Archive for January, 2013

Ballo 2

January 24, 2013

arf-updatedleadwide-masked--20130117160129548039-620x349Tonight (Thurs)  to the Masked Ball again.  Photo: Prudence Upton

This was a spur-of-the-moment decision taken on Wednesday when I noticed a front point seat in a loge was available.  That was $72: I cycled to Opera Australia specially to buy it without incurring a booking fee.  I loathe booking fees: they are insulting.

On the way in to my seat I saw Lyndon Terracini button-hole a vaguely familiar looking young man . It was only later (when composing this) that I realized I recognized him from his relatively minor role in last year’s production of Lucia.  LT was looking rather pleased with himself, as well he might, having just been reappointed for a further 5 years.  I have mixed feelings.

I chatted to a regular, also there for the second time.  He hated the production but was keen on the singing, which he described as the best since Grimes.  He had also been up in the loge for the first night.  I was able to put him in the picture about a crucial detail of the (meta-plot; konzeptorial) conclusion which is right at the back of the stage and not visible from the loge.  He thanked me for this, saying that otherwise he would have gone to New York next week without knowing.  That was probably sarcasm.  He has tickets, he told me, for nine Met performances.

At the end, the audience gave vociferous applause.  The fellow behind me whistled repeatedly and incredibly loudly.  An older, I would guess gay, couple glanced at him disapprovingly and I felt rather the same.  It did seem a very indiscriminate form of applause.  I would have been more impressed if he had been capable of covering his mouth when he coughed, about half a dozen times, in the course of the second half.  I wasn’t so surprised to hear, as he talked to his companions on the way out, that he sounded American.  Their applause etiquette is more enthusiastic than ours – I think it’s a kind of civility akin to “have a nice day.”

I found myself more moved by the love story this time, though a former lecturer of mine whom I spoke with afterwards on the way to the station and then on the train thought it was awful and a poor fit to the libretto.  Maybe he was also offended by the even greater disrespect to the historical events than the libretto already shows.  We joked a bit about his definitive history of the treaty of Utrecht which never got around to being written.

One thing I notice when I go to a production more than once is that quite often musical things which are not quite right once are still not quite right when you go again.  It could be that the repetition is in my observation and opinion as much as in the performance.  I’m thinking of little slips in ensemble and execution, or at least as they seem to me.  Of course, once I’ve spotted them, I’ll be looking out for them again, which is probably a self-confirming process not to say self-validating.


January 22, 2013

ball_event2On Saturday with D to Opera Australia’s Masked Ball. That is Verdi’s opera based on a previous opera about the assassination, in 1792, of Gustav III of Sweden. It seems that masked balls were particularly hazardous in Scandinavia – one features in the events surrounding the Danish monarchy of that time which were also the subject of a recent film – and you have to wonder why they kept having them.

The production concept has been described variously as “Orwellian” (that’s as in “1984”) and Stalinist and even as referencing the last days in the bunker in Berlin. There’s lots of stuff looking like exposed concrete – think Macquarie Uni or the more Corbusierian bits of UTS/Kuringgai CAE or (for the scene at the gibbet) the underside of any elevated roadway. It’s a striking set which manages to make the Opera Theatre (OK, Joan Sutherland Theatre) stage look bigger than it really is.

Gustav’s regime is depicted as tyrannous rather than merely benignly despotic. The dramatic premise is that almost everybody wears a mask. There are signs of protest against this, implying that the masks are imposed by some kind of compulsion. The masks look a bit like the old-fashioned leather boxing helmets and the publicity shot of Gustav and Amelia (the lovers of the action) makes them look like boxers rather than lovers.

This turns the opera into a bit of a dystopic thriller. This matches quite a lot of the music, though it tends to weaken the affective power of the love story and to diminish the space for responding to Amelia’s plight.

Andrea Molino conducts without a score and the orchestra responded to him warmly.  I had to laugh when I caught the principal viola grooving along (a birdlike  head back-and-forth movement) to the strummed harp at one particularly stirring point.

“Masked Ball” is one of those operas that has a reputational aura. I’m not sure why exactly it is – perhaps it is just a consequence of its relative rarety in performance (the other Verdi opera which I think of in the same way is “Don Carlo[s]”). What came to mind in this production or at least Saturday’s performance was the dramatic intensity of the music. It’s full of musical cues of foreboding and it never really lets up.

Vocally the production is cast at the top of OA’s range and it’s only because I am not a critic that I’m not going into details here. I have noticed some criticism of Maria Pentcheva‘s vibrato (she is the contralto/mezzo prophetess, Ulrica Arfvidsson) but I can’t say that bothered me at all. What did strike me, however, was an uncanny resemblance to Conal Coad. Unkind, I know.

As is so often the way these days, there is only one interval, between acts II and III.  I’m agin that.

The publicity makes much of the production involving “La Fura dels Baus.” I am not sure what exactly this means. The director and designers work with that company, but I didn’t see any naked or semi-naked Catalonians throwing raw meat around or wielding dildos, as has been that company’s wont and was rather my hope. There was a bit of sexy projected imagery, but even that was more buttocks than the other side.

What it mostly seems to mean is a Festival mark-up on the ticket prices, which I discovered to my cost on Monday when I backed up for two more performances. The run is almost completely booked out (other than in the circle) and must have been so before it opened, so I guess this has been a successful strategy for Opera Australia.

Children’s Court throws another book at Mr Donaghy

January 9, 2013

Mr Donaghy is a sole practitioner in Lismore.

I have written before about magisterial complaints made about him by David Heilpern in David Heilpern throws the book, misses, and throws it again.

That involved an attempt by Magistrate Heilpern to punish Mr Donaghy for his conduct of a matter before the Children’s Court by imposing a personal cost order against him.

Magistrate Susan Duncombe, also sitting in the Children’s Court on the North Coast, has also had a go.

This time the book is Hamlet.

Re “Jim, Hanna and Alana” [2012] NSWChC 15 [2017: access to this decision is now restricted on the internet] involved an abusive and angry man, his battered de facto partner and their (also battered) children. The children had been taken into care and the proceedings involved whether whether (and on what terms) they should be returned to the care of the mother, who had in the meantime repartnered. Mr Donaghy acted for the man, pseudonymised as “Mr Dark.” Mr Dark did not seek return of the children to himself but opposed their return to their mother.

Her Honour allowed herself the following concluding paragraphs:

60 Before turning to the orders that I must make, I have some final comments about the way in which this matter proceeded. Due to the father’s position in respect of the restoration of the children to the mother, there was extensive cross-examination by Mr Donaghy, the representative of the father, of each witness. I note that in submissions Mr Donaghy said four times that this is not about one partner acting out of spite towards a former partner. He said repeatedly that it was about the father’s genuine concerns for the welfare of his children if they were to be returned to the mother. He said that “(t)he focus is on the Director-General’s assessment – not about one parent tearing down another parent. This is about the father’s genuine concerns – his concerns about his daughter rolling around the bed with an unknown male. This is not about tearing down one side”. Later in the submissions he said “This about the Director-General’s assessment. It is not an exercise in tearing one person down against the other – the father is putting this case – the mother has no runs on the board – in relation to the drug use she is still using cannabis in February this year, 8 months after the children were taken”.

61 As Mr Donaghy made these repeated submissions the words of Shakespeare in Hamlet, Act 111, Scene II came to my mind: “The (lady) doth protest too much, methinks”. The fact that this was put in submissions four times, when no-one in submissions had made such an allegation, is indicative in my view of the true motivations of the father. I formed the view that the continuation of these proceedings, and the continued failure to file evidence despite directions to do so on no less than six occasions, was an attempt to continue the power he had over his former partner, the mother of the children. It is fortunate that despite the long history of being overborne by her former partner that the mother has been able, with counselling and other assistance, to begin to distance herself from this power and control. She has come a very long way from the person who was too afraid to seek medical treatment (despite horrendous injuries), too afraid to speak out about criminal activity and her alleged responsibility for it, too afraid to obtain support and counselling and too afraid to leave her partner despite the most horrible abuse. She is to be congratulated and encouraged to continue on the path of recovery in her own interests and of course in the interests of the children.

62 Rather extraordinarily, Mr Donaghy also submitted that “Seriously – if Dr Mellor’s material supported what was in the letter and was put before me in an affidavit – we would not have had a hearing”. That is an incredible submission when the evidence is properly analysed. Dr Mellor’s letter dated 6 January 2011 is included as annexure D of the affidavit of the caseworker filed in October 2011. As I understand it, there is other information provided to Mr Donaghy and his client in the stage 2 documents. The letter from Dr Mellor outlines, briefly, his treatment of the mother on two occasions when she presented with a broken nose to his surgery and on the second occasion, in November 2010, did not follow up treatment (including no follow up for an x-ray and no domestic violence counselling). It is an incredible submission to make in the light of that letter, to somehow suggest that what is in that letter does not speak for itself. If Mr Donaghy’s advice to his client would have been to not contest these proceedings if he had been satisfied that his client had indeed inflicted such injuries on his partner, why was it necessary for Mr Donaghy to wait for the Department to subpoena such records? If that information was so critical then in my view, Mr Donaghy’s obligations to assist this Court in determining the matter expeditiously and without unnecessary adjournments and in a non-adversarial manner, was clear. Had the father ever put on any evidence to suggest that these medical records were in some way erroneous, I am certain that DFaCS would have followed Mr Donaghy’s suggestion that he file an affidavit and/or be called for cross-examination. As it was, the letter remained unchallenged since it was filed in October 2011. Time after time the father was provided with opportunities to put his case to the Court (and to the other parties). Had he once put evidence before the court in which he denied the allegations of domestic violence, perhaps the records of the doctor would have been subpoenaed. As it is, Dr Mellor’s letter stands as unchallenged and credible evidence in support of the mother’s allegations of serious domestic violence perpetrated by her partner upon her prior to the removal of the children.

63 In my view the conduct of these proceedings, since August 2011 when Mr Donaghy has been representing the father, has been delayed unnecessarily by the delays in obtaining instructions, the delays in putting on evidence and the way in which the witnesses were cross-examined in court.

She really took a set against Mr Donaghy and his client, didn’t she?

The perennial concern is the extent to which this involves the advocate being tarred with the same brush as the advocate’s client.

Of course you had to be there, and even then there might be room for more than one interpretation of events.

For example, “Mr Dark” (who chose that name?) was incarcerated in September 2011 which could well have been an impediment to taking instructions and preparing evidence.

Mr Donaghy also had a few other matters on his plate 1, 2 which by their nature don’t necessarily endear him to me.

The opening paragraph of Magistrate Duncombe’s reasons for judgment reveals that her Honour rejected the tender of any evidence at all from Mr Dark.

It is clear that the matter could have been further delayed if evidence of the father, Mr Dark which he sought to file on the first day of the hearing, had been admitted. My reasons for the refusal to admit that evidence are on record. I will not repeat them here.

Given what she is prepared to say about Mr Dark in paragraph 61 without the benefit of any evidence from him, I think those reasons would have borne repetition.