Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Behind the Scenes of Graeme Murphy's Swan Lake the intent eye of Steven Heathcote the Australian Ballet took us behind the scenes of this famous production. The curtain rose and Heathcote loomed out of the darkness and introduced himself. For many years a much loved principal dancer with the Company, he is now a ballet master. Casually dressed in tshirt and trousers, Heathcote explained the daily hard grind of class, rehearsal and performance that make up a dancer’s life. The fluorescent worklights were on and the barres had already been shifted but it must have been a bit awkward for the dancers as the large circular ‘pond’ from the production was left in place and took up quite a bit of space. What we were privileged to see was the second half of the class , ‘centrework ‘. Maestro Stuart Macklin was hidden up the back on the piano. This time for the ladies soft floaty floral skirts were very popular and some of the men sported jazzy headbands. Otherwise it was a very mixed bag of colours and individual styles. Stripleg warmers were sometimes included! What we saw began with tendu:-stretching the feet, checking balance and that everyone was warmed up properly enough to continue. The ladies had already all changed into their pointe shoes. Heathcote demonstrated and gave the combinations for the various enchainment and often repeated them and there was often busy ‘marking ‘by the dancers with their hands before starting . (For one enchainement Heathcote appeared a little muddled and gave several conflicting versions, correcting himself with much laughter). Fondus and turns practice followed, leading to echappe, glissade,assemble… Heathcote gave some general corrections at various points (for example- about holding the back correctly, using the shoulder a particular way). Individual personal corrections if necessary were quietly given in an aside. Sometimes the class split into several groups so that there was just enough space, culminating in fouettes practice for the ladies and showy jumps and turns for the men. The class concluded with small jumps to work the feet. Interestingly there was no cool down section as such, no ‘reverence’ or even applause from the dancers to mark the end of class but rather we went straight into a ‘ rehearsal’ – or rather a short masterclass with Lana Jones and Andrew Killian , principal dancers , and Heathcote. The masterclass featured intense discussion regarding the shapes, fluidity, physical accessibility, and various tricks of the trade (such as particular weight transfers or use of the arms) for the ‘white’ swan pas de deux from Murphy’s SWAN LAKE. Duncan Salter accompanied on piano for this. It was fascinating to watch. I was also keeping my eye on two other couples who were discreetly running through other pas de deux from the ballet up the back. All too soon the house lights rose, the curtain descended, and we had to leave and return to our humdrum lives. The Australian Ballet in Behind the Scenes Of Graeme Murphy’s ‘Swan Lake’ at the Capitol went for one hour and was a one-off event that took place on Thursday 26th February. The Company’s actual production, which is touring regionally, had two performances at the Capitol Theatre on Saturday 28th February. There will be a similar behind the scenes program that will take place in April at the Sydney Opera House for their upcoming production of Giselle. For more information, visit the Australian Ballet’s official website-

Resonance concert- Love of A Poet

Another Pitt St wonderful concert The latest in the excellent series of Resonance concerts at Pitt St was THE LOVE OF A POET featuring baritone Alexander Knight and Chris Cartner on piano in a thrilling concert, eloquently played. If you like Schumann and the German Romantics this concert was for you. It certainly helped that the acoustics in this inner city Uniting Church were warm and flattering. There were no programmes or surtitles per se, the audience sat ‘in the round’ in the church’s configuration and a screen was used which featured English translations and beautiful landscapes as illustrations. Each piece in the concert was introduced by one of the two gentlemen. Knight was in glorious voice, at times lyrical and moving, at other times powerful and punchy. First up was Robert Schumann’s Traumerei (from his Kinderszenen) which was both haunting and lyrical and given a fragile, delicate playing by Cartner. In der Fremde followed with a forest landscape. Cartner accompanying on piano with passionate rippling overtones. Widmung was next with its prominent central section in E. A love song , it was given a heart felt, passionate and yearning performance . Romance in F#, op.28 no. 2 then followed, a magical whirling, flowing performance by Cartner. It was exquisite and full of melancholy and featured a repetition of various musical themes. The second half consisted of Dicherliebe (“The love of a poet”) sixteen songs of various moods and themes. Some pieces were as short as thirty seconds, yet all came together to paint an an extraordinary picture /portrait of ‘the love of a poet’. The cycle was inspired by dreams, fairy-tales and the natural world Some were extremely Romantic, other pieces were passionate, proud and defiant. Some looked at nature the Rhine river (you could hear its flowing), some at helpless, passionate love. For some of the pieces Cartner’s playing was fast and furious, dashing and breathless, for others it was slower and more lyrical. Knight’s singing was glorious throughout. The Dicherliebe sequence was a glorious way to conclude this very special concert. Running time- one hour without interval. LOVE OF A POET was performed one time only, on the 1st April , at the Pitt Street Uniting Church, previously having played venues at Lavender Bay and Annandale. For more about Resonance, visit Share this:4Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)4Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)

Resonance concert - David Saffir

A great concert at Pitt St The first of this year’s Resonance concerts at Pitt St Uniting Church was splendid. As is the usual way, the concert was coordinated and introduced by Chris Cartner on piano and this time the special guest artist was David Saffir on violin. The concert was just glorious. We were treated to two of the most celebrated piano/violin sonatas in the classical repertoire. The first sonata by Brahms (1879) is regarded as one of the most lyrical and heart-warming works by the German master. It is a three-movement work containing references in the first and last movements to two of Brahms’s earlier pieces inspired by rain .This was paired with the majestic , luscious and extremely dramatic sonata by French composer Cesar Franck (1886). Both performers wore standard orchestral concert black and white. There was a very appreciative and responsive audience and the acoustics at the church provided a wonderful, warm tone. The first movement of the Brahms was replete with lyrical, eloquent playing. Cartner on piano rippled while Saffir on violin soared and pleaded and there was striking use of pizzicatto. Suddenly there was a fiery outburst from both instruments, then a return to relative calmness. The rest of the movement was more repetition of the main theme and contained explosive flurries, looping back to a melancholy waltz–like theme. The second movement, passionately played, was warm, powerful and haunting. The rhythm of the rain motif appearing in the middle of this movement was adapted to a sombre funeral march. The third movement continued the dialogue between the two instruments with lavish, lush playing .The haunting, delicate, rippling ending was magnificent. The second half of the programme consisted of the Cesar Franck sonata with dazzling, lyrical playing by both performers. All the movements shared common thematic threads and the work was cyclical in structure. In the first movement the main melody is stated and repeated on the violin, the piano is linked to it in a parallel, linked world. Cartner’s playing of this notoriously fiendishly difficult, yet exquisite , work was superb, emphatic and precise.Suddenly there are crashing chords and all becomes wild and whirling in a tempestuous frenzy. The violin and piano intertwine, eventually becoming sadder and far more thoughtful. Both state the melody and then there is a dance like section that brings us to the dramatic, dynamic conclusion. In the second movement the violin liltingly sobs and vibrates passionately while the piano delicately ripples its accompaniment –a fabulous Romantic passage. In the final, third movement Saffir on violin passionately stated and explored the melody, then there was an exhilarating, speedy dialogue between violin and piano. Suddenly passionate swirls erupted, there were furious flurries on both instruments and we leaped up at the breathless end. For an encore we had a delightful fast and spiky Brahms scherzo Running time – roughly an hour 10 mins ( approx) no interval David Saffir and Chris Cartner were at Christ Church Lavender Bay Friday 27 Feb , Hunter Bailie Church Annandale Sunday 1 March and then Pitt St Uniting Friday 6 March . For more information about David Saffir and Chris Cartner at Pitt St Uniting Church, visit

Australian Ballet in The Dream m An alternative title for this programme might be ‘Three Ashton Masterpieces’. Here were three landmark works by the great British choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton including the Australian Ballet premiere of ‘ Symphonic Variations’. First on the bill was the elegant, sculptural and, at times, very demanding ‘Monotones 11’ for a trio of dancers in very revealing long sleeved white unitards and bejewelled caps. It was full of Ashton’s trademark line, shimmering simplicity and refined abstraction, – distilled cool, pure movement. Satie’s languid yet passionate music pulses and ripples – are the dancers alien beings ? snow? feathers ? They float through the music in Ashton’s acrobatic , at times very difficult ,choreography. At times I caught allusions to his ‘Les Patineurs’ and also possibly Balanchine. The spirit of Dame Margot Fonteyn haunted ‘Symphonic Variations’ , a poem in movement for six dancers who never leave the stage. Franck’s lush music billows and floats and was brilliantly played by the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra under the dynamic baton of Nicollete Fraillon. Choreographically there are interlocking sculptural poses, razor sharp elongated arms, powerful moments of controlled stillness and sudden explosively powerful jumps. Again ,there were hints of Ashton’s ‘Les Patineurs’ . The minimalist yellowy-grey set with wavy lines by Sophie Fedorovitch was stark and simple as were the costumes, – white Grecian style tunics for the women. The men were also in white. The six dancers I saw were technically superb The choreography at times, perhaps, now appears a little dated and definitely ‘of its time’. Brett Chynoweth delivered an amazing challenging solo full of jumps and petit batterie. This is still a landmark, fascinating piece. The great crowd pleaser after interval was THE DREAM , Ashton’s lavish distillation of Shakespeare’s play, focused on Oberon and Titania. The piece is set in the early Victorian era to the glorious Mendelssohn music and choreographically there are hints of Ashton’s ‘La Fille Mal Gardee’ . The woodland glade set was delightful , the huge corps of fairies elegant and mysterious in green. Kevin Jackson , strong , powerful and commanding with amazing jumps and elevation, channelled his inner Sir Robert Helpmann as Oberon. Madeleine Eastoe was delightful as Titania, the fairy Queen, wickedly sparkling and imperious. Their pas de deux were sensational, especially the extended reconciliation one. As Bottom , Joseph Chapman was splendid , performing with great gusto and comic timing, dealing with the difficult pointe work ( yes this is one of the very roles with pointe work for men) terrifically. Chengwu Go as Puck was dazzling, quicksilver and with astonishing jumps as mischievous Puck .The quartet of quarrelling human lovers were very well performed. An Ashton feast, a delightful way to end the evening and the packed audience roared its approval . Running time 2 hours 15 (approx) one interval The Australian Ballet in THE DREAM runs at the Sydney Opera House between the 29th April and the 16th May 2015 For more about The Australian Ballet in The Dream, visit

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Australian Ballet Giselle This was a long anticipated opening night– in the presence of the Prime Minister Mr Abbott– that will be long remembered. The Australian Ballet was in peak form and Madeleine Eastoe and Kevin Jackson delivered exceptional performances . The performance is a revival of the 1986 Maina Gielgud version of GISELLE that has been in the Australian Ballet’s repertoire ever since. First performed in 1841 GISELLE is now regarded as one of the major Romantic ballets. The ballet tells a story of disguise, intrigue, young love, broken hearts and deception. Not forgetting the impact of the eerie, sinister Wilis who appear in Act 2-a group of supernatural women whose thing is to dance men to their deaths- determined on revenge. Peter Farmer’s lush sets and costumes in Act 1 were mostly in russet, autumnal tones featuring a concealed woodland grove with Giselle’s grave marked for Act 2. Under the emphatic, precise baton of Nicolette Fraillon the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra gave a magnificent, finely nuanced performance . Eastoe as Giselle was outstanding and her dancing was exquisite. In Act 1 she was the innocent village maiden, deeply in love with Albrecht and dancing joyfully. Her scene that portrayed madness was chillingly conveyed. In Act 2 Eastoe is also ethereal, featuring effortless elevation– she is as light and elusive as a feather- that lies just out of Albrecht’s reach. She was like mist or gossamer- using her love and determination to try and save him. Kevin Jackson as Albrecht was magnificent too. In Act 1 he is a pampered playboy, seriously in love with Giselle yet caught up in his betrothal to Bathilde. In Act 2 Albrecht is shown as penitent and grieving, his billowing red cloak of Act 1 changed to a deep black one. He has become an attentive partner and there are some difficult, high , ‘Bolshoi’ lifts where Giselle appears to fly. The pas de deux in both Acts are breathtaking. Jackson gets to show off his elevation and in Act 2 there is an extended, blinding blur as he is compelled to dance at Mythe’s- Queen Of the Wilis- command and audible gasps are heard from the audience. Myrthe was excellently danced by Dimity Azoury. Cold, hard and commanding she had a very strong arabesque line and performed with impressive aloofness. Poor Hilarion, the village huntsman also in love with Giselle, was broodingly danced by Andrew Killian. Olga Tamara as Berthe, Giselle’s mother, used mime to chillingly tell the story of the Willis in Act 1. The bouncy , enchanting peasant pas de deux to entertain the court was deliciously performed by Ako Kondo and Chengwu Guo . The court in Act 1 was luxuriously dressed in great contrast to the peasants and it was delightful to see Steven Heathcote as the Duke dressed opulently in red and gold. In Act 2 the Wilis were superb, appearing like mist, ominous and remorseless, precise in their automata like choreography . Love conquers all in this magnificent production that rightly received a standing ovation. Running time – 2 hours including one interval. The Australian Ballet in GISELLE is playing the Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House until the 22nd April.

RSC Love's Labour's Won

A great version! This glorious comedy presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company is more commonly known as MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. The Bard’s narrative has been transposed from sunny Sicily to a bitterly cold December in the UK at the end of 1918 . The action in this version is set in an Elizabethan manor at Charlecote Park, just outside of Stratford-upon-Avon, at Christmas and the house has been turned into a hospital. Beatrice and Hero are among the nurses. There are plenty of laughs with delicious comic timing, but the film is also, at times, at certain times quite dark. A scene that comes to mind is when poor Hero is unjustly accused. Strong, feisty, argumentative Beatrice is delightfully played by Michelle Terry who impresses delivering her delicious, witty lines. Terry’s most eye catching outfit is a very stylishly cut purple trouser suit. It quickly becomes apparent that Beatrice and Benedick have a rocky, hidden past. Edward Bennet has much fun stealing the show as world weary determined batchelor Benedick .He has some wonderful witty lines and he delivers his monologues impeccably. His ‘gulling scene’ with the Christmas tree was hilarious. The audience was in fits of laughter. The battle of wills between Beatrice and Benedick are played out memorably. When Beatrice demands that Benedick ‘Kill Claudio’ she is a hissing spitfire. Our second leads, the young lovers Hero and Claudio, were terrifically played. Flora Spencer-Longhurst makes for a gorgeous looking Hero. Beautiful and completely innocent of all she is accused of, passionate and determined, she suffers dreadfully yet all is put right at the end. Young patrician Claudio, well played by Tunji Kasim, is elegant and well favoured. He is tricked and deceived and suffers and eventually attempts to make things right, if he possibly can. All thankfully ends as happily as possible. Don John, the malevolent villain of the show, played by Sam Alexander, is portrayed as a walking wounded, extremely embittered soldier. I agree with the character of Leonato who described Dogberry and his cohorts as rather tedious- a kind of Dad’s Army troupe- though some in the audience enjoyed their shenanigans. The film featured fine ensemble work throughout. The film is well directed by Christopher Luscombe. A feature of the film is the great attention to detail in its production values. The costumes, set and lighting designs are sumptuous. Composer Nigel Hess ‘ marvellous score, influenced by Coward and Novello and with hints of early jazz, and includes Christmas carols and Debussy. The score is a a treasure-trove of wistful yet stirring songs that conjure a lost England wistfully re-imagined . All ends delightfully. Both cast and audience are practically dancing in the aisles. Running time – allow about 3 hours 20 including one interval The RSC’s LOVE’S LABOUR WON is playing at cinemas from Saturday 4th April. Share this:3Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)3Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)

Les Miserables My Sydney Arts Guide review Visually stunning ,with some wizard special effects this is a tremendously thrilling production of one of the world’s most popular musicals.There is magnificent ensemble work and the leads are terrific. We follow Hugo’s epic, sweeping tale of love, morals, suffering and redemption and a sharp criticism of the state of society at the time. This production was first seen in London in 2010 .Here in Australia it has been seen in Melbourne and Perth and there are some changes to the ‘standard’ version for those of us who know the Trevor Nunn production well:- there are no dates and town names… the barricade is slightly different…coup de theatre with the two halves revolving and joining…snippets of dialogue are sometimes given to different characters- but overall it is the gripping , heartbreaking musical we know and love. There is sensational use of projections for Jean Val Jean’s disappearance and trudge through the sewers. This production moves the story at a cracking pace and has very fluid, essentially cinematic scene changes using sliding trundles and screens and fly-ins, and the musical score has been slightly tinkered with to bring it up to date .A small quibble I have is that for almost all the songs (including Javert’s ‘Stars’ , Val Jean’s ‘ Bring Him Home’ and Eponine’s ‘ On My Own’ ) the sound level was too high. Our Everyman suffering hero Jean Val Jean , 24601 , the reformed convict,was tremendously played by Simon Gleeson. A rock solid performance we follow his suffering and moral dilemmas and trying to be good. He is brilliant in his defiant ‘ Who Am I?’ and his passionate , pleading ‘Bring Him Home’ stops the show. His cold, implacable nemesis, steely Javert, is given a towering performance by Hayden Tee who brings the house down with his troubled ‘Stars’ soliloquy aria and his whirling suicide. Their confrontation scenes are electric. Our young romantic lead Marius is terrifically played by Euan Doidge who transforms from love-struck student on the fringes of rebellion to a loving husband..He is blind to poor Eponine’s love and thunderstruck by Cosette. His ‘Empty Chairs and Empty Tables’ is very moving. Poor abused young Cosette was enchantingly played by Chloe de los Santos ( “ There is a Castle On A Cloud’ ) and grown up Cosette was delightfully played by Emily Langridge who revealed at times a quite operatic voice. Eponine ( Kerrie Anne Greenland) stole our hearts with her ‘ Only On My Own’ which brought the house down and we wept at ‘A Little Fall of Rain’ . Young handsome rebellious leader Enroljas is thrillingly , hypnotically played by Chris Durling . Plucky Gavroche was excellently portrayed by Nicholas Craddock .Fantine was angelically played by Patrice Tipoki in a fine, strong performance, stopping the show with her’ I Dreamed A Dream’ .She was very pretty in a lovely blue dress and then white at the end . It is interesting to note that for ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ her hair is already cascading down , unlike the Nunn version . There was great comic timing at certain points, especially for example with the Thernardier’s ‘Master of The House’ ( in reality very tightly choreographed and polished)and their cynical ‘Beggars at the Feast’ . While they were brilliantly performed I found the Thernardiers ( Trevor Ashley and Lara Mulcahy) played as panto villains , played for laughs and extremely vulgar and uncouth . ( And that dress Madame wears in ‘Beggar’s Feast! ‘ ) But the rest of the audience seemed to love them . A stirring , thrilling version that will have you scrambling to join the barricades. Do you hear the people sing?! Running time 3 hours (approx) including interval. LES MISERABLES at the Capitol Theatre Sydney is currently selling tickets for performances until July 12 2015 For more about Les Miserables, visit

Sydney Dance Company Frame of Mind

A marvellous show here's my artshub review Under the umbrella title ‘Frame of Mind’ the latest production by Sydney Dance Company treats us to an Australian premiere of William Forsythe’s Quintett and a world premiere of Rafael Bonachela’s Frame of Mind. Both works come from a place of contemplation, of changing circumstances and heartfelt emotion, and reflect those moments in time that seem to shift everything. Forsythe’s Quintett is a final ‘love letter’ to his wife, dancer Tracy-Kai Maier. It was created in 1993 and for Sydney Dance Company, one of only seven companies world wide licensed to perform it , it has been staged by Ana Catalina Roman Horcajo and Thomas McManus. It is abstract, tender, full of Forsythe’s demanding choreography. As the title indicates, it is performed by five dancers: three men two women. The set is minimal with just an old fashioned light box machine and a mirror. While touched by death the complex duets are tender and essentially celebrate life. Their moods are sometimes yearning, confused, playful, pushing, and, above all, equal in friendship. Each of the dancers feature in short solos and there are some astonishingly breathtaking duets and trios. There is also use of repetition, not just of the music but in short snippets of phrases of choreography. The music (Gavin Bryars repetitive loop 1971 recording of a homeless man in London singing Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet) can at first be irritating, but eventually leads to a trancelike, meditative state. The bond between the dancers is obvious. Three of the five dancers especially stood out – tall Sam Young-Wright in black in his amazing solos, dark, petite and elfin Jesse Scales in a beautiful short blue dress and Chloe Leong in a long sleeved yellow outfit. A most powerful and hypnotic work mixing quirky detail with the jagged. Bonachela’s Frame of Mind is an eerie, haunting abstract mood piece. The set – peeling painted walls and a window , as devised by Ralph Myers of Belvoir – is sort of a dreamlike room of melancholy and memory, where time is in constant flux and the inhabitants seek to escape but can’t. Bryce Dessner's striking score was written as a musical evocation of home and flight and is performed by the Kronos Quartet. Benjamin Cisterne’s glorious atmospheric lighting adds to this mood. Much is made of the use of shadows and silhouettes. The work opens with the dancers like sculptural figures in an Antony Gormley landscape. Bonachela’s choreography is also extremely demanding, acrobatic yet ballet based. Bonachela is masterly in his use of masses of group movement for the ensemble, yet simultaneously everyone appears to be doing their own thing. Floorwork, rolls and a deep Graham plie are also included in this work. Cass Mortimer Eipper brings the work to a gripping conclusion, arm across his eyes, exhausted . Rating: 4 out of 5 stars Frame of Mind Sydney Dance Company, Sydney Theatre 6 - 21 March

Songs not to dance to

A fascinating show at Parramatta Are there songs one should definitely never dance to – in public or in private? Songs Not To Dance To is an electric, striking and very moving collaboration between Sydney-based Martin del Amo and Lismore-based Phil Blackman, who attempt to answer this question in an engrossing performance that explores “notions of compatibility/incompatibility, connection/disconnection and congruity/incongruity.” As we enter, the two are getting changed and ready for the show in what feels like a very old-fashioned theatrical dressing room atmosphere with the drinks trolley, etc. Both men are shortly immaculate and very impressive in their tres chic haute couture dark suits. At various times, the jacket, shirt and tie are removed depending on the requirements of the next dance. Using ballet technique as its base, the performance is choreographed in del Amo’s distinctive style, using repetition, fluid sculptural movements, a long curved line, etc. There are allusions to his Little Black Dress suite, as well as the work of Merce Cunningham and Twlya Tharp. At certain points, the work is very tightly choreographed in unison, at others it is far freer. The first dance section begins with the men side by side, facing the audience, observing us. To an orchestrated version of The Way Old Friends Do by ABBA, they repeat small movements, incorporating simple quarter turns. Facing each other, facing away from each other, facing each other to the back, to the front—we see all the various possible combinations. The ‘dance’ is quite minimalist; so little actually occurs that it becomes rather mesmerizing. ‘Songs Not To Dance To.’ Photo by Heidrun Lohr. To songs by Whitney Houston or Christina Aguilera or stark clavichord pieces from Keith Jarrett’s Book of Ways, one or both men dance with an endearing, seemingly deliberate awkwardness. Wrists droop, toes are pointed inwards and in Del Amo style, hips are strangely placed and arms move in convulsive waves at times. Their movements are often slow and controlled — which has an impact when the music is Eminem’s Not Afraid. In Working Class Man, there are explosive powerful leaps for Del Amo, and his I Will Always Love You (yes, to Whitney) is an abstract reworking of the troubled Romantic Prince searching – extremely moving. Stillness and silence are very important and used as a basis for reflection. Also, movement, whether balletic and refined or straining, awkward and unbeautiful, is used to celebrate the human body’s vibrancy. The two different types of dance alternate, but the men’s faces are strictly deadpan. Are they mocking and joking? At around the halfway point, orange segments are distributed to the audience. Karen Norris’ atmospheric lighting design for the evening is terrific, creating misty moods, swirling dapples on the floor or humorous effects. The evening concludes with an impromptu dance by audience volunteers to an unknown tune that had been voted a song not to dance to by previous audience members. When the music began, they threw themselves into dancing a huge mix of styles, mostly street dance. Most had at least some contemporary dance training. Some stayed solo the whole time, others integrated with their fellow volunteers. They looked as if they were having a whale of a time and it was fun to watch.

Australian Ballet in Graeme Murphy's Swan Lake

Here's what I said for Dance Informa This stunning revival of Graeme Murphy’s masterpiece, now regarded by many as a modern classic, as performed by The Australian Ballet is musically superb and divinely danced. Murphy cleverly transposes the old story onto the world’s most famous modern fairytale of Princess Diana trapped between Prince Charles and Camilla, and eventually betrayed and abandoned. But this is not overplayed, rather Principal Artist Madeleine Eastoe’s performance in the main role of Odette brought the ballet to new heights, in which, yes, the trappings of royalty were important, but proved peripheral to the main heart of the work, a timeless story of love, betrayal and revenge. Musically, the score has been somewhat cut, adapted and re-arranged and is in some ways closer to the original nowadays. Under the dynamic baton of Nicolette Fraillon, Orchestra Victoria gave a splendid, finely detailed performance with ominous drums and woodwind and splendid, delicate violin solos. The plot and structure of the work has been updated and changed from the traditional Petipa/Ivanov work we are familiar with, although Murphy quotes from them throughout (eg. the Cygnet pas de quatre, Odette’s solos) and there are tiny snippets of choreographic phrases from his Poppy After Venice and The Protecting Veil for example. Classical ballet steps are blended by Murphy with his own magical idiosyncratic style of contemporary dance that includes contractions, open hands, bodies held in fetal positions, a man holding a woman and swinging her in his arms, the ‘Murphy walk’, and arms tightly wrapped around the chest to signify anguish. Floor rolls are melded with liquid, floating pas de chats and sissonnes accompany somersaults. On opening night here in Sydney at the Capitol, we were privileged to see an outstanding cast give tremendous performances. Madeleine Eastoe, Kevin Jackson and Ako Kondo gave outstanding performances as Odette, Prince Siegfried and Baroness von Rothbart (the destructive mistress in their doomed love triangle) in Murphy’s Swan Lake. Kristian Frederickson’s glorious, lush, lavish sets and costumes are glamorous, dazzling and opulent. This Swan Lake is set in a sunny Edwardian world of elegant creams and greys, with an idyllic Royal Wedding and is sprinkled with dashing Hungarian Cossacks and other colourful European touches. Are we meant to pick up hints of Murphy’s Poppy in the design for the nuns headdresses? Frederickson admired fabric, embellishment, ease of movement for the dancers, and glamour, all of which shine through. ‘Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake’ by The Australian Ballet. Photo by Lisa Tomasetti. Eastoe’s performance as the doomed Odette was fluid and ravishing, heartbreaking and believable. Making the most of Murphy’s challenging choreography, she brought raw emotional intensity to the passages of despairing mental instability. Her Odette is at times insane, sometimes yearning and innocent, at other times coolly calculating and manipulative; not just empty technique or sweet princess.The swans here are part of her delusions, with Seigfried swept uneasily into their world. The ball here becomes a garden party, leading to a powerful conclusion of death and role reversals. Jackson’s stalwart partnering in the very demanding duos was admirable, his performance of the anguished solos most eloquent. The role of Siegfried calls for massive stamina in order to sustain the many difficult lifts, and it also requires subtle acting skills, as in this version Seigfried must show the many layered character of a man who cheats on his bride at his own wedding and is forced to acknowledge his tragic mistake in the final act. He reveals his remorse in the manner of many conflicted anti-heroes of ballet who express grief, anguish and sorrow as the curtain falls, as we see in Giselle, La Sylphide, traditional versions of Swan Lake and MacMillan’s Manon for example. Jackson was most empathetic and believable even while dancing the introverted, demanding and sometimes uptight solos in which he agonises over his choices. From the opening column-like fluttering hands that begin the show, Kondo was fascinating as the Baroness, so elegant, witty and sophisticated that the Prince’s being besotted with her is completely understandable. The evening was rich in cameo roles, terrifically performed by guest artists Matthew Donnelly, Colin Peasley, Andris Toppe, Shane Carroll and Frank Leo, who reprise their various character roles with their usual panache. Plus, the angular, intriguing interpretation by Murphy of the pas de quatre for the Cygnets looked much fun. Operatic and epic in tone, telling a story of betrayal, revenge, despair and dying of a broken heart, this work shows emotions that many are familiar with, but with a deep intensity that few are able to experience. Both the emotion and the choreography dazzle the audience. The rapturous standing ovation was richly deserved.

ACO Reflections on Gallipoli

A most moving fascinating concert With Neil Armfield’s wonderful direction, a great troupe of actors, a magnificent opera singer, and very effective use of multimedia, this concert was a powerful tribute to the fallen on both sides. Each work shared in common an artist’s response and outpouring to the horrific trench experiences Passionately spoken, plainly articulated first hand accounts of those who fought, lived and somehow endured the horrors of those Turkish battlefields were recited by Nathaniel Dean, Yalin Ozucelik and Taryn Fiebig, The concert began with an arrangement of Bartok’s String Quartet No. 2, with brooding , pulsating violins contrasted with somewhat bouncy lines from the other strings and the use of pizzicatto. There was almost mechanical use of repetition. Grainy footage of troops leaving the shores of Australia on giant ships accompanied this, hinting of the story to come. Frederick Kelly’s slow, stately ‘Elegy’ followed, with its expansive unison passages accompanied by enchanting textual shifts and changes of rhythm. Several Turkish works were also included, many of which successfully featured the vocal talents of Taryn Fiebig. One of these pieces: – ‘Mehves Hanim’s Kacsam Birakip Senden Uzak Yollara Gitsem’ – was especially captivating. Nathaniel Dean and Yalin Ozucelik gave eloquent readings about life in the trenches from both sides of the conflict. There was deeply moving, extremely effective use of projections throughout. Strident Turkish marches were included as well as achingly beautiful Turkish laments. Carl Vine’s ‘Soliloquy’, which was written in reaction to the “personal horror, disbelief, anguish and anger evoked by such stark depictions of pointless human suffering’, is a short and striking work which was accompanied by grisly images of swarms of flies. Fiebig, well known for her performances with Opera Australia, was sombrely dressed in black .She acted as reader and singer at times but her featured part was the extraordinary and very poignant world premiere of the Carl Vine work ‘Our Sons’ in the second half, inspired by the inscription on the Turkish memorial, directly addressing the grieving mothers whose sons fell during the battle. Vine transforms this conciliatory inscription, imbuing it with furious anguish and devastated despair . The concert ended with the shimmering, exquisite ‘The Lark Ascending ‘ by Vaughn Williams.This was piercingly, heartbreakingly beautiful. Tognettis’s solo transported us to another world. You could have heard a pin drop at the end before the tumultuous applause. Running time- two hours including one interval The ACO’s Reflections on Gallipoli ran various dates and venues until Friday 27th March at City Recital Hall Angel Place .

ACO with Joseph Tawadros

An amazing concert ! The ACO is celebrating its 40th birthday with a series of terrific concerts, in which they are performing with some of their best friends. This concert featured an ACO in dazzling form and while violinist Richard Tognetti and Egyptian-Australian Joseph Tawadros, internationally renowned as a virtuoso of the oud, were keen to find hidden links between the Venetian baroque and the East, their main success was not to discover them but to create them. The innovative programming combined both old and new. You could hear the Egyptian and also some Flamenco influences. Tognetti’s brilliant arrangements of Tawadros playing, ranging across a profusion of rhythmic time signatures, enchanted. The concert began with Giovanni Gabrieli’s Sonata No. 21 for three violins, featuring ravishing, delicate, exquisite playing, tapping into a common longing for spiritual transcendence. Renaissance style counterpoint was gradually embellished in the Baroque manner which led to quiet but intense loftiness . In the first of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons concertos, Spring, Tognetti consciously shaped and controlled the phrases of the first movement, avoiding obvious accents and using contrast and nuanced understatement to bring some sections forward, whilst keeping others distant. The crazy, bass-slapping Sleight of Hand followed which, whilst with a melancholic feel, was fast and spiky, making a breathless slide into Summer, Tawadros’s contemporary energy appropriately echoing the roller coaster like Baroque passions of Vivaldi’s most organic movement. The inclusion of oud, generally doubling the violin line , allowed for an insect like feel, at times. In Summer, Tawadros and his brother, James, playing the riq, a tambourine-like instrument extremely sophisticated in its range, combined to augment the continuo section of the orchestra with exotic pulses. The playing from Tognetti and the orchestra was astonishing in its emphatic energy and magnificent virtuosity. Of the pieces by Tawadros, orchestrated by Tognetti, Kindred Spirits and Constantinople were striking for their unpredictable rhythmic complexity and flurries of whirling energy, whilst Point of Departure explored quieter intimacy. The concerts’ second half began with the beautiful Grave featuring an extraordinary solo by Tognetti. Vivaldi’s Autumn then dashed in, offering boisterous counter-juxtaposition. Tognetti’s portrayal of the drunkard was marvellously off-kilter. The ‘hunt’ finale called for some dangerous pizzicati gunfire leading to the witty cadenza mourning the death of the poor victim. A charming, delicate Marcello Andante, featuring Neal Peres da Costa on sprightly chamber organ, and Tawadros’ haunting, moving tribute piece Point of Departure led us into Vivaldi’s brisk Winter. There were shades of Ligeti in this interpretation , so bitter was the ACO’s representation of Vivaldi’s shivering frost. Pizzicati was used to indicate recovering by a warm fire before a flurried final movement brought the Vivaldi to a splendid conclusion. After this it was left to Tawadros’s exotic rock-infused Constantinople to keep things flourishing , leading to a blistering, thrilling finish. There was a well deserved, ecstatic, cheering standing ovation at the end Running time – just over two hours including one interval. The ACO and the Tawadros brothers are touring The Four Seasons nationally, playing various venues, until February 23 , various dates and venues.

Phantom of the Opera at Parramatta

An excellent production here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide PHANTOM OF THE OPERA , Lloyd-Webber’s musical based on the French novel by Gaston Leroux , opened in 1986 in London. By 2011 it had been seen by over 130 million people in 145 cities in 27 countries, and it is now one of the world’s most popular musicals. Most of the performances of this season at Parramatta are extremely heavily booked, if not already sold out. The main plot is set in the iconic building of the Paris Opera – from its dizzying heights to its mysterious subterranean lake- and concern a beautiful soprano, Christine Daaé, who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius, Erik, AKA the sinister Opera Ghost (the Phantom of the Opera) who is feared by all. Packemin’s current production of is tremendous. Lush, lavish, opulent and romantic this is a splendid version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s now classic musical. Directed by Neil Gooding it pulls out all the stops and is bold and colourful in parts ( eg ‘Masquerade ‘, ‘The Point Of No Return ‘), powerful and passionate in others. This is a faithful rendition of the visually sumptuous musical we know and love, from the standard ‘Really Useful‘ production with the boat, masses of dry ice, pyrotechnics, the mysterious mirror, the plant like designs for the organ etc all magnificently done and musically and vocally terrific. The show has a HUGE cast, spectacular costumes and some tremendous special effects. Everyone only just fits onstage for the powerful Act Two opening ‘Masquerade’ and the superb costumes for which are dazzling . Gooding has a terrific cast and tech crew and uses them to great advantage. There is fine ensemble work , the supporting roles are more than handled capably and the leads are splendid. The major special effect of the sparking chandelier is terrifically handled. Under the dynamic, energetic baton of maestro Peter Hayward the orchestra gave a rich, luscious rendition of the sweeping, romantic yet sometimes difficult and spiky score. In this version the Phantom is perhaps slightly younger than usual, played far more as a romantic lead. Ben Mingay (‘Wonderland‘, ‘Packed to the Rafters‘) is strong and dynamic, channeling his inner Bryn Terfel – he has perhaps a slightly darker, caramel voice than usual. He is tremendous, vigorous, commanding, elegant and sinister. His ’Music of the Night’ is captivating and gloriously seductive. Our heroine, dark haired , dynamic Erin Clare was absolutely terrific as Christine Daae with her sparkling coloratura soprano voice. She was charming in Act 1 (‘Think of Me’), tremulous when falling unexpectedly in love with Raoul ( ‘That’s All I Ask of You‘ ) and brings the house down with her anguished, soaring rendition of ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ mourning her father and torn between Raoul and the Phantom. Her ‘The Point of No Return’ was slinky and hypnotic. (Like almost all of us she succumbs to the Phantom’s mesmerizing ‘Music of the Night’). Raoul, Comte de Chagny, our earnest lovestruck young hero was terrifically played by Joshua Keane who has a totally charming baritone and boyish good looks. He was strong, supportive and comforting of Christine, dashing, gallant and defiant when facing the Phantom. His duets with Christine were marvellous. Theirs was a most uneasy eternal triangle. Johanna Allen has much fun wickedly hogging the limelight as Carlotta Giudicelli, the reigning temperamental, scheming diva of the Opera, Christine’s rival who is just possibly past it and overblown, but with a splendid voice and stunning costumes. Claudio Scaramella has a great time supporting her as the egotistical Pavarotti like archetypical demanding leading tenor Ubaldo Piangi. Rather Intimidating Madame Giry, in stern black was excellently performed by Michelle Lansdown, and her up and coming dancer daughter Meg was delightfully played by Kelsi Boyden. It is interesting to note that in this production both Christine and Meg are dark haired . Mention must also be made of the two new managers of the Theatre Christopher Hamilton as the ultra elegant Giles Andre and Gavin Brightwell as Richard Firman, who driven to distraction by the mysterious , demanding Opera Ghost. This was an epic, sweeping love story, a dazzling, slick, sumptuous performance. Running time 2 hours 30 minutes (approx) including interval. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA runs at Riverside Theatre Parramatta 6-21 February 2015. Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber Lyrics: Charles Hart additional lyrics Richard Stilgoe Book: Richard Stilgoe & Andrew Lloyd Webber Producer/Director: Neil Gooding Musical Director: Peter Hayward Choreographer: Camilla Jakimowicz Lighting designer: Sean Clarke CAST The Phantom Ben Mingay Christine Daae Erin Clare Carlotta Giudicelli Johanna Allen Raoul Vicomte de Changny Joshua Keane Ubaldo Piangi Claudio Sgaramella Monsieur Andre Christopher Hamilton Monsiueur Firmin Gavin Brightgwell Madame Giry Michelle Lansdown Meg Giry Kelsi Boyden For more information about The Phantom of the Opera, visit

Royal Ballet Alice in Wonderland

An unusual work here's my Sydney Arts Guide review Instead of a traditional Nutcracker this year we are treated to a revival by the Royal Ballet of Christopher Wheeldon’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND first seen in 2011. Whilst perhaps a trifle overlong and unwieldy, this work is visually stunning with some fabulous theatrical effects, dazzling dancing, and magnificent choreography. There are perhaps hints and allusions to the Nutcracker in certain parts of Wheeldon’s choreography. Joby Talbot’s glittering,wonderful score is full of glissando mood swings and snazzy character expression. The ballet begins by introducing all the cast at a garden party where Alice’s mother sacks the under-gardener, Jack (Federico Bonnelli) for stealing a jam tart. This is a cause for tears and tantrums from young Alice (Sarah Lamb) who was rather hoping to see him later for a tryst. Very handsome Bonnelli dances wonderfully as the Knave of Hearts/Jack . Alice’s home is also visited by the ‘real’ Carroll (that is, Charles Dodgson) and by characters who will later reappear in Wonderland.The work feels, at times, a bit dominated by set and visual design values. The dangerous sausage-making scene in the lethal Cook’s kitchen could have come out of Sweeney Todd, and the axe-wielding psychotic madness of the Queen of Hearts creates a real sense of terror. The ballet, at times, immerses itself entirely in the rather surreal Carroll universe, following the dreamlike narrative and its nonsense-cum-logical progression with remarkable fidelity. I thought Ricardo Cervera as the dithering White Rabbitt/Lewis Carroll was fabulous, and extremely stylish in his elegant white satin. I agree with one of the audience tweets-that he looked quite Elton John like with those glasses. He has incredible, soft bouncy pas de chats at one point, beautifully performed. Zenaida Yanowsky as the tyrannical, malignant Queen of Hearts was brilliant and there was a wonderful somewhat angular pastiche of the Rose Adagio from Sleeping Beauty with her four ‘suitors’. The gentle , old King of Hearts was perhaps brother to the red king in de Valois’ ‘ Checkmate’ . I also enjoyed the aloof ,elegantly draped pink Flamingos as portrayed by the women of the company ( hints of Les Biches? ) and the cute hedgehogs in the croquet party in Act 3. As the exuberant Mad Hatter with his dynamic, colourful tap shoes and dazzling style , Steven MCrae was superb. The strange tea party was excellently performed with the poor dormouse (James Wilkie) ending up in a giant cup . Eric Underwood’s astonishing slinky Caterpillar and his slave girls harem was a delightful piece of Hollywood kitsch. And I loved the blue pointe shoes, especially encrusted with diamonds! Special mention must also be made of the wonderful appearances of the frisky, mischievous Cheshire Cat. Towards the end there is a very stylish and beautiful pas de deux between Alice (Sarah Lamb) and the Knave of Hearts (Federico Bonnelli) . And I loved the return, at the end, to the ‘real ‘ world of current, contemporary Oxford. Summing up, this production was intriguing holiday fare. Running time – allow 3 & ½ hours including two intervals. The film also includes a short documentary before hand on the making of the film, and Darcey Bussell interviews various people associated with the production during both intervals. The Royal Ballet in ALICE IN WONDERLAND is part of the Palace Opera and Ballet series screening at selected cinemas 23-28 Jan 2015. For more information- CAST:- Alice Sarah Lamb Lewis Carroll/White Rabbit Ricardo Cervera Mother/Queen of Hearts Zenaida Yanowsky Father/King of Hearts Christopher Saunders Jack/Knave of Hearts Federico Bonnelli Magician/Mad Hatter Steven McCrae Rajah/Caterpillar Eric Underwood The Duchess Philip Mosley Vicar/March Hare Paul Kay Verger/Dormouse James WIlkie Cook Kristen McNally Fish/Footman Tristan Dyer Frog /footman Marcelino Sambe Conductor David Briskin .

Nothing to Lose

This was challenging and terrific Print Email  Email to a friend Your email Please enter a valid email Your name Please enter your name Friend's email Please enter a valid email Friend's name Please enter your friend's name Verification (type the code in the image) Invalid security codeGenerate New Image Close Related Articles How to sell your story (Premium locked content) Humans are programmed to care about stories so making the most of yours will help market your work. Unveiled: latest program announcements Tantalising programs at Sydney Film Festival and The Festival of Voices have been announced this week. How to capture differently-abled audiences (Premium locked content) Artists and companies looking to grow their audiences would do well to look towards people with a disability, who are often hungry for arts experiences. The Confidence Man A technical tour de force, subverting key notions of theatrical performance. Lynne Lancaster Sunday 25 January, 2015 A vibrant, challenging and confronting piece for Kate Champion's last work as director of Force Majeure. Image: supplied Directed by Kate Champion, whose interest was in 'exploring the movement and sculptural quality of the larger physical form' and presented by Force Majeure, a company with a strong reputation for innovative and edgy dance theatre work, this is a vibrant, challenging and confronting piece. Nothing to Lose is the latest and last in a series of works under Champion’s direction distinguished by strong social themes. Champion has turned her back on the traditional trim, athletic dancer’s body, and instead recruited seven very large performers whose fleshy forms lead to a new appreciation of moving to music. From the beginning, when the performers lie cushioned against each other in formidable looming mounds, and then slowly stand to stare at us, accusingly, we can feel their looming presence. Some dancers then walk down amongst the audience, repeating society’s waterfall of cutting fat insults as well as throw the condescending questions to us all: 'Is it healthy? What do you eat? Do you ever go for a run? How do you have sex? Do you lack self control? What about diabetes? Are you always jolly? In some ways it is like a medical questionnaire, chillingly neutral yet getting under one’s skin. A few hesitant, courageous audience members are then invited up to feel the bodies of some of the cast, as each stands on gallery plinths as if for a life drawing class. The post-modern 'limitlessness of form' is commented on by a ‘curator’. We’re encouraged to feel floppy stomachs and thighs, gently analyse heavy breasts and pat large bottoms. Nothing to Lose is never dull as it slides through a collection of vignettes. With dramaturgy by actor Steve Rodgers, much of the show’s introversion is in the text. Those questions voiced earlier – about the health and happiness of being large – are only partly answered. There is a wry, dark sense of humour throughout the script so we accept this approach as direct and honest even if uncomfortable. One performer has a monologue as an overweight 16-year-old being counselled on the challenges that lie ahead for her. An optimistic, finally guilt-free future is asserted but she’s informed the voyage will be difficult, whether through social prejudices or just the dismal reality of being considered 'too fat'. In a more choreographic approach, another performer, to a screaming soundscape, continually hurls her body to the ground with shuddering impact (in despair or frustration?) This is contrasted in another sequence to the music of Vivaldi where seven bodies wobble enchantingly. In another segment, a large blonde dancer brings new meaning to the definition of Opera when she jiggles and rolls to the soaring music of ‘Lucia di Lammermoor'. Champion’s choreography exploits the dignity and gravitas of these performers striding, posing across the stage as we segue into a seemingly catwalk-like exhibition of bodies who gyrate, strut, swing and reach their arms high. Designer Geoff Cobham has provided a suitable disco like backdrop of chrome scaffolding, his lighting nicely shadowed and angled to lighting to feature, sculpt and highlight the assorted bodies. The club dance floor is apparently a second home as the cast stretch into straps and leathers, the belts cross-thatching across their flesh, and show us the fun flouncy moves full of confidence and vitality. The show ends with a truly joyous line dance, with our seven main performers joined by a dozen enthusiasts erupting onto the stage for the big finale. For this production, Champion has collaborated with fat activist Kelli Jean Drinkwater. As Artistic Associate and Music Curator she has made a great contribution to the creative process and its outcome. This is Champion's last work as Artistic Director of Force Majeure, the company she founded in 2002. With both old and new colleagues working alongside her on Nothing to Lose, together they have achieved an extraordinary, challenging production. It is definitely the amazing performers' show who take charge of every move they make, whether breaking out with challenging, thrilling choreography or voluptuous and sensual steps. Champion and her team have given them an opportunity to shine wonderfully in this provocative, unpredictable and inspiring new production. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars Nothing to Lose Carriageworks, 21 - 25 January, 2015 Malthouse Theatre 11 - 21 March, 2015 Performers: Claire Burrows, Julian Crotti, Michael Cutrupi, Lala Gabor, Ally Garrett, Latai Taumoepeau and Anastasia Zaravinos Director: Kate Champion Artistic Associate and Music Curator: Kelli Jean Drinkwater Costume design: Matthew Stegh Set and lighting: Geoff Cobham Dramaturg: Steve Rodgers Choreographer (final piece): Ghenoa Gela Composer (final piece): Stereogamous Sydney Festival 2015 8-26 January

Tosca by Opera Australia

A most powerful performance here's my Sydney Arts Guide review Opera Australia has pulled out all the stops in this thrilling revival of the rather controversial version of Puccini’s TOSCA as directed by John Bell. The production was first seen in 2013. Musically and vocally, this production is fabulous. The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra under the baton of maestro Andrea Battistoni play superbly. At a couple of points one could hear hints of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, Turandot and La Boheme,– sometimes starkly dramatic, at other times lyrically passionate. Curly haired, dynamic Battistoni conducted energetically yet also with precise attention to the swirling, passionate melodies. This unsettling, confronting revival sees the narrative transposed to Rome in the 1940’s, with the Nazi occupation in full and deadly swing. Death, guns and violence are everywhere. The predominant visual shade is black or grey with some starkly dramatic reds. Special mention must be made of Michael Scott- Mitchell’s more than wonderful opulent Baroque church set design for Act 1. Act 2 is far more sinister with Scarpia’s office dominated by a long table, large windows and huge Swastika banners. Act 3 is yet even darker with a massive staircase and barbed wire representing the interior of the prison camp. The three leads are sensational and vocally superb. As Floria Tosca, South African guest star Amanda Echalaz is sensational,– a riveting actress and singer. Echalaz is beautifully costumed, her Act 2 gown is magnificent. She is every inch an opera diva with a creamy, pure, top range. Her voluptuous, soaring soprano shimmers with emotion. She plays a kittenish jealous minx, charming and delightful. She is a strong, determined, passionate woman out to save her lover. Echalaz’s duets with Cavaradossi are fabulous and her torn, pleading Vissi d’arte, full of fear and anguish, brought the house down As Cavaradossi, our tormented painter hero, terribly handsome tenor Riccardo Massi is in excellent voice. His major aria in Act 1 Recondita Armonia is beautifully sung and his passionate letter aria E Lucevan le stelle in Act 3 was marvelous, leaving some in the audience teary. In Act II, Cavaradossi’s fiery defiance of his captors includes tearing down one of the Swastika decorations, which was later used by Tosca to cover the dead Scarpia (a deft use of the crooked cross in place of the standard crucifix). As sinister, Iago-like cold, malevolent Baron Scarpia, Claudio Sgura is brilliant, showcasing a spine tingling bass. He is malicious and takes what he wants whenever he wants it. Implacable and menacing, his explosive volcanic impulses are barely controlled and hidden. His cynical , hypocritical leading of the Act 1 finale is thrilling. In Act 2 he molests the only woman officer present and no one tries to stop him. Scarpia is portrayed as a bullying, lecherous man in the prime of life and power who fully believes that pleasure and domination by fear and pleasure are his by right. Sgura’s towering height adds to his menace, and his lean, virile stature significantly heightens his sexual menace. Rome shivers and trembles with fear. Escaped prisoner Angelotti, Cavaradossi’s friend, was marvelously sung by David Parkin. Luke Gabbedy has great fun in Act 1 as the grumbling, somewhat clumsy sacristan. Another excellent, imaginative piece of staging happened during the introduction at the beginning of Act 3 where we see a number of yellow-star-wearing Jewish people managing to bribe their way out of prison just in time – or do they?! The shepherd boy aria was well placed here. This was traditional opera at its very best. Running time ,– three hours with two intervals. Opera Australia’s TOSCA runs at the Joan Sutherland Theatre Sydney Opera House assorted dates in rep between the 13th January and St Patrick’s Day, the 17th March. January 13- 17 March 2015

Puncture at Parramatta

This was awesome !! Here's my rave for artshub Puncture is an extraordinary collaboration between Form Dance, Legs on the Wall and Vox/Sydney Philharmonia Choirs in a thrilling, dangerous, hot and sweaty, inspired and uplifting theatrical treat. One of, if not the best, show of this year’s Sydney Festival, Puncture hurtled onto the stage at Parramatta and left us breathless. The idea is based on the observation that dancing in public is high on the list of things people fear most. This work aims to be like the needle that breaks the surface so that what's inside can be seen, and succeeds superbly. Upon entrance, the audience is seated on three sides of the stage of the specially reconfigured large Parramatta theatre, with one wall left for the excellent orchestra, ropes, space for technical effects and also the choir at certain points throughout the performace. Inspired by the great songwriters, from Monteverdi to Madonna, musically it ranges from acapella voices repeating and exploring a single phrase to military bands, hot and sexy tango, formal sixteenth century court dances, showbiz musicals and everything in between. Stefan Gregory, Luke Byrne and percussionist Bree van Reyk have developed an amazing snapshot of the history of music and Vox/Sydney Philharmonia Choir are sensational. The 30 strong choir are arranged in simple blocks of movement or stand at the back while the dancers enthrall kinetically . Much use is made of projections on the side walls – a kaleidoscope of various images of multiple cardboard cutouts, silhouettes, shadows, reflections and (among other things) joyous bubbles. Choreographically it includes dizzying, dazzling, flying acrobatics, snippets of contemporary dance (with possible shades of Graeme Murphy ,Rafael Bonachela and Sir Kenneth MacMillan). There is rolling floor work and much fun is had with the inclusion of line and folk like circle dances. Various styles of social dance are also included waltz, tango, and jitterbug as well as rippling ensemble work contrasted with stately, grounded court dances. Some audience members were invited to dance at various points with the cast members. The exultant, passionate ending was sort of a contemporary reworking perhaps of ‘The Rite of Spring’ with magnificent performances by Chan and Thomson , followed by a low buzzing at first then huge crashing wall of sound as the Vox/Sydney Philharmonia Choir invade the space again and acknowledge the audience. Rating: 5 out of 5 stars Puncture Parramatta Riverside Legs on the Wall and Vox – Sydney Philharmonia Choirs Director Patrick Nolan Composer Stefan Gregory Choreographer Kathryn Puie 21 - 25 January, 2015

Faust by Opera Australia

A most glorious production here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide : Succumb to Mephistopheles power in this lavish, opulent, thrilling production. Visually stunning, musically glorious, with three superb leading performers, this is a magical highlight of this year’s Opera Australia season. The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra under the energetic, dynamic and enthusiastic baton of maestro GuillaumeTourniaire delivered a lustrous, splendid performance of Gounod’s lush, hugely expansive score with an edgy tempo.The ensemble chorus work, under the direction of Anthony Hunt, was inspiring and well-balanced. The plot of Gounod’s opera is deeply rooted in religion, superstition and morality. In Charles Francois Gounod’s opera, aged and despairing philosopher Faust (Michael Fabiano) sells his soul to the devil, Mephistopheles (Teddy Tahu Rhodes), in exchange for youth and the chance to pursue a beautiful innocent, Margeurite (Nicole Car). Director Sir David McVicar has transposed the story from 16th century Germany to the composer’s own 19th century Paris. This production originally premiered in London at Covent Garden in 2004. The show has been perfectly cast by Opera Australia and has been recreated with immense attention to detail by Bruno Ravella, the director of this revival. Theatricality is everywhere. The underlying setting in Charles Edwards’ painterly set design is stunning. Mephistopheles and Faust are in a theatre, the church setting is a theatre, we are in a theatre, and it’s all a superb and deftly handled performance, which invites reflection and discussion about sex, religion and guilt, amongst other things. Every opportunity to give the opera colour and movement has been exploited by choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan who choreographed a tight, hot and spicy can-can for the second act Cabaret L’Enfer and then a disturbing , rather bizarre and demonic ballet for the fifth act Walpurgisnacht, combining traditional ballet technique from Giselle and Les Sylphides ( but barefoot) -with a touch of Matthew Bourne’s Highland Fling -which becomes a nightmarish, riotous orgy. The chorus was in excellent voice and enjoying the full spectacle of grand opera- the well known rousing Soldier’s Chorus was splendidly done (reminiscent of Les Miserables. American tenor Michael Fabiano with his matinee idol good looks is magnificient in the eponymous role, with masses of vocal power and a true,smooth, vocal line. When he unleashes all of his power at the top of his range, it captivates and gives one shivers. He’s also developed an excellent characterisation of great depth from the weak, tottering old man of the first act to the adventurous, love-struck young man in the final Act. His’ Salut! Demeure chaste et pure’ was exquisitely shaped, full of light and shade, and featured a marvellous ringing top note. Fabiano has a magnetic stage presence and is convincing in all his personas. In this version, Méphistophélès is shown as an elegant conman showman, a decadent chameleon, from dandy to pimp to pusher (even hidden Baroque statue) and even includes the devilish humour of wearing a dress in full drag. Tall Teddy Tahu Rhodes is in his absolute element-, saturnine and worldly. Satan is a master trickster who laughs at superstition and wears a crucifix . Tahu Rhodes commands the stage with oceans of charm and a gloriously seductive voice. Nicole Car’s vocal performance as innocent, betrayed Marguerite is excellent, — sensitive musically and beautifully pure. Her performance of the famous Jewel Song was a fabulous example of how to combine operatic voice with a strong acting technique and she ‘brought the house down’ with it. Handsome Giorgio Caoduro impressed with his incredibly moving aria Avant de quitter…another show highlight. Dominica Matthews makes a short but impressive appearance as Marguerite’s friend and neighbour , the rather overblown Marthe, whilst Anna Dowsley brings a delicious sweetness and impetuosity to young Siebel. The audience reaction at the conclusion was ecstatic and an extra performance has been scheduled because of public demand – quick ! run and book now if you can. What would you sell your soul for ? Running time 3 and ½ hours (approx ) including one interval FAUST runs at the Joan Sutherland Theatre Sydney until March 13 with an extra performance just added on Monday March 9 at 6.30pm – on sale now. CONDUCTOR Guillaume Tourniaire (until 28 Feb) Anthony Legge DIRECTOR David McVicar REVIVAL DIRECTOR Bruno Ravella SET DESIGNER Charles Edwards COSTUME DESIGNER Brigitte Reiffenstuel LIGHTING DESIGNER Paule Constable CHOREOGRAPHER Michael Keegan-Dolan REHEARSAL CHOREOGRAPHER Daphne Strothmann FIGHT CHOREOGRAPHER CHOREOGRAPHER Shane Placentino ASSISTANT DIRECTOR 2 Andy Morton FAUST Michael Fabiano MARGUERITE Nicole Car MÉPHISTOPHÉLÈS Teddy Tahu Rhodes VALENTIN Giorgio Caoduro MARTHE Dominica Matthews SIÉBEL Anna Dowsley WAGNER Richard Anderson Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra Opera Australia Chorus Based on the co-production by Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Opéra de Monte-Carlo, Opéra de Lille, and Fondazione Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi, Trieste and first performed at Covent Garden. 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New Theatre's Mother Clap's Molly House

This vivid, bold, lewd and naughty production rockets onto the New Theatre stage and explosively demands our attention. The New Theatre presented the Australian premiere a decade ago and this current extraordinary revival is linked in with the Mardi Gras festival and is full of outrageous characters, graphic sexuality, bawdy songs and handsome men. It is not for the easily offended and contains lots of strong language and simulated sex (among other things!) Shifting deftly between time periods, Mark Ravenhill (Shopping and Fucking) has written an astringent and subversive satire that celebrates the diversity of human sexuality and explores our emotional need to form families whilst simultaneously slamming the way sex has become another product to buy. The story is mostly as follows: It opens in London, 1726 and a Mrs Tull is struggling to save her frock-hire business. Discovering her apprentice, Martin, (excellently played by Andrew Grogan) and some of his hidden skirt wearing friends, she becomes aware of a bustling subculture that will enable her to realise two of her fantasies: to become a surrogate mother and to earn a lot of money. She decides on a plan to open a "molly house" – a brothel where the ‘girls’ are boys in frocks and the beer flows – and business is soon booming! This is contrasted in Act Two, where in a trendy 21st century Bloomsbury loft, we see how a gay relationship is disintegrating amidst the drugs and toys of a sex party /orgy. In the past, the term “molly” referred to male homosexuals and transvestites. Today, the word implies recreational drug use. Ravenhill’s script examines the evolution of gay identities, and the way societal permissiveness and the profit motive have somehow encouraged a false sense of freedom from morals and principles, a world where men are led to believe that the pleasure principle leads to happiness and liberation. The play doesn’t criticize assorted “misguided” individuals, but it is critical of how gay communities can sometimes see themselves. It also looks at the position of women in society, then and now – has anything really changed? Director Louise Fischer does a great job in sustaining the period feel and effortlessly moving the cast from that time to the present day and back with seamless fluid scene changes. She sharply addresses the political aspects of the play and also brings out the deeply carnal flavour of its live experience. Mother Clap is tremendously played by Deborah Jones, and we follow her unexpected drastic transformation. Clap in early scenes is perhaps a bit rigid and narrow minded, but upon liberation in the production’s second half, Jones is a confident, vibrant and spirited performer, and we see an interesting allegorical embodiment of queer empowerment. Terribly handsome Steve Corner’s superb portrayal of complex Princess Serafina is thrillingly multifaceted and nuanced in a magnificent performance. His well thought approach to his astonishing bravura performance is nicely balanced nicely with a knack for comedy . Chantel Leseberg gives a polished performance and is most impressive in her two contrasting roles, Amy and Tina. Amy, of 1726, is a deliciously wicked and knowing ‘innocent country wench’ while Tina, of now, who nearly bleeds to death after a botched abortion, is a demanding homophobe controlled by her horrible boyfriend. Leseberg’s presentation is always exciting and innovative. Bradley Bulger has much fun in red and black as a mischievous delightful Puck-like Eros, and the rest of the ensemble are also splendid. Ravenhill tries to shock his audience while at the same time tenderly exploring the riddle of the monogamous who love the polygamous and vice versa in a great achievement of portraying love and despair. 'Shit on those who call this sodomy / We call it fabulous!' Rating: 4 stars out of 5 Mother Clap’s Molly House Written by: Mark Ravenhill Music: Matthew Scott Director: Louise Fischer Cast: Debra Bryan, Bradley Bulger, Stephanie Begg, Steve Corner, Andrew Grogan, Patrick Howard, Deborah Jones, Chantel Leseberg, Tess Marshall, Brendan Miles, Thomas Pidd, Garth Saville, Dave Todd New Theatre, Newtown 11 February - 7 March