Friday, 31 August 2012

A room with a view

The move to my new apartment has commenced. I tried to post a (jerky) video taken with my iPhone displaying the view but for some reason Blogger is not downloading it so you'll have to make do with this limited view photograph from the lounge room.


Wednesday, 29 August 2012

South Pacific


Opera Australia is presenting The Lincoln Center Theater (USA spelling) production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific.

One of the great Broadway musicals, South Pacific is adapted from James A Michener's 'Tales of the South Pacific' and was first staged in 1949 just four years after the end of World War 2, the events of which provide the background to the musical.

It surprises me that the Lincoln Center production in 2008 was the first ever revival of the musical on Broadway. It is an outstanding musical and its subject matter which covers race and intolerance was both relevant and controversial in the 1940s. I've read that one reason the musical had not been revived earlier was that those themes were no longer seen as 'fashionable' but it seems to me they are as relevant as ever.

In South Pacific, Rodgers and Hammerstein took several separate tales and interwove them into one storyline.

Unlike 21st Century musicals, South Pacific does not rely on high tech staging nor does it survive on just one dubious hit tune repeated ad nauseum. The musical has half a dozen or more wonderful, memorable songs and the staging is deceptively simple. It is terrific how effective the scene changes and settings are achieved with little more than adjustments to wooden slatted blinds.

The staging is full of colour and light.

The Lincoln Center Director, Bartlett Sher, is responsible for this production. The cast as best I can tell is almost entirely local and they are terrific. The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra provides outstanding support.

Every cast member is 'miked' and whilst the amplification ensures every word is clearly heard it is the source of my only criticism of this production. The New Zealand baritone, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, has a powerful, penetrative voice which with amplification hit me over and over like a sonic boom.

Lisa McCluneEddie Perfect and Kate Ceberano are all excellent but it is unfair to focus on the star names as everyone contributes star quality performances.

A wonderful production.

✮✮✮✮✮

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Beatles Unplugged


We went to see/hear The Beatles Unplugged because a friend of my theatre companion is a member of the Sydney Philharmonia Chamber Singers and Band. We were told to look out for the friend who would be wearing a Sgt Pepper outfit and located to the right of the featured singers, Rob Mills and Bobby Fox who starred in Jersey Boys in Australia.

The concert begins with Sitar music and the choir assembling on stage. This is no concert with static choir holding song books, however. The choir was mobile throughout the concert engaging in quite nicely organised choreography. Identifying the friend was tricky though because all thirty-three members of the choir were dressed entirely in black. Not a Sgt Pepper in sight.

The first half of the concert comprised nine Beatles tunes mostly sung low key, delicately. It wasn't a style I was familiar with for Beatles tunes and whilst the singing was undoubtedly of good quality it didn't greatly appeal to me at least not until the last two songs, 'She's Leaving Home' and 'Hello Goodbye' both of which were sung closer to the originals. The other drawback of the first half was that Mills and Fox, both 'miked up', were almost inaudible or at least indistinguishable from the choir.

It wasn't until the second half that the amplification of Mills and Fox was sorted out and I could enjoy their contribution.

The second half was a complete contrast. Everyone, including the band members, changed out of their black clothing and into colourful, almost psychedelic, clothing. Now the Sgt Pepper singer was identifiable. The nine post interval Beatles songs were delivered robustly. I enjoyed this half immensely.

The nine member band performed outstandingly throughout.

The audience, which I suspect was 'peppered' with friends and relatives, gave the concert a rapturous ovation at the conclusion.

✮✮✮

Monday, 27 August 2012

A memory

Boxing Day, 26 December 1958. I was nine years old and I recall the day clearly. My father drove into the city in the morning to the Mayfair Theatre. You could do that sort of thing in those days and actually have somewhere to park and the parking was free. A new film was starting that day for the summer holidays and Dad purchased five tickets. He was taking my mother and me and my grandparents to the movies that afternoon. The 2pm session.

The Mayfair in the 1960s when it screened 'Cleopatra'

The Mayfair has long disappeared but my memory remains.

Having purchased the tickets my father returned us home. We had lunch, picked up my grandparents, drove back into town and we went to the movies.

I remember we sat about two thirds the way down the stalls on the right hand side. The auditorium was packed. The expectation was intense. The film was to be screened in a new format; 70mm. When the lights dimmed the curtain parted to reveal a huge, curved screen, bigger than any we had ever seen before.

There were no pre-movie advertisements nor trailers as we were used to seeing. Instead 'an introduction' to 70mm was screened. The audience ooohed and aaahhed as though we were really doing the stomach churning turns and twists as the camera took the audience on a ride through various locations in the USA. After a couple of minutes we were in a vehicle hurtling down a steep street scene in San Francisco. Suddenly another vehicle appeared on a cross street and we raced headlong into it.

At the very moment of impact, with wondrous and exquisite timing, the opening credits of the main feature appeared. The movie we were all agog to see had commenced. It was 'South Pacific'.


At intermission my father, grandfather and I took a walk around the block. My father asked his father-in-law what he thought of the movie. My grandfather's response was one word, 'outstanding', spoken with a vehemence and a certain inflection that I have never forgotten.

They were different times. It was only thirteen years since the end of World War 2 and all the adults had experienced the war years. The war time setting of the movie's plot was something they all could relate with easily.

The movie, an adaptation of one of Broadway's greatest musicals, was a stunning success. That premiere season we attended was to run for more than five years. Astonishing then and unthinkable for a movie nowadays.

I periodically recall the day and the reason for it coming into my mind this time is that the musical is being staged in Sydney at the moment in a new production as part of Opera Australia's season.

I have attended it this past weekend.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Dream on


The fact that I was sitting down eating a hamburger as I photographed this young man says much for why I don't have a physique like his. That's the lean and fit look I wish I possessed.


Saturday, 25 August 2012

There's Aida and there's Aida

A few weeks back I wrote about attending Opera Australia's Aida. Only a week later the SBS network, coincidentally or malevolently, screened a performance of Aida from La Scala in Milan. The performance dated from around 2008 and was in the presence of Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel.

I watched that screening out of interest as a comparison with the performance I had attended in Sydney. I only intended to watch for a short time not expecting that I could stomach a full repeat so soon but ended up watching it in full.

The comparisons with OA's production were not flattering to us. La Scala clearly has the advantage over Sydney's Opera House in terms of stage space. Its epic production was both crowded and spacious at the same time whereas the Sydney staging was simply crowded with limited free movement possible.

It must be wonderful for the artists to have so much space to work with at La Scala yet at the same time it must give them headaches designing a staging that isn't lost in all that spaciousness.

The La Scala set was stunning. It was massive but it was so, so stylish. Ours looked like Ziegfeld Follies tizziness by comparison.

This afternoon I am attending OA's staging of South Pacific. I suspect that La Scala has never staged a Broadway musical and may never feel the need to do so.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Martin Place, Recital Hall


Early evening in Martin Place. I was walking to the Recital Hall for a concert entitled 'The Beatles Unplugged'. More about that in a later post.


The Recital Hall at interval. Most of the audience had adjourned to the various bars.


The reverse view, from my seat.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Face to Face

(Sydney Theatre Company)

'Face to Face' is a stage play adapted from a film of the same title by Ingmar Bergman.

A female Psychiatrist suffers a sudden and speedy deterioration following a sexual assault. Various people re-enter her life mostly in her subconscious as she is confined to a hospital.

Quite simple staging leaves the focus to the performances which are strong across an ensemble of nine. Kerry Fox is powerful in the role of the Psychiatrist.

☆☆☆

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Sapphires


Adapted from a play I saw a few years back at Belvoir Street Theatre, 'The Sapphires' is inspired by the true story of four young and naive Aboriginal women who formed a soul singing group and entertained US troops in Vietnam in 1968. Given the topic and the times - only a year earlier white Australians had voted 'yes' in a referendum, that changed the wording of the Australian Constitution and effectively counted Aborigines as part of the population for the first time - the subject matter is rich in the history of disadvantage affecting indigenous Australians. Additionally the Vietnam war polarised Australians and to this day is a source of bitter memories for many.

Like the play, the film focusses on the upbeat aspects of the women's experiences. The discrimination they suffered is not ignored - it is represented in some powerful moments - but the film remains primarily in the feel good category.

The four actors, Deborah MailmanJessica MauboyShari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell are all excellent. They receive strong support from Irish actor Chris O'Dowd as their inebriated manager and from a host of terrific performers in the 'minor' roles; 'minor' in terms of screen time not in terms of importance.

I was moved to see images of the four actual women of the story displayed with the end credits.

A delightful film.

☆☆☆☆

Monday, 20 August 2012

Skywriting over Sydney

A skywriter - or maybe more than one - was kept busy writing messages in a gorgeous blue sky over Sydney yesterday.

This was a message being written at around 11.15am;


I don't know what the final wording was.

Later, around 2.30pm this message was being written;


The eventual message read 'Rhonda for PM'. I don't know of any politician named Rhonda, let alone one who aspires to be Prime Minister. Maybe the message had some other meaning?

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Beauty


(South Africa; in Afrikaans and English)

Francois (Deon Lotz) is probably racist and homophobic but he is living a duplicitous life secretly meeting men of similar ilk at a remote farmhouse to engage in sex. Not that they think of themselves as being gay or bisexual. They deride the 'faggots'. A married man with two adult daughters, Francois becomes infatuated with his nephew Christian (Charlie Keegan) when the university law student attends his daughter's wedding and he begins to stalk the younger man across the country.

'Beauty' (original title 'Skoonheid') is a discomforting film with several scenes of homosexual activity including a sexual assault. The film is particularly slow moving with many long static scenes often without dialogue.

The performances are uniformly strong and natural.

Rated R (18+) in Australia.

☆☆☆

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Must treat life more seriously...

Another tid bit from my old school reports. This one from May 1960. I was ten years old.


The class teacher remarks that I 'Must treat life more seriously and concentrate on the job in hand.'

Pity the young artistic or sensitive soul.

Friday, 17 August 2012

The Bourne Legacy


The end credits mention that 'The Bourne Legacy' is based on the Bourne series (of books) by Robert Ludlum. It is the fourth film based on those books. The previous three films featured Matt Damon in the title role as Jason Bourne, a deep undercover CIA operative on the run from his own organisation.

This time around the Bourne character is present by reference but not physically. The main character is another undercover operative, Aaron Cross, who also finds himself on the run, initially in search of needed medication and later in support of a hunted scientist.

So, whilst the operative has changed the general premise remains the same. Something portentous and ominous is happening in the world of counter intelligence causing a good guy operative to be chased around the world, preferably in the most scenic of locations.

Aaron Cross is played by Jeremy Renner who is a capable actor. Renner matches Damon's Bourne for action but he lacks that indefinable charismatic attraction that made Damon so popular. In the three previous films I would have been disappointed if Bourne had lost out in the long run but in this latest film I watched Aaron Cross' adventures as a neutral observer not disliking the character but not invested in the need to see him survive.

The first half of 'The Bourne Legacy' is full of counter intelligence and scientific mumbo jumbo that sounds very important but is mostly incomprehensible. The second half has the obligatory frenetic chase in an exotic location. This time the location is Manila in the Philippines. The chase, mostly on motor cycles, is suitably dexterous and dangerous. It also is absurd.

The film is aimed at action lovers and on that level it is slick and satisfactory.

☆☆☆

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

'A little less exhibitionism...'

Further re-discoveries from the decluttering process...

A school report in December 1960 when I was all of eleven years old contained this concluding remark from the Headmaster;


'A little less exhibitionism and more effort would be worthwhile.'

I started young!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The way we were

The 'decluttering' process has commenced ahead of my move. A lot of dust has been disturbed and long forgotten photographs discovered.

Here am I in 2nd Class in 1956. I was seven.


Saturday, 11 August 2012

Just do it

James Connor, Australia, in diving practice
(www.london2012.com)

Just because I like it.

Magic Mike


Channing Tatum makes avant garde furniture and is struggling to establish himself in business. He is raising money to achieve his goals working as a roof tiler by day and in the evenings as a stripper come dancer come spruiker in a male revue. Tatum's nighttime boss nicknames him 'Magic Mike' for his ability to attract the ladies and resolve problems. However the one problem Tatum can't seem to resolve is how to get himself into his preferred career.

A young drifter attaches himself to Tatum and against his initial judgement Tatum draws the drifter into the world of the revue.

'Magic Mike' is reminiscent of 'Boogie Nights' both in its subject matter of young men in the adult entertainment industry and in its photographic style.

Tatum is no great shakes as an actor but has a certain quiet appeal being himself. Matthew McConaughey plays the boss and his sleazy rather unattractive manner suits the character but that doesn't make him very likeable.

English actor Alex Pettyfer plays the drifter.

Even with its occasional nudity I didn't really take to 'Magic Mike' and I found myself nodding off at times.

Best suited for those who want to see male arses and intentionally cheesy dance routines.

☆☆

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Cosmopolis


In 'Cosmopolis' a youthful multi millionaire, Robert Pattinson, spends the day in a stretch limousine being driven slowly across town in search of a haircut. He engages in the sort of stuff any millionaire might whilst in that limousine from having sex to being anally probed for a prostate check by his GP to urinating into a concealable stainless steel pan.

The film's purpose is to be a commentary on Western capitalism, a legitimate topic for film.

If your taste in dialogue extends to lines like
'my prostate is asymmetrical' or
'the fungus living between my toes speaks to me'
then this may be a film for you.

I found it pretentious and supremely boring.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Ranger George

Council Ranger George has deduced, reasonably, that a car near my home which is minus its number plates, is stacked with boxes inside, is in a decaying condition and has not moved from its parked spot in weeks is abandoned.


But Ranger George himself might require impounding. The three days grace he gave the owner to remove 'the article' passed by three weeks ago.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Bridge

Last night, 50.90%, 5/11, surprising considering we had four complete bottom boards and only one top.

Monday, 6 August 2012

At the house

It was a sunny cloudless winter's day on Saturday when I was at the Sydney Opera House. The precinct was packed with drinkers, diners and visitors at the conclusion of the opera around 4.15pm.

First intermission in the bar overlooking the harbour


A packed Opera Bar below, crowds on the concourse above

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Lucky country


I am occasionally reminded that despite our many complaints we in Australia live in a lucky country. As distant as we are from many of the world's hot spots we don't escape entirely the high security measures so prevalent in these days of terrorism fears. But there are exceptions.

Yesterday I attended the matinee performance of Australian Opera's production of 'Aida'. Also in the audience was the popular New South Wales' Governor, Professor Marie Bashir. She appeared to be accompanied by two family members but there was not a security officer nor a uniformed and braided Aide de Camp in sight.

The rows in the Sydney Opera House are fifty or so seats wide and Professor Bashir's seat was bang in the middle of one of them. Just like any other patron, Professor Bashir made her way past dozens of other audience members at every production break cheerfully acknowledging each as she passed by.

I liked that we weren't made to engage in a vice regal rendition of 'God Save The Queen' as happened once when I attended a staging of Swan Lake in the presence of a previous Governor-General.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Aida

(Australian Opera)

Giuseppe Verdi's 'Aida'. Amneris, Pharoah's daughter, is in love with Radames, an Egyptian army captain, himself secretly in love with Amneris' handmaiden, Aida, an Ethiopian slave. This menage a trois is unlikely to end well especially as Egypt and Ethiopia are about to go to war with each other. For that matter, Italian Grand Opera rarely ends well for its main characters.

In a sense this production didn't begin well for me. The Director is Graeme Murphy and his interpretation had my imagination running at a tangent from the start. At the opening five Egyptian Gods - human bodies with bird-like heads - glide across the stage on a moving pathway. Their posture and hand movements no doubt are intended to echo ancient hieroglyphics but my first thought was of signalling traffic police. Radames enters the stage guided by the 'traffic police' and is greeted by a huge slightly curved sword descending from on high and hovering just out of his reach. The gentle yet firm upward curve of the sword made me think immediately of a giant erect penis. Don't worry, its me not you.

Every time that damn erect object returned I had the same thought. Later the penis...I mean, sword...hovers near the pyramid as though waiting to be fellated. Then in the triumphal march scene Radames eventually appears with his erect penis...er, sword...in hand.

Enough of my demented thoughts, though, as this is a fine presentation of the opera. Radames is sung by Rosario La Spina and his Aida by Latonia Moore. I don't have Marcellous' knowledge of musicianship or voice but in my opinion La Spina and Moore perform admirably. They are well matched with their strong classically Italian sounding voices. They are also a match physically which is a bit of a pity because to maintain the illusion of romantic lovers they are best viewed through closed eyes. The sound, though, is superb. Amneris is sung by Milijana Nikolic whose deeper (mezzo soprano?) voice is less appealing to me but that is just a personal preference.

Murphy's production edges near 1940s MGM musical overkill at times but also has its moments of restraint perhaps best exemplified in the opening scene of Act 3 which is mostly low key and beautiful, that is, once the topless female dancer swimming in the front-of-stage pool has departed the scene.

I have penalised the production one star for the traffic police and giant penis.

☆☆☆☆

Friday, 3 August 2012

Tower

I went into Sydney's Central Business District early yesterday morning to sign papers for my property purchase. It was pretty cold by Sydney's standards, just 7°c which is about as cool as it gets in the coastal section of the city.

As usual I was a bit early and took time to explore Angel Place which was completely in shadow and looking back through the darkened lane I had wandered down I caught sight of the AWA Tower in the wintery sunlight. The tower once was amongst the city's tallest structures but now is a charming curiosity.

The AWA Tower yesterday morning;

Thursday, 2 August 2012