then, the Friday before the Saturday the lease was to be signed, I received a copy of the residential tenancy agreement.  It had special conditions which were unwelcome.  The agent said they were standard – which means standard for that agent.  Things have definitely got worse for tenants since I last signed an agreement, and it’s not just a question of market conditions.

We “negotiated.”  That means that the agent made 1 change (the draft erroneously said “no pets”)  rejected 2 other changes I requested and offered a compromise on a fourth which was conditional on a shorter lease term.  As the length of the lease term was more important to us than the issue in question, that wasn’t really an attractive proposition.

In the meantime, as you have to, we cancelled the move for the time being and started looking again.

By Monday I had paid a deposit on a place in Ashfield.  We withdrew the application for the Arncliffe place.

It’s not as if the lease conditions were much more favourable. At least this time I was not taken by surprise.  The location is quieter; the house inside is daggier; the garden is nicer.  It is a bit more expensive.

So we shall be staying in the inner west after all, albeit in a suburb which I would once have thought as being right at its edge.  Real estate supplements now routinely include suburbs well west of Strathfield under this rubric.

When I was younger I used to laugh at my contemporaries who grew up and stayed in the North Shore.  Why would you want to do that?  But after living practically all of my adult life (apart from short stints interstate) in the inner west of Sydney, I find I am loth to leave.


I first encountered the above maps courtesy of Jim Belshaw.   They come from the UNSW student newspaper, Tharunka.  It appears to be a kind of a meme, mined extensively (if you can mine a meme) by Yanko Tsvetkov.  A global version of something similar was used for the opening titles of the straight-to-ABC2 Dumb Drunk and Racist.

Salome 3

October 27, 2012

“What a crazy opera,” D said, after the curtain went down last night.

It was his first time and my first-planned and third-accomplished at this production.  This time was my best seat.

The front row would have been even better for the orchestra’s big night out, but there were some balance and perspective advantages to being (as we were) in the third.  Looking at the surtitles wasn’t really one of them, as a spotlight was aimed at them, which impeded their legibility.  When I did look, during a dialogue between Herod and someone (I think Herodias), they were for quite a long period a line or so behind – about 8 to 10 seconds when I counted.

No matter, by then I knew the general drift and some of the better lines well enough.

Afterwards, talking to D about the story on the way home, I began to imagine I could make some sense of the opera’s and the antecedent play’s melange of sex, death and religion.  I seay “sense” because of course the music dazzles and the drama provokes and diverts and strikes sparks off all sorts of preconceptions, but what is the message or even cluster of messages (I don’t mind if they are inconsistent alternatives so long as they are internally coherent) beyond that?

But today it’s still snippets of Lucia (my guilty pleasure) that I find myself humming.  – Not that I cast my expectations of “message” so high for that: it’s more a South Pacific kind of opera.


On the instructions of the Public Trustee

October 25, 2012

You often see this on real estate advertisements.

It is the equivalent of saying “liquidator’s sale” or “deceased estate.”

In real-estate speak it is an invitation to snap up a bargain.  The property (which may or may not be a bit run down) must be sold.

It’s not just a matter of deceased estates.  Commonly, a sale on the instructions of the public trustee will occur when an elderly person’s affairs are committed to its management and the house has to be sold in order to meet the expenses of that person’s new accommodation.

It turns out (though this will hardly come as a surprise to anyone who has dealt with the Public Trustee) that those instructions do not amount to much.  If you are a family member, you might want to do something about that.  But it can be difficult getting the Trustee to pay any attention to you.  Quite possibly the Trustee is under-resourced.  More troublingly, because the Public Trustee is often appointed out of situatons of family conflict or to manage the affairs of less-competent members of society, there seems to be an institutional tendency to discount and disregard such troublesome interventions.  Neutrality may be the goal but minimalism verging on inaction often seems to be the outcome.

The problem is that the Public Trustee’s discretion is so broad that its decisions and actions (or, more commonly, inactions) are practically unreviewable.  I have yet to see a case where the trustee has been properly taken to task.  It is all too hard.  If anyone complains, the trustee can hide behind the skirts of antecedent familial disputes and it would be a brave judicial officer or tribunal which would step in.

AMC and ALQ v NSW Trustee and Guardian [2012] NSWADT 217 is a recent case in point.

The NSW Guardianship Tribunal appointed the public trustee financial manager of AMC’s affairs.  Prior to the appointment, AMC’s house of 60 years had been on the market, though it isn’t clear from the report who was really driving that decision.  After the appointment, the Trustee called off that sale (why?) then called the sale on again.  In between, a new villa was bought for AMC in a different part of town (presumably in an old people’s development) and the sale of AMC’s house was needed to pay out the mortgage taken for that purchase.  The property went on the market on 21 August 2012 with an auction due on 15 September 2012.  Prior to the inspection period, AMC’s daughter and that daughter’s teenage son had still been living in the house.  No effort at all seems to have been taken to make the house presentable.  AMQ, AMC’s son, went along to the inspection and saw that it was in a state of disarray in some rooms, for example unmade beds, unwashed items in the kitchen sink and the like.  He also thought that a better effort could be made to market the property with a view to emphasising its redevelopment potential.

On 7 September 2012, AMQ’s solicitor wrote to the Trustee about this.  Presumably ALQ had made some previous attempt to raise this with the Trustee.  The Trustee did not respond.

AMQ appealed to the ADT against the Trustee’s decision to sell the property as presently proposed and specifically sought an interim stay of that decision – that is, a delay on the auction in order (ALQ said) to enable a better marketing campaign.

As well as complaining about the marketing and presentation, AMQ also complained that the Trustee would not reveal to him its proposed reserve price.  Judge K P Connor accepted that this was confidential and need not be disclosed.  The Trustee had had problems with this in the past.

He was more critical of the conduct of the sale.

At the hearing, Richard Mosvessian of Century 21 Real Estate Randwick, gave evidence by the phone about the marketing campaign.  He:

“confirmed that the son’s assertions regarding the state of some the rooms on the recent open days was accurate. He disputed the son’s contention that it mattered how a property of this kind was presented. He said that the interested market looked past these things, and focussed on the essentials of the property and such matters as the possible cost of renovation. He rejected the practicality of marketing the property as one with subdivisional and redevelopment potential. He referred to the number of parties that had inspected the property, the number of
contracts that had been issued, and the number of building inspections that had been obtained by interested parties.”

The mind boggles about Mr Mosvessian’s views about how a property is presented.  Is that the advice that Mr Mosvessian gives to all his vendors?

Mr Caldwell, the Trustee’s property manager, stated that no special instructions were given to agents engaged to handle clients’ properties as to how they were presented for sale, and the office [of the Public Trustee] did no monitoring in that regard.

Judge Connor was clearly taken aback:

21 The evidence of the poor state of the presentation of the property at open days has been available now for some time. I have noticed in the paperwork that Mr Mendelssohn (solicitor for the applicants) commenced to take action formally on 7 September 2012 (see letter of complaint to the NSW Trustee). It may be that he engaged in representations of a more informal character predating that date.

22 I think it is a matter of concern that the evidence of these issues was raised by the son and Mr Mendelssohn with the NSW Trustee and met, it would seem, with no action. My firm opinion is that the office should proceed on a principle of respect for the protected person’s likely views on the matter, in relation to the way in which their homes are presented to market. I do not understand my view to be that of the office. As I have understood it from Mr Caldwell (Manager, NSW Trustee), the office is relatively inactive in that matter and leaves things entirely to the discretion of the agent.

23 It is clear from the evidence today that Mr Movsessian has made his own call on this issue. He appears not to be of a view that this matter is of importance in terms of the market, and that closes the issue in his mind.

24 I think this is something that would matter to the protected person and their family; and it did seem to matter to the mother and her son in this case. It is a matter of regret that we have had this sort of insouciance in relation to this issue.

25 I accept having said that, that there are houses often that the NSW Trustee is called on to manage and put to market that are in shocking states of disrepair. I am not talking about houses of that kind. I am talking about houses that are within the ordinary framework of home management.

Respect and regret for its lack is one thing (or maybe they are two); overturning a decision of the Trustee is another.   The lettuce leaf got limper.

26Nevertheless it seems to me that the factors of prejudice that exist today are such that it would be inappropriate of me to make a restraining order at this late stage. I accept what Mr Movsessian says that there had been a significant level of buyer interest, evidenced by various contracts going out.

The main prejudice was, as far as I can make out, that AMC had already bought a new place and had a mortgage to pay off plus, presumably, some expenses of advertising.  The other potential prejudice from any sub-par presentation of the house was let through to the keeper with regret.  It’s water under the bridge.

Judge Connor expressly accepted the concerns expressed by the son and his mother, but the decision stood with the mildest of rebukes to the Trustee:

31I think it would have been more respectful had the property been presented in a better way. I think though it is now too late and too close to the auction date to interfere so radically with the decision that has been taken. Some reassurance can at least be obtained from the fact that there is the level of activity and interest in the property that has been indicated.

32For those various reasons I am not prepared to intervene.

33I do not for a moment think it is an entirely happy state of affairs that we have experienced today.

34We hear cases here frequently where there is criticism of the unavailability of estate officers to people with grievances. I realise that your officers, Mr Caldwell, are under enormous pressure and often are faced with difficulty in dealing with representations. We also hear complaints about phones not being answered. The Tribunal had that experience today when it was unable to reach you at the appointed time on the number you had given; it constantly went to message.

35So I just hope you can take some of those concerns back into the office administration and do what you can to improve levels of communication.

I’m sure that was a lot of comfort to ALQ and (to the extent that she was able to understand what was going on) AMC.

Or not.

Lucia 2 – a guilty pleasure

October 24, 2012

I couldn’t resist going again, and I’m glad I did.  I picked up a front-row seat at the same time I got my first Salome ticket.

I never entirely take at face value the reception a piece gets at first night.  This time, on a Wednesday night, the genuine warmth of the audience’s reception was obvious with if anything more people standing at the end and longer applause.

This is familiar music – even when you don’t know the particular tune, you know the style.  That’s something about the early Romantic period, before the flavours got stronger.  It is the received pronunciation of musical language.  The orchestration is not exotic though not devoid of atmosphere.  You might say that some tunes could as well be one emotion as much as another (especially the chorus numbers and the ensembles) but I think that is deceptive.  It all fits very well together.

Robert Johnson, one of the SSO’s principal horns, has been leading the horn section of the AOBO for this and also playing for Salome while the SSO is away in China.  I mean no disrespect to the regular principal (save that, according to the orchestra’s web page, there currently isn’t one) to say that you can feel the quality.  Emma Matthews’ Lucia improves on a second viewing – only in the first part of her scene with her brother did she fall a little short on oomph, and the stops are certainly out in the big scene.

The drama is not complex and it doesn’t do to think too much about it, but it still awakes feelings of pity at the tragedy, not only for Lucia (despite rather than because of the cadenza with the flute, at least so far as the music is concerned) but also for her lover, Edgardo, sung handsomely by James Valenti, and his soulful demise.

You have to admire Salome (it’s de rigeur) but just a little guiltily I think I like and I enjoyed Lucia more.

Distant view – Salome 2

October 24, 2012

Last night to see Salome again.  My friend and former student, Db, was going company rush and invited me along at short notice.  We sat in the front row of the circle.

That’s a bit far away for my taste.

At that distance, it is more apparent why Cheryl Barker is not someone who you would first choose to sing Salome.  That’s certainly not because of any shortcomings as an actor, but rather the type of voice which she has.  It cannot always cut through the orchestra, and she is obliged to sing at the top of her volume range nearly all the time. This reduces the tonal variety she can offer.  Her performance is still a tour de force, especially in the final scene, but I wasn’t so swayed by it a second time.

From the circle, Jokanaan-in-the-cistern all the more obviously came from the big loud speaker hanging from the roof of the theatre rather than the hole beneath the stage.  Couldn’t Opera Australia tried harder with this?  It made the action (where everyone onstage peered at the drain-cover which was the lid of the cistern and a mysterious light streamed through the grill) ridiculously.  I don’t know how Strauss did it in the original production, but it can’t have been with a loudspeaker.

Speaking of grills, there was a terrible smell in the theatre, something like burning hair, from about 75 to 90 minutes in. It never entirely dissipated.  I wondered if they were doing St Lawrence rather John the Baptist.

I preferred the orchestral sound when I was in restricted view, probably because I was opposite and therefore had a direct line of sight to and hence sound from the brass – albeit that this meant it was a bit out of proportion.

On a second viewing, the shock value of the production was diminished.

One detail I previously missed was a buttock-baring butcher who carved meat off the carcasses at the back of the stage, and then appeared to remove Narraboth’s corpse after he had killed himself.  I suppose this is meant to make the point that the court was a slaughterhouse and that the dangling animal carcasses stand for the people killed at Herod’s command – presumably included amongst those whom he was quick to forbid  be brought back to life when told that the mysterious Jesus fellow was bringing the dead back to life by the shores of Gallilee.

A musical detail I picked up this time is that, when Salome sings at the end of biting Jokanaan’s lips, there is a musical reminiscence of the sly little theme from when Herod sang about eating food after Salome had bitten it.  She certainly was a quick study!

This time Jokanaan’s head did make a bit of a thud on stage, but it was a more well-cushioned one than my memories of an officious security guard cracking the head of a non-paying taxi passenger against a brick wall, or indeed the odd knock I’ve taken myself.  Maybe it was all that curly hair that made all the difference.

Which brings me to one aspect of this production which I find trendily tiresome.  It comes from Gale Edwards’ program notes, which I have only read second-hand, and is the argument that Herod is a pedophile.  Though not, apparently, a very ardent or at least potent one, as the program notes also apparently suggest that he wants Salome to dance so he can get it up.

What is the point of this?

Herod is bad enough already.  Lusting after his stepdaugher is just one sign of this, though presumably he could have ravished any sixteen year old he chose if she (or he) were not also his queen’s offspring. The whole court is rotten. (All Herod says when he slips on what he very quickly identifies on a moonlit terrace as blood is that that is an ill omen.) Jokanaan isn’t exactly sympathetic, though if Herod is to be a pedophile then so must Jokanaan be in this version insofar as he is depicted in this production as struggling to resist Salome as a temptation of the flesh.

Does Salome need to be turned into a child abuse victim?  I suppose an opera director can tell any story she chooses, but this seems to go right against the grain of either the quasi-historical story, the subsequent myth or the opera.  Yes, she is young.  That is why she is in a position to ask, as she tastes John’s blood on his lips, whether this bitter taste is the taste of love.  Even then, one might well ask: bitter for whom?  Arguable bitterer for John than for her.

I suppose if I understood better or even at all the point of the original opera I might be able to appreciate Edwards’ approach as some kind of critique of that.  At this stage, it just seems like a kind of mawkish modishness thrown in to spice up quite unnecessarily what is already a quite lurid enough mix of sin, sex, religion and death.

Maybe I’ll be able to make more sense of it all this Friday.

Restricted view

October 16, 2012

My former music teacher and old friend, E, was coming to town and suggested we catch up before she went to see Salome.

I took the opportunity to snap up a restricted view seat before my already-planned attendance next week.  This should save me from having to crane my neck for the surtitles next time.

Across the wires (well, over the p.a. actually) the electric message came: “This evening’s performance in the Joan Sutherland Theatre …”  – That’s funny, I thought.  I knew such a renaming was afoot but I’d never heard it called that before.  Turns out I was right about that.

The production had been described to me in advance as set in an abbattoir.  I was only just aware of that when I went as the carcasses hung up in abbattoirial fashion are at the back of the stage which I had only glimpses of.

Salome is a punchy piece.  The libretto is great – it is based on Oscar Wilde’s play.  I suppose the play is cut down a bit, but not so much that the patterns (Herod’s requests of Salome: drink, eat, dance.  Salome’s adoration then rejection of John the Baptist’s  body, hair, lips – returned to in her final scene.)  and the echoes and more of biblical language and imagery don’t survive.  In this performance, the one bit which went on a bit (or so I thought) was Herod’s pleading with Salome to take something other than John the Baptist’s head in discharge of his oath after she danced for him.  That could have been because I was anticipating the final big scene and shock ending.

The orchestration has to be cut down a bit, mostly at the expense of the strings because there is a limit to how much you can reduce the wind and brass writing.  It is always a treat to see Johannes Fritzsch at the podium and hear the results.

For a short opera it has a surprisingly large cast, though they don’t all have a lot to do (and there isn’t a chorus).   David Corcoran made a strong impression as Nabaroth singing against a bigger orchestra than I recall hearing him do in the past.  I mean no discredit to the bit-part singers and Jacqueline Dark in the bigger dramatically than vocally part of Herodias to say that it mainly hangs on Herod, John the Baptist and, of course, Salome.

Of these, John Pickering as Herod was new to me.  He’s a barrel-shaped bloke who has had a long career overseas (he left Australia after winning prizes in the early ’70s).  He has sung for Opera Victoria.  It is a bit surprising that this was his Opera Australia debut.  I thought John Wegner as Jokanaan tired a bit at the end of his big sing about Jesus, just when he should be reaching a climax.  All of them acted well, and certainly not least Cheryl Barker, who really captured a sort of fractious teenage obstinacy as she insisted on getting what she wanted.  After that of course it was all stops out.

The famed dance was done with dancers  evoking various feminine (for-men’s-tastes) archetypes – the naughty nurse, the housemaid, the pole dancer, Marylin Monroe (this is apparently Barker), even the BVM (I suspect my Quadrantine former English lecturer, PS, whom I saw there, will have disapproved of that as he did for lewdness in Figaro earlier this year).

John Wegner’s fake head bounced round the stage without a sound, which suggests that it was made of some kind of foam – which is odd given the suggestion that an orchestral thud which Salome takes for the executioner dropping his sword is really that head hitting the floor down in the cistern where the execution takes place.  I also wondered about the degree of dexterity and strength attributed to Salome, who is made to rip Jokanaan’s tongue from his lifeless head shortly before the final kiss – surely it would be just too slippery to manage?

Salome is killed by having her throat slit rather than being crushed by the guards’ shields by the executioner who (as Nicholas Routley comments) appears to have wandered in from Turandot  if a slightly burlier and less burnished specimen.  I wondered if this is meant to be accompanied by some semblance of blood, but if so it wasn’t quite evident tonight.  If not, then it seems strangely bloodless.

The attendance was quite good if patchy around the back of the stalls and the upper circle.

You can read more about the production (with pictures) by some person from Limelight magazine who doesn’t seem embarrassed by the fact that she had “only seen the last 20 minutes of the dress rehearsal.”  The mind boggles.  Did she forget to switch over to summer time?

Weird shit

October 11, 2012

Ever since Peter Slipper came to more general attention with his elevation to the speakership of the Australian House of Representatives last year, he has been an object of awful (actually despite the spell-check I think I really mean aweful) fascination for me.

For one thing, there is his abandonment of the Liberal or Liberal National party.

For another, there is the whole thing about his involvement in the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia  – including his ordination.  (Mind you, I find Usyd Vice-chancellor Michael Spence”s ordination in the C of E almost as odd.)

There is Slipper’s reputation as a vigorous taker up of parliamentary entitlements and bon-vivantish participation in Canberra night life.

There was the whole matter of his fancy garb and ceremonial as speaker – explicable, perhaps, given his high-church leanings.

And then, he proved a surprisingly effective speaker for the short time he was in, probably because of his fearlessness – something his detractors might rather call brazenness.  He ejected government as well as opposition front benchers and tightened things up.

Then the Ashby affair broke, and  all began to unravel.  Just for completeness, James Ashby was employed as Slipper’s staffer from late 2011, and in about April commenced proceedings against Slipper and the Commonwealth for, amongst other things, sexual harrassment by Slipper.

Ashby was represented by Harmers Workplace Lawyers, masters (as the David Jones case showed) of the pre-emptive publicity strike.  The secret is to incorporate material which would otherwise be evidence (and so unable to be reported until it had been read in court) verbatim into an application filed with the court, thus enabling it to be reported straight away, before any opportunity could be taken to have it struck out as scandalous.  That was the first round that saw Slipper obliged to step aside pending determination of the matters raised.

We still don’t know the full picture about the claims that Slipper misused cabcharge vouchers, though Ashby’s evidence was thin and that part of the claim was abandoned (it is still under investigation by the police).  Counter-allegations about criminal offences by Ashby came and went.  Malcolm Brough, Slipper’s political rival and now successor as Liberal-National preselected candidate for his seat, came in and out of the picture, together with some pretty unconvincing denials by him of any dealings with Ashby.

It all seemed a pretty murky story.  There were some patterns though.  The most damaging, for Slipper, had to be the public/private divide between Slipper, the rule-maker and Slipper the rule-breaker and non-respecter of boundaries.  Other aspects of his behaviour had a familiar flavour.  What gay man has not at some stage been the receiving end of some rather odd quasi-jocular over-familiarity from an [ostensibly at least – and its always ostensible until anyone is dead] straight man?  On the other hand, what was it with Ashby?  Where had he come from and what were his motives?  Could this really be a honey-pot plot?

As a lawyer I have possibly even less faith than others in judicial process as a means of unearthing the actual truth, but so far as the public truth is concerned this certainly seemed a situation where you would have to wait for the process to work itself through.

Then came the settlement with the Commonwealth, and a fresh load of sms messages read into evidence in response to Slipper’s application to dismiss the proceedings.

All of a sudden, Slipper’s position was untenable. He had sent SMS messages to Ashby that were most mildly described as “ribald” and otherwise reported as making obscene references to female genitalia.  Most reports I saw at first were coy about what was actually written. Now we know that Slipper drew a resemblance between vaginas and mussels, and referred to mussel-meat in jars as “briny cunts.”

There was also a reference to Sophie Mirabella as an “ignorant botch” but I don’t think that was so damaging to Slipper – it was a private message within a normal range of abuse after a conflict.  It was the apparent shellfish obsession which caused the outrage.

All of this intersected with the Abbott-Jones-misogyny debate.  Striking while the iron was hot, the opposition moved that Slipper be removed as speaker.  The Government opposed that on the grounds of due process but (so the press gallery clearly thought) also on grounds of political expediency.  Julia Gillard gave one of her back-against-the-wall-coming-out-swinging speeches, where she always does best, about not wanting to be lectured about misogyny by “that man” (Abbott).

Just jumping back a bit, there is something striking about the discomfort which has clearly been felt with Slipper’s shellfish fetish.  It’s been described as misogyny.  It certainly feels like it, but is all ribaldry misogyny, and is it the most harmful kind, or just part of the furniture?  What about comparable phrases such as “camel foot” or (in the opposite direction) “budgie smugglers”? In my youth I first encountered from some gay people a usage of the word “fish” that I would be far quicker to describe as misogynistic, though I think it was more accurately characterised as a rather pathetic defensive declaration of aversion as a disclaimer of attraction.  (One specific defensive reason is that women attract straight men, who attack gay men, though that is only a small part of it.)

What seems more creepy to me is Slipper’s harping on such matters with Ashby. Even then you cannot judge the messages alone without knowing what went on in conversations as well in both directions.

It is not as if the comparison between mussels and vaginas is so surprising.  I cooked mussels earlier this year and even on my rusty memory (or perhaps precisely because of my that) a resemblance came to mind.  But I didn’t send an sms to my clerk about it. I also doubt if the thought would occur to me in the opposite direction. This could just be because vaginas are rarely on my mind. If they were, I don’t think I would be thinking of mussels.

But just going back to the debate on the motion to remove Slipper, and in particular the varying reception of the press and the internet commentariat to Gillard’s counter-attack or attack on Abbott.

Paul Sheehan, Fairfax’s rightest of columnists, was of course against Gillard.  He is developing nick-names for various government ministers now which have a kind of built-in abuse which he can then incorporate into his commentary- one is member for Gutter, one is member for Sewer.  It all makes for a bit of a rant in the “Ju-Liar” tradition, and this one was a doozy.

I read it online.  At the bottom, there was a note:

Editors Note: This story was changed post-publication and, in the 9th paragraph, a reference to the Prime Minister was deleted.

What could that have been?
From the twittersphere , this is the ninth paragraph as it originally appeared, with the deleted phrase in bold:

Why tip a bucket of bilgewater into a fierce wind? Why invoke the accusation of misogyny, hatred of women, against an Opposition Leader whose chief of staff, Peta Credlin, is famously one of the most formidable woman in politics, whose mostly female staff is devoted to their boss and who, unlike the Prime Minister, has raised three daughters?

Obviously somebody decided the bit in bold was a step too far, though once you know it has been there, the deletion hardly makes things any better.
As far as I’m concerned, Sheehan has made Gillard’s point for her again in spades.  I dedicate the title of this post to him.


October 1, 2012

On Friday to OA’s Lucia (see here for a funny encounter about that short title).

This is a new (well, ’tis new to us; it comes from Houston) production that finally gives Emma Matthews a chance to shake of the shackles of the Joan legacy which hangs rather heavily over this piece in Sydney and especially over the old production in which Joan starred when it was first put on.

We heard the overture twice because the piece had to restart when things for some reason or other weren’t ready and the curtain hadn’t come up.  You have to admire the conductor Christian Badea’s sang froid because when the  o0verture was played again it became clear that the curtain had been meant to rise from the beginning.  So I guess it came as less surprise to him than me when the rather worried-looking bearded chap crept forward through the violins to tell him he’d have to stop, wait and start again.

“Are you from interstate?” my neighbour asked me, in the pause before things started anew.  “Often I have interstate people sitting there.”   In fact, I have sat next to him before, but obviously didn’t make an impression.   I told him that I usually sat in this seat, but came later in the season.  “Ah!” he said, “but you don’t often come to the first night.”  I said I liked to wait until the technical difficulties had been ironed out.

There was something that irritated me a little bit about his proprietorial air.  I felt a condescension which rankled.  In retrospect I think he merely wished to share the excitement.  What emulative creatures we are!  I only accidentally go to first nights when I need to change my seat, and can’t say I think all that much of them.  Doubtless they mean something for the performers, but the social scene seems a bit silly.  One odd incident of this is that the front foyer is almost empty as all the important people stream downstairs for their VIP reception (Marie B was up next to Mr T with her dress-uniformed ADC and Mr Shehadie).  It’s a time when you can spot people you love to hate: Bronwyn Bishop was there, wearing fur even though the tempurature outside that day had been almost 30 degrees.  There is a certain element of house (ie, in-house) applause, and there seemed rather a lot of non-returns though I only noticed this after the second interval.  In fact the mood as a whole was strangely a bit subdued – there is more excitement on Saturday nights.  I’m still trying to put my finger on why.

The repeat of the overture took a bit of the wind out of its sails.  It was more exciting the first time in the dark.

It’s a minimalist production – making the point that bel canto is really about the singing.  The action has been brought forward from the seventeenth to the eighteenth century: this makes only a little historical sense but gets rid of the frilliness in the costumes.  The set was abstract and seemed to focus mostly on gloomy weather effects.

There was a touch of the Konzept as Acts I and II both opened and closed with Normando (Lucia’s brother’s offsider)  facing away at the rear of the stage under a spot: was it all Normando’s dream?  If so, this concept was not persisted with so maybe it was just a matter of unities.

A full chorus by OA standards (24 each gender) was supplemented by a bunch of non-singing gents with big wooden staves.  They moved a (very little) bit of stage furniture but were mostly just stage-dressing.

Act III has lost a scene (apparently it’s “optional” – I have no idea if this is really so), so that we went straight to the big one – the mad scene. After the chorus bit, mad Lucia came on looking rather like a blo0d-spattered Alice illustrated by Teniel.  Whatever my reservations about Emma’s handling of the dramatic bits (more a question of vocal quality than acting) in the earlier acts, she really came into her own here.  The opening section of that scene featured the original glass harmonica instrumentation, played on something a little bit less original and rather more electronic.

The other main parts were strongly cast with two international up-and-comers: James Valenti as Edgardo and Giorgio Caoduro as Enrico.  I wasn’t so convinced by Richard Anderson as Raimondo, mainly because, at least close-up, his volume surpassed his control of it.  If I were further back I suppose I might have appreciated the volume more.  Andrew Brunsdon was Arturo rather than the advertised Stephen Smith.

I was surprised to read that Lucia is the 19th-most performed opera (indeed Operabase gives it presently as number 18).  In some ways it is a pantomime version of what opera is often thought to be.  Shorn of the “optional” scene the plot was elementary and even perfunctory. I can’t say I really felt it as drama – more a series of moods.  It all seemed to be over in a jiffy before I could really grasp it properly.  It would be good to be able to go again.