Thursday, 19 July 2018

Motimaru's MUT at the Old 505


Tiziana Longo in MUTMotimaru’s MUT is the second work the company has brought to Sydney – last week I reviewed their TWILIGHTMotimaru is a dance company founded in Tokyo by Motoya Kondo and Tiziana Longo, based in Berlin since 2010, who have taught and performed internationally. Their background is in performing arts, modern dance, martial arts, and Butoh.  Motimaru define dance as a way to experience deeper reality of our existence and are experimenting to create a new authentic dance method beyond any genre. This new work, MUT, is a solo work, choreographed and performed by Tiziana Longo.  
Some would regard it as intense, dark, claustrophobic and possibly terrifying. According to the publicity about the work it is a response to the endless daily news reports of disaster – bombings, terrorist attacks, catastrophes etc in what seems to be almost information and emotional reaction overload. We are used to reading the newspaper and then discarding it – but if the newspaper came alive, what would it be like? The title MUT means Mother/courage/mutilated/mutual/multiracial and references the ancient Egyptian Mother Goddess – and/or perhaps Mother Earth?
It is a solo representing and including stories from many women of different countries and cultures that have come to be taken as icons and represent the contradicting faces of our society. MUT is also about information from the media, and how it can be manipulated and the ceaseless attempt to discover the underlying truth behind various stories. It is also a caustic comment on the oppression of women and the way women are treated as well as the way the female body is viewed and un/covered.
Hidemi Nishida’s set – of newspaper pages and sticky tape – claustrophobically dominates the space .Some of it is cloudlike and gently breathing up above and there are two large piles of newspaper (at times the sticky tape used to keep the pages together shines like plastic) on the floor when we, the audience, enter.
Drip, drip , rustle rustle …. Hoshiko Yamane’s soundscape is relentless and driven, silences punctuated by throbbing, pulsating music and it also includes voice overs, clock chimes telephone rings.
Longo ,when she eventually emerges as the soul of the newspaper, is dressed all in black – a heavily veiled burqua with a wonderful rose shaped hat over it and white face makeup.(Costume by Jean Beissel). It is rather ominous and threatening, rather like a chilling Victorian ghost (think The Woman in Black). Or is she all oppressed women? or a grief figure? Or a chrysalis to undergo more transformation?
Moments of stillness and silence are contrasted with fragile, slow movements , despairing walks, or, at other times, frantic runs and attacking of the surface of the set. Long straight arms are menacingly pointed at the audience, and at other times, there is a switch and polite interaction with the audience. At one point her black gloves are removed to reveal red ones and a dramatic fist is challengingly raised.
Eventually Longo takes the burqua off . We first glimpse the red skirt but she finally uncovers an elegant red dress with long sleeves. (The Scarlet Woman? Or red for blood and sacrifice?) and in one section Longo pulls and stretches her hair as if painting with it. At one point Longo jolts as if stabbed in the abdomen and there is a segment using symbolic red string.
A scurrying, and Longo wraps herself in the second large pile of paper which is ultimately removed to reveal Longo almost nude but covered in swirling curls of hair stuck to her in patterns like veins on the body. Here the choreography becomes angular and almost robotic. The dripping sound returns, Longo huddles back in the paper covering and then furiously removes the attached hair, ripping it off as if the strands were spiderwebs .
An intense thought provoking contemplation on the position of women in society human rights and the constant bombardment of news in an analysis of inner human nature.
Motimaru‘s MUT [Facebook] runs at the Old 505 Theatre, Newtown  [Facebook] . Jun 6 – 10, 2018
Direction , concept , choreography and performance: Tiziana Longo
Music: Hoshiko Yamane
Lighting: Masaru Soga
Costumes: Jean Bessel

Nature's Whimsy - Danielle McManus at Traffic Jam Galleries


A most charming and delightful exhibition has just opened at Traffic Jam Galleries. Danielle McManus’ current exhibition is called NATURE’S WHIMSY. McManus is a member of the ‘stable’ of artists who regularly exhibit at Traffic Jam Galleries . This exhibition showcases her trademark style ,with the huge eyes of the human figures and incredible detail in depicting the flora and fauna in the various works , which include both paintings and a major selection of charcoal drawings.
McManus’ work blends oils,charcoal, acrylics , pastels and washi papers.There is much use of her trademark inclusion of native flowers , small animals and birds against a pastoral background.
A major part of the exhibition is The Lost Children pair of charcoal drawings inspired by the story of Jane Duff, who in 1864 at the age of seven, with her siblings, became lost in the bush in 1864 for nine days . It is an incredible tale of survival – eventually they were found with the help of an Aboriginal tracker, Woororal. The bush is presented as the strong vertical line of the trees and their branches. Mostly the atmosphere is rather dreamlike as the children become lost .In one part pf the pair there is soft subtle colouring of the extremely detailed birds and flowers , while most of the work is grey, in the other one we see Jane crying and the red of her hair ribbon flashes while a numbat observes on the forest floor softly carpeted with flowers.
Possibly a companion piece to The Lost Children , but a coloured acrylic painting rather than charcoal drawing , Babes in The Woodshas a rather ominous atmosphere and depicts two girls lost at sunset snuggling together for support and comfort . A few daisies are visible and a red parrot ,also a couple of moths or butterflies ) .
Symphony in the Wild depicts a barefoot young Mozart at the piano with possums, parrots , waratah , cockatoos , galahs etc all joyously celebrating his music.  A companion piece is Marie Antoinette , in white with a huge white wig with waratahs and other flowers in her hair and a parrot perched on her shoulder.  Both look directly at the viewer, the queen looking somewhat troubled with her beseeching huge eyes.
Tiger Girl is a very strong charcoal drawing with a wonderful s-shaped composition, the girl , staring challengingly at the viewer , stroking a lethal Tasmanian Tiger.
Wattle Girl is a charming tightly cropped portrait of a young girl wearing a wattle headdress and looking like a Romantic ballerina ( from Giselle or La Sylphide perhaps ?) with huge eyes.
The Visitor is a small , incredibly detailed painting of a bee flying to a bunch of daises .Wren on a Waratah is another incredibly detailed painting of a blue wren perched on a huge red waratah , both vividly depicted . The darting bird is just about to take flight again.
Delicate is a fragile atmospheric painting with a strong mostly diagonal composition of dandelions being blown in the wind.
Her Sunbird is a charming painting of a young princess with short Pre-Rapahelite inspired hair (or is she a birthday girl ? ) Tiny flowers adorn her crown and there are two huge waratahs included as well as the blue and yellow sunbird perched on her wrist.
In Doe Eyed we see a young girl with antlers on her head , channeling her inner deer while Fierce depicts a young girl with a large black cockatoo on her shoulder – the glorious patterns of its feathers that look like stars are marvellously shown.
A most engaging exhibition.
NATURE’S WHIMSY  by Danielle McManus is at Traffic Jam Galleries [Facebook] 6-24 June 2018

Willoughby Symphony : Remembrance


Maestro Luke Spicer
REMEMBRANCE, a most luxurious concert based on the theme of mourning and remembrance , marking the centenary of the end of World War 1 . Under the energetic , dynamic and precise leadership of Maestro Luke Spicer the Willoughby Symphony gave an impassioned performance.
From the funerals of presidents and princesses, to the inclusion in film and dance works , the concert began with Samuel Barber’siconic Adagio for Strings – here performed at a very slow tempo in a hushed, rich tone. With the pacing and timing you could almost hear the pauses for the tears cascading. It built in momentum to a shimmering , haunting conclusion .
Noel Cislowski , Deputy Chair of the WSO Advisory Committee introduced the next work , Composer-in-Residence Nigel Westlake’s The Glass Soldier : an orchestral suite in five movements , based on Don Farrands book about ANZAC Nelson Ferguson ( copies of the book were available before and after the concert). The work is one of the largest privately commissioned orchestral works in Australia ( it was commissioned by Ferguson’s grandson) .
In five movements, the work was originally written for Hannie Rayson’s 2007 play about Ferguson , also called The Glass Soldier, revealing an epic love story, steeped in tragedy , pathos, drama,  and the triumph against adversity. Throughout , the trumpet ( played by special guest soloist Sophie Spencer ) represents the spirit of the ANZACS.
The richly textured work opens with a blare of horns then lyrical, flowing strings which develop into the full orchestra being strident , loud and crashing  ( trench warfare ?) drums xylophone and triangle are busily played by the energetic percussion team. This is followed by ominous woodwind and buzzing strings in an insistent driven melody ( the strings also use pizzicato) There is a nightmarish whirling feel with sharp choppy rhythms and the drums like cannon fire leading to pulsating hovering strings after all the major explosions.
Fluid, flowing yet aching, lamenting strings follow in the next movement. The following movement is rather pensive and reflective with sudden sharp staccato rhythms and strident, emphatic brass. The final movement features delicate strings at the beginning leading to crashing drums and humming strings all leading to an exuberant, joyous finish.
After interval Noel Cislowski , Councillor Hugh Eriksson and Julie Simonds from Fine Music  presented the Winner of the Fine Music 102.5/Willoughby Symphony Orchestra Award to Daniel Dean ( who plays Double Bass in the Orchestra  by the way) . Deans’ work is entitled Quadrivial Concertino .  In the work you can hear jazz and late nineteenth/early twentieth century Russian composer influences .
The brief for this year’s award was a work specifically for solo oboe and strings. The special guest soloist on oboe was Callum Hogan. Deans’ work is lush and Romantic in style for the strings  , while the jaunty oboe bubbles emphatically.( Hogan has a very demanding, charismatic solo ). Another section is more reflective and sombre in mood but this leads to another teasing, taunting oboe solo and a wild whirling circular dance with the Orchestra.
Robert Schumann’s ‘Rhenish’ Symphony (Symphony no. 3 op 97) brought the concert to a dramatic end. It was in five short movements .The opening was blistering and explosive with sudden gambolling horns and galloping strings. The second movement was more flowing and amiable in mood with the melody taken passed around and embroidered by the various sections of the Orchestra.  The main theme was repeated , stridently developed but it all lead to a very quiet conclusion .
A stately opening of the next movement followed , a gentle intermezzo, chased by darting strings – this section had an operatic influence and was waltz like. A crashing opening began the next movement – but you could feel the heavy slow flowing of the river .There were ominous undertones throughout especially with the brass  section.  This was followed by lush , scurrying strings all leading to the dramatic finale of the vigorous , concluding coda.
A most stirring and eloquent concert .
Willoughby Symphony  [Facebook] in their REMEMBRANCEconcert was at the Concourse  [Facebook] 16 and 17 June 2018.

Live at Lunch : The Great Romantics


THE GREAT ROMANTICS was a most delicious concert . This was the latest in the Live at Lunch series as directed and performed by internationally renowned flautist Jane Rutter and two of her friends Simon Tedeschi ( piano )  and Roger Benedict ( viola) .
Rutter wore a long glamourous red dress and was draped with a feather boa. All three took turns in introducing the various works . Most of the works were by  early great Romantic composers ( Schuman ,Schubert and Brahms) . Several of the works are familiar as song cycles here arranged for the trio.
The first work was the first movement of Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata ( arranged for viola and piano ) with a wistful piano opening and a melancholy viola that became a whirling waltzlike dialogue for the two . The music ebbed and flowed with thunderous angry comments by the piano, but this changed and became fragile and delicate with fluttering piano . The came a yearning viola mini solo and pulsating piano.
We next heard Three Romances for flute and piano by Schumannwritten as a Christmas present for his wife Clara in 1849 .The first featured sparkling bubbling piano while the flute embroidered over the melody – this developed into a languid discussion . The second was more fluid and reflective yet the piano was dynamically bubbling – this leads to a thoughtful joint discussion with delicate flute. The third Romance, perhaps reminiscent of Brahms, had a lilting repeated melody – again the flute led and there was a mini piano solo .
Hahn’s Romanesque , the title alluding to an Italian folk dance popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries , for flute, viola and piano was luscious and lilting with shimmering piano and sobbing viola followed.
Then came an arrangement of songs for viola and piano from Schubert’Die Winterreise ( based on his leider cycle of unrequited love and storms) .  It was an intense partnership between the two and  there was passionate sadness . The intensity and emotional inflections of the poetry are developed to express the lover’s sorrow and anguish. We could feel the storms and ice . At one point the piano was in a lighter mood but then angry again you could feel the snowflakes  falling . The viola was melancholy throughout and in the final piece led by the piano you could hear the trudge of the rejected lover walking on the ice.
Next we heard Sonatansatz for viola and piano by Brahms and Schumann’s Intermezzo for viola and piano – full of vital rhythms and richly sonorous phrases –  emphatic , dramatic and tumultuous with fiery , whirling piano .
The last listed piece was Schubert’s An die Musik as arranged for the trio , luscious and elegant in the French style with pulsating piano and a delicate flute in a delicious dialogue with the viola .  
For an encore we heard an unusual , striking version of Gershwin’s ‘ Summertime’ for flute , piano and violin , Rutter on flute having the main melody line.
There was much appreciative applause and then we had to leave for lunch , buying CDs on the way .
 Live at Lunch:  THE GREAT ROMANTICS was at The ConcourseChatswood [Facebook] , Jun 18 2018.

La Scala Ballet in Le Corsaire


For I am a Pirate King! 
Hurrah for our Pirate King! 
And it is, it is a glorious thing
To be a Pirate King. 
Sorry , but I just had to start with the above from Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance. Conrad our hero is a pirate and at times you could just imagine him and his band of followers singing this .
This is La Scala’s first staging of LE CORSAIR since the 19th century, where Giovanni Galzerani’s production was presented on the Piermarini stage in 1826, and Domenico Ronzani’s in 1857. Based on ‘The Corsair‘ by Lord Byron, the narrative follows a dashingly handsome pirate, Conrad (Timofej Andrijashenko), as he journeys across the high seas to save his love, the beautiful harem slave Medora (Nicoletta Manni).The work is packed with passion, action and romance. The antiquated ballet LE CORSAIR has an absolutely ridiculous plot but is a fabulous example of nineteenth century Russian ballet glitz and glamour, an excuse to showcase bravura spectacular dancing , and the dancing in this production is absolutely incredible , totally jaw dropping at times .
The work is exactly what Fokine was ranting against over a hundred years ago with the corps de ballet in ‘correct’ harem/pirate/slave girl /market seller /whatever costumes but the ballerinas in particular have several costumes changes and wear extremely ornate tutus (especially for the Le Jardin Anime scene in the third act) But that is Russian 19th Century ballet for you.
The Orchestra under the very energetic yet precise baton of Maestro Patrick Fournillier was in fine, boisterous form with a luxurious, rich tone.
Acclaimed Canadian Anna –  Marie Holmes’ choreography based on Petipa and Sergeyev features notable similarities to the three big Tchaikovsky ballets (Swan Lake ,The Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker) in both the grand pas de deux and the ‘blocking ‘of the corps de ballet work , with its intricate patterns and formations ( especially for example in the Le Jardin Anime section heavily referencing the Garland Waltz from The Sleeping Beauty) which are at times rigidly controlled and precise.
There are also references to La Bayadere and Spartacus. Holmes’ choreography also requires many high ‘Bolshoi’ style lifts in the various pas de deux. It is all about the presentation of the ballerina .There is quite a bit of mime , some swordfighting, and there is much Victorian pantomime betrayal , as well as a Keystone Cops like chase and twists in the plot.
Spinatelli’s set designs are marvellous – turquoise for the Pasha’s palace and the Pirate lair has some marvellously textured rocky cliffs etc.There is most effective use of tromp l’oeil perspective especially for the Le Jardin Anime scene .The denouement with the dramatic shipwreck is very well staged.   
The leading dancers in particular displayed some fabulous dancing, the men with their huge pantherine jumps and dazzling pirouettes, the women their strong, steely footwork, elegant line , beautiful epaulement and scintillating command. Our hero, the pirate Conrad, is amazingly danced by Timofej Andrijashenko.He is tall and blonde in the style of Peter Martins or David Hallberg and dazzles with his jetes and grande pirouettes for example as well as being a tremendous partner.
Nicoletta Manni as Medora was generally in blue, Martina Arduinoas Gulnare, was usually in pink.Marko Agostino as Lankendam the villainous slave trader was devilishly impressive in red trousers. Bearded , dark Antonio Sutera was excellent as the treacherous Birbanto and Mattia Semperboni as Ali was stirringly impressive .The Pasha (Alessandro Grillo) is portrayed as a leonine ,leering lecherous fool. With its huge cast it can be a bit confusing at times even with the main leads.
What is interesting is that here the famous pas de deux – probably forever to be associated with Fonteyn and Nureyev – is here presented as a semi pas de trois, so in some ways possibly referencing the ‘original ‘ White Act pas de deux from Swan Lakewith Benno , Prince Seigfried and Odette . It featured thrilling dancing from Manni , Andrijashenko and Semperboni who handled the scintillating solos and spectacular leaps and lifts magnificently.
If you want to see exceptional , thrilling dancing in a traditional 19thcentury ballet this is for you .
The La Scala Ballet’s production of LE CORSAIR screens at selected cinemas 22-27 June 2018.

The Spooky Men's Chorale

Much fun


The Spooky Men’s Chorale joyously took over the theatre at the Concourse at Chatswood for one night only, June 30 2018 in a stellar performance . It was their debut performance at this particular venue.
Sixteen men in assorted black outfits with hair and hats invaded the Concourse to provide an awesome performance of mansinging that had the audience dancing in the aisles. Musically this was sensational, ranging from church like Georgian music to a Sufi inspired Bee Gees tribute and everything in between .
The performance also included audience participation – finger snapping , stamping and turning on the spot , clapping and so on – as well.
Based in the Blue Mountains and inspired by the great Georgian male choirs, The Spooky Men were formed in 2001 by impresario Stephen Taberner and they have single-handedly redefined men’s singing in the process. Vaudevillian nonsense, ballads and Georgian church songs are among the styles included combined to create an enthralling combination of joyous silliness and exquisite beauty to comment on the unsolvable paradoxes of being a man in this day and age .Their performances are sly, humorous, deadpan and include the unexpected and perhaps a trifle absurd. One needs to pay close attention to the witty, incisive lyrics.
Self described as a “vast, rumbling, steam-powered and black-clad behemoth” “The Spookies “ as they are affectionately known have been gleefully deconstructing and reworking the world of men’s singing since 2001.  They now have at least 5 albums to their name and several international tours under their belts.
Directed and conducted by their poised, dynamic ringleader and founder Spookmeister Stephen Taberner, their singing was awesomely accomplished and inspired. It growled, it bubbled, it tumbled, it  roared, it soared. There was also some tight, precise group choreography at times. Mostly the men – of all ages, shapes, sizes , various hats of all kinds from bowlers to French artiste berets and (some non) beards, stood in a semi circle but for a couple of songs they stood in a line across the stage or huddled in a group. There was some very complicated rhythms and counterpoint in some of the songs, especially some of the folk songs .
In no particular order we heard the following :
  • The Man in the 17th Row was a witty, sarcastic comment on audience reactions.
  • We are not a men’s group is a stirring , delightful anthem .
  • There was some very complicated rhythms and counterpoint in some of the songs , especially some of the folk songs ( for example in Tschenesnouri ) .
  • What’s Gonna Happen Now ? with its witty lyrics ranged from showbizzy to barbershop in style.
  • Deep was much fun with its bubbling sharp staccato rhythms.  Warm by contrast is a poignant,lyrical love song .
  • Jim was an envious song in praise of Jim with its witty , fresh lyrics – how does he do it ?
  • Waiting For Our Things is a song about ‘baggage’ as a metaphor for climate change that at times was soft and thoughtful at others changed to a rumbling roar .
  • Boogie Wonderland which took us to interval had us up and stamping around – the audience loved it.
The second half began , appropriately enough, with Welcome to the Second Half with thrilling complicated alternative rhythms .  There was a hilarious allusion to football and other club songs (The Universal Club Song) that was jaunty and bouncy with mad stylized actions and had the audience roaring.  
A couple of witty songs were about body parts and were rather risqué (or could be ) – Foot ( giving thanks for the foot and its service, actually rather hymn like) and  the pulsating , quirky Eyebrow .  There was the sad, very moving and lyrical Tom Waites song Picture in a Frame  and a Joni Mitchell cover The Fiddle and the Drum , about war and peace.
Also included was the song based on lyrics by Lord Alfred Tennyson Crossing the Bar – quiet and reflective with glorious lush and very moving harmonies.  Another highlight of the second act was Ba’hari Ghibb, a Sufi version of the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive.  The audience roared its applause. For an encore we heard a medley entitled Let’s Dance which included David Bowie’s Changes and had us dancing .
A stirring , captivating, somewhat wild evening .
The Spooky Men’s Chorale [Facebook]were at The Concourse [Facebook]for one night only June 30 2018