Friday, 29 April 2016

David Page

So sad to hear the news re David's passing . Our thoughts are with Stephen and the Bangarra family at this time

Friday, 8 April 2016

Mozart Requiem a wonderful concert A thrilling, spectacular concert magnificently sung and played. The Concert Hall of the Opera House was packed both on and off the stage. Under the elegant, precise and passionate baton of Brett Weymark the Symphony Chorus and Sydney Philharmonia Orchestra gave a heartfelt, stirring performance of music that spanned nine hundred years. The orchestra was augmented by double basset horns and three trombones. With a sombre theme appropriate for Easter the bulk of the programme was the Mozart Requiem but four other short pieces were included.Mozart’s serene and soaring Ave verum corpus K618, written in 1791, swelled ,ebbed and flowed in some of the most divinely angelic music ever created. Sian Pendry and Michael Honeyman were delectable soloists. In great contrast was the Australian premiere of Taverner’s It Is Finished. This was the composer’s final work and Sydney Philharmonia Choirs followed Tavener’s specifications for the way in which the orchestra and choir should be situated. The Choirs formed a Latin cross. The lighting for this piece was very dramatic. Based on a contemporary English poet David Gascoyne’s interpretation of Christ’s last words on the cross, Taverner quotes from Mozart’s concerto No. 23 at the end of the piece. The piece began with spiky drums. At times it was raw and jagged, full of emotion , with the choir tumbling and cascading thunderously yet punctuated by electric silences interwoven into a Latin choral setting of Psalm 50, ending with the Sanskrit phrase, “That I am”. Honeyman had a very tricky, fiery falsetto solo with jumpy rhythms for the words, “Far from thy face I nothing understand”. and Pendry had a complicated long twisty aria featuring a fabulous oboe accompaniment by Nagire de Korte. The Sequenza: Victimae Paschali Laudes , once the woodwind and other orchestra members had quietly snuck in, was a 12th century plainsong sequence similar to a Gregorian chant that s a sequence prescribed for the Roman Catholic Mass and liturgical Protestant Eucharists of Easter Sunday. The piece led straight on to the Mozart Requiem. This was in the key of D Minor which Mozart also also used for his Don Giovanni work. Mozart’s Requiem was written on his deathbed in 1791 and left incomplete. It was finished by his pupil Franz Sussmayr, although Mozart’s widow Constanze tried to cover this up at the time. The work was commissioned anonymously by Franz von Walsegg. Plenty of myth has developed around the Requiem, mostly started by Mozart’s wife Constanze, including a theory that Mozart was poisoned,— later used as a basis for Peter Shaffer’s famous play. It is now relatively easy to detect where the Mozart ends and the Sussmayr begins yet Sussmayer did a very good job of it especially considering the pressure he was under with the need for furtiveness and for the commission to be completed. The opening 8 bars perhaps suggest a funeral procession , strings sounding like footprints. There is great emotional light and shade with the choir’s dramatic entrance , they appear almost to demand and shout why me?! . The Requiem is a work of profound humanity, using Mozart’s understanding of the human voice to express every nuance of the text. The piece is intensely intimate and personal, passing through fear and grief to a hopeful place of rest and peace. It contains the drama of the acceptance and confirmation of faith in the face of faith’s greatest challenge – Death. Haunting strings and organ are heard at points. The choir is absolutely riveting in places. Sometimes the strings are sharp and insistent. Shane Lowrnecev shone in the Tuba Mirum, the choir was at times most enthusiastic, swirling and passionate. The quartets were sensational ,the mini solos at various points very striking featuring glorious singing. The hushed, rather delicate Song for Athene by Taverner , combining words from the Orthodox funeral service and Shakespeare’s Hamlet which concluded the funeral service of Diana, Princess of Wales , completed the programme. A very moving concert for Easter Saturday. Running time 1hr 40 minutes without interval. The Sydney Philharmonia Mozart Requiem was performed Saturday 26 March 2016 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)Ave verum corpus K 618 Sir John Tavener (1944–2013) It is finished (Australian premiere) Sequenza: Victimae Paschali Laudes Mozart Requiem Mass in D minor, K 626 Tavener Song for Athene Conductor: Brett Weymark Soprano:Taryn Fiebig Mezzo: Sian Pendry (also singing the Tavener) Tenor: Jonathan Abernethy Baritone: Michael Honeyman Bass: Shane Lowrencev Choir: Symphony Chorus Sydney Philharmonia Orchestra SATURDAY 26 MARCH, 2:00PM CONCERT HALL, SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

The Royal Ballet's Nutcracker

Wonderful Christmas fare ( even if screened in April) Royal Ballet weave their magic in an Peter Wright’s splendiferous, spectacular version of Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet. It is a sumptuous, quite traditional version, which has been around for about 30 years now and retains the Petipa /Ivanov choreography and it has to be said, unlike some versions of the work, actually makes a lot of dramatic sense. The production is set roughly in the early part of the nineteenth century. In Act 1 the Stahlbaum’s house is luxuriously furnished and in Act 2 the sugar garden of the palace is iced to perfection. The huge interlocking very complicated waltzes (snowflakes and flowers) with their intricate patterns were splendidly performed by a crisply dramatic corps de ballet. The Rose Fairy (Yasmine Naghdi) was dewily delightful. Debonair Herr Drosselmeyer, mysterious clockmaker and perhaps slightly sinister magician, who is attempting to break the spell on his nephew Hans-Peter, was magnificently portrayed by Gary Avis in a commanding performance. He was elegantly, expensively dressed in green – blue with red stockings and swirls a dramatic cloak. His character is in control of everything and I liked the reunion and sense of deja-vu at the end. It has its dark undertones, but overall is bright and enchanting- after all, this is Christmas. The palace inhabitants of Act 2 are not too sickly sweet. The tree transformation is sensational. As Clara, Francesca Hayward is all wide eyed enchantment. She is thrilled by her gift of the nutcracker doll and joins in the dances of all the young girls with their various dolls in Act 1 and the dance of the Mirlitons in Act2 for example. In Act 1 she has to put up with the brattish behaviour of her brother Fritz who breaks the nutcracker, though Drosselmeyer ends up repairing it. This was a beautiful portrayal presenting youth and fresh innocence. As Hans-Peter /The Nutcracker, charming expat Australian Alexander Campbell was terrific with a very clean elegant line and scintillating technique. In this version it is the Sugar Plum Fairy (Lauren Cuthbertson) and her Prince ( Nehemiah Kish ) who have the Grand Pas De Deux in Act 2. As Sugar Plum, Lauren Cuthbertson is tremendous- filigree, delicate icing. She sparkles in the famous solo and displays glorious creamy very controlled adagio movement of the upper body with superb epaulement and is tremendous in the supported turns.Cuthbertson also shows off some very tricky lifts and fish dives. As her Prince, Nehemiah Kish shows off not just his great partnering skills but also his fabulous fluid line, regal bearing and amazing elevation and turns. The ensemble work was most impressive. Much enjoyment was had by all the attendees of the Stahlbaum’s Christmas party in Act 1. The doll dances, presented as entertainment by Herr Drosselmeyer, were first a Harlequin and Columbine and then a couple dressed military style in blue and yellow. In Act 2 the national dances, again controlled by Drosselmeyer, were a vaguely pseudo-Spanish group in black and orange, a blue and white ‘ Chinese’ dance including parasols, pointe work, bobbing and pointy fingers which Clara participates in ,a sultry exotic ‘Turkish’ dance (shades of Fokine) and an exuberant Russian dance which Hans-Peter joins in. The battle between the toy soldiers and the mice (the Mouse King in a most impressive gold mane) is quite striking and thrilling, although Clara’s wishy- washy attack on the Mouse King is something of a disappointment. The red and gold Christmas Tree Angels that glide like Russian dancers were tremendous and the very ornate sleigh that Clara and Hans-Peter travel in was very impressive. Most delightful, this is perfect magical family fare for Christmas . Running time allow 2 hours 40 includes behind the scenes short documentaries before and interviews during interval. The Royal Ballet’s production of THE NUTCRACKER is screening at selected arthouse cinemas until the 6th April

Shake and Stir's Wuthering Heights at Riverside Parramatta

Oh dear. Sorry but I was most disappointed. Here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide Unfortunately, I was extremely disappointed in this production. Individually various elements were great but the production was quite uneven. There was no real spark or sense of passion, the fight scenes were almost farcical, it isn’t sure of the time period in which it was set and there was an over reliance on exciting theatrical effects and the use of technology though it has to be said that the finale with the rain and snow was magnificent. This production is based on the much loved Bronte novel where the mysterious, scruffy Heathcliff captures the heart of the well to do Catherine. The lives of two families, the Earnshaws and Lintons interweave over two generations at extremes of love and hate. The young Heathcliff develops a lifelong passionate bond with Cathy Earnshaw and an instinctive dislike of her brother Hindley. Once young adults, Heathcliff and Cathy’s relationship deepens to the point of dangerous obsession, until one day, Cathy marries another man. Overcome with jealousy, Heathcliff flees from the Heights only to return, years later, ready to exact revenge on those he believed thwarted his one chance at happiness. The set has billowing grey curtains that also act as projection screens,with dramatic rolling clouds, cracks of thunder, lightning flashes etc. At either side there are hidden alcoves with books, tea cups, vases, and a fireplace. Slammable doors, a piano and a bed that slides in/out are also included. The cast acts as stagehands, carrying in or out chairs, tables as scene changes are made. Costumes in a confusing mix range from Victorian black for Nellie Dean to sleeveless contemporary evening gowns for Cathy and Isabella, or a beautifully embroidered lace nightie/dress ( most unsuitable for roaming about the moors). For the men the garb ranged from a mostly semi- nineteenth century look to contemporary jeans and jumpers. In the small cast some actors perform multiple roles. Heathcliff is meant to be brooding Byronic and malevolent, transforming himself from feral scruffy guttersnipe to older, eloquent wealthy villain. Ross Balbuziente overall is quite impressive in his thirst for revenge though he almost descends to a pantomime villain . Heathcliff has to dominate the other characters with his sheer presence and barely controlled passion. Balbuziente doesn’t have this presence. As young Catherine Linton, Gemma Willing is sweetly charming and beautiful. Willing also played her mother, Catherine Earnshaw. This portrayal didn’t work. Catherine came across as brattish , hoydenish and prone to ridiculous tantrums which provoked laughter rather than pity from the audience. While both Catherine and Heathcliff have impassioned speeches about their love for each other, I didn’t feel any great chemistry between the two players. As the narrator Nelly Dean, Linden Wilkinson gives a finely nuanced performance; a mix of tension ,guilt and grief. She delivers her lines with great flair and polish, sometimes making witty observations. Tim Dashwood as Edgar Linton, with a blonde very short hairdo and in a pale blue suit, is mostly cold and sneering but tender in his love for his daughter. Nelle Lee was excellent in her various roles, elegant as Frances Earnshaw and Isabella Linton and almost unrecognizable, delightfully boyish as the rather fragile sniveling Linton Heathcliff. As Hindley and then Hareton Earnshaw, Nick Skubij was refined, then gruff and blustery. Catherine’s brother Hindley is shown as a callous brute and later becomes a very convincing drunken sod before dying of consumption. Passionate Wuthering Heights affectionnados need to be aware that this production does not stick faithfully to the book all the time with some characters deleted, updated dialogue and strong language . Running time – 2 hours 30 mins (approx.) including interval. Shake and Stir’s production of WUTEHRING HEIGHTS played the Riverside Theatre, Parramatta on the 22nd and 23rd March.

NT LIve Les Liasons Dangereuses

Like wow this was fabulous my thoughts for the Guide Gripping and enthralling this is a dazzling production. Directed by Josie Rourke this is the presentation in the National Theatre Of London (NT Live) series. The play is set in the eighteenth century, by flattering atmospheric candlelight ( there are five chandeliers used) and, as at a theatre of the era , they are lowered, the candles cleaned and trimmed and raised again at interval. The costumes are sumptuous. Yet there are dust sheets, scuffed walls and paintings stacked leaning against the walls as if for they are for packaging and removing. And then there is the harpsichord… Based on the scandalous 1782 epistolary novel by Choderlos de Laclos, the Christopher Hampton play tells the story of the love, lust, cruelty and revenge of the French nobility. Passions run high. The Marquise de Merteuil proposes a game , challenging her ex-lover, the Vicomte de Valmont, to seduce the convent-reared, 15-year-old Cecile: she seeks revenge on Cecile’s future fiance by whom she herself was once dumped. The eerie menace of the French revolution looms just out of sight… As the scheming wicked manipulative and cynical Marquise de Merteuil, Janet McTeer is glorious. With her stunning costumes it is as if she had just stepped out of a painting by Watteau.She has a regal bearing and elegant carriage of the neck. Her character seeks revenge and is jealous of Valmont and his passion for Madame de Tourvel .Bored she calmly takes a lover, the Chevalier Danceny. She is in part a feminist mouthpiece for Hampton to criticise the society of the period and how it viewed and treated women – (“You can ruin us whenever the fancy takes you,” she says of men. “All we can achieve by denouncing you is to enhance your prestige.”). Does she really love Valmont ? Or is it all a cynical game to her? We get a sense of her troubled soul and also her fury at the Vicomte’s passion for Madame de Tourvel. The Marquise has invented herself and is struggling to keep her creation alive. She eventually realises, though too late,that she is playing a game with someone who she does not want to lose. As the Vicomte de Valmont, Dominic West is superb . A darkly handsome slightly sinister at times Don Juan figure he is cool , elegant and full of charisma that makes women swoon. In combination with the Marqiuse he is a grand manipulator of The Game, delighting in his various conquests – until he realises that he has fallen in love for real. As Madame de Tourvel, a dark, luminous beauty, Elaine Cassidy is superb. An elegant, virtuous woman of unsullied reputation, regarded as pure and religious, the loyal wife of a magistrate, she is manipulated by Valmont, and has to overcome all her scruples and sacrifices in order to love. At certain points, she looks like an Ingres painting. De Tourval is extremely graceful, and in the traumatic breakup in Act 2, which Valmont insists is ‘beyond his control’, she is shattered and broken in some ways like the ‘mad scene’ in the ballet Giselle. Young, fresh , innocent Cecile de Volanges , straight out of the convent , who is way out of her depth in the society of the French court and corrupted by Valmont , was delightfully played by Morfydd Clark in a finely nuanced performance. She is a helpless pawn in the ‘games’ of the Marquise and Valmont . The Chevalier Danceny , the music teacher in love with Cecile but corrupted by the marquise, was dashingly played by Edward Holcroft, looking like a story book, handsome Musketeer. The sad irony is that both Valmont and Merteuil , ex lovers, are still inescapably , fatally attracted to each other. It is now thirty years since Hampton’s play about the cynical pursuit of pleasure ignoring other’s pain, the destruction of purity and innocence, and vice hidden behind a mask of decorum, was first performed, and it still sizzles! Running time allow 3 hours 15 minutes , including one interval. There are short ‘making of ‘ documentaries before, and interviews during the film’s interval. LES LIASONS DANGEREUSES SCEENS is screening at selected arthouse cinemas from this coming Thursday, 9th April.

Goya : Visions of Flesh and Blood

A most fascinating film to Velasquez, hero to Picasso…This is the third year of this marvellous season of Exhibition on Screen and this time it is based on the Goya: The Portraits exhibition that was recently on at the National Gallery in London. Top brass gallery directors, curators and scholars combine to give fascinating insights into Goya’s life and times, his personality and oeuvre. There are voiceovers of some of his letters and a look-alike actor stalks around as Goya in his later years. Dizzying panoramas of Madrid and sections of the exhibition are included as well as sections of bull fights , great horsemanship and hunting dogs. Extreme close-ups allow us to examine the varnish and brushstrokes of various paintings. We learn about Goya’s early life, his work at court, his major patrons (including the King and Queen of the period and the Duchess of Alba); how he became totally deaf after a major illness and his solitary life in self imposed exile in Bordeaux in France. His marriage is mentioned in passing and we learn much about his close friendship with Martin Zapater. There is much excitement when Goya’s rare, fragile 1771 Italian sketchbook is reverently displayed especially for this documentary. This allows us to follow how the artist jumped between ideas, and how he stored images for future use. Goya is somewhat elusive yet amazingly direct. He is regarded and presented here as one of the first modern artists because of his amazing sense of the individual yet he is also firmly anchored in his turbulent time which saw the French revolution and Napoleonic Wars, the terrors of the Inquisition and the rigidity of life at the Spanish Bourbon court. To Goya politics and painting became inextricably linked as he became court painter and conservator. Gabriele Finaldi, director of the National Gallery, stated that Goya’s great curiosity was combined with a piercing intelligence; that he never stopped working, and never did the same kind of artwork twice. This, it is implied, was how the portraits showed such great psychological depth. The viewer is shown around the exhibition – the various aristocrats, the great Bourbon familial set-pieces, the portraits of his family, his friends, his Doctor and his self-portraits. Scholarly commentators include the exhibition’s curator Xavier Bray, Juliet Wilson-Bareau, and the curators of the Prado and the Spanish royal palaces. We also meet a conservator, Joanna Dunn, at the National Gallery in Washington to be informed about (and shown) Goya’s orange priming, his glazes, his brushstrokes, his painting wet paint on to wet paint. The biography, interwoven with the paintings, is in subtle chronology beginning with Aragon, Goya’s birthplace in northern Spain, his adolescence spent in Zaragoza, and we then move with him to Madrid. Then we follow the slow development of his career from designer for the Royal Tapestry Factory making the large-scale paintings of life and leisure which were translated into the great wall hangings, on through his travels to Italy. On his return, his first aristocratic and royal commissions began- frescoes and paintings for chapels and cathedrals– and portraits. Over a third of Goya’s oeuvre consists of portraits. We are told that Goya before his deafness, (perhaps caused by the lead in the paints he used), loved music and was something of an extrovert. He was a man of intense friendships and conflicting impulses, a man of the Enlightenment yet a royalist, who developed a wonderful rapport with the greatest aristocrats of the day as indicated, for example, by the portrait of one of his major patrons, the Duchess of Alba; who wears two rings, one of which reads Goya, the other Alba, and coyly points to the artist’s name scratched in the earth at her feet. It is through Goya that his greatest patrons are viewed and remembered – Charles III in hunting gear; Charles IV and his Queen; and the familial portraits of the family and staff of the Infante Don Luis de Borbon, with his wife, children and staff ( where Goya included himself at his canvas, an allusion to Velazquez’s self-portrait in his Las Meninas). This is not to forget his major portrait of of a very exhausted Duke of Wellington. There is an analysis of his extremely nightmarish, dark works for example Los Capricios and The Horrors of War are also included to provide us with an even deeper understanding of the man and his works. The Goya exhibition ran between October 2015 and January 2016 at the National Gallery London. The film runs for 105 minutes without interval. Exhibition on Screen presents Goya Visions of Flesh and Blood screens at selected arthouse cinemas from Saturday 26th March.

Unfinished Works A most exciting new Australian play .Again , my thoughts for the Guide What is Art? Inspiration and the creative process, artistic copyright, integrity and forgery are central to this work. This new play by Thomas de Angelis is given a terrific performance by a great cast. The production has been bought to us by BONTOM, the team that brought us Jack Killed Jack (2012) and The Worst Kept Secrets(2014). Charles Davis’ single, multi functional, rather elegantly minimalist set has neutral colours and clean,crisp lines fluidly representing places ranging from a dingy studio in Marrickville to a posh house in Rose Bay. Effective use is also made of the upstairs balcony at times during the play. Direction by Clemence Williams was superb with magnificent diction, timing and tension in this energetic ,thoughtful production. . The cast perform with emotional intensity throughout. As we enter, Isabel and Frank are busy painting on either side of the stage. Frank ( short for Francesca) Ralco is a famous artist, (Lucy Goelby ) blonde beautiful and quite prickly, who is suddenly suffering from artist’s block. Incredibly successful, Frank has a reputation that precedes her. A woman who has never separated her life from her art she is panicky thinking her life has suddenly become worthless. Isabel Martin (Contessa Treffone) is dark haired, rather mousy with spectacles. An aspiring artist, she is a trained architect but unhappy in her job and trapped in a seething, tumultuously intense relationship with her rather rigid, overbearing parents Paula and Vince who have no affinity with the arts’ world. Frank used to be a tenant of Vince Martin’s and the show starts with her visiting her old home before it is demolished and saying that Vince can have the three paintings that she left behind. She doesn’t want them, he can do with them what he pleases. Instead, Vince keeps them and hangs them in his new home. When Frank finds this out she changes her attitude and accuses him of stealing the works, and wants them back. Lucy Goelby is tremendous as Ralco, giving a luminous performance that reveals her characters’ vulnerability and fragile cynicism. We see how she eventually breaks through her artistic block and regains her confidence. We also follow Contessa Treffone’s fine performance. In her portrayal of Isabel we see a woman exploring her place in the world,and going against the expectations of her parents. The chemistry between the two women is full of passionate sparks,heated debate and steamy kisses. Jimmy Gunning, Frank’s agent and boyfriend, was brilliantly portrayed by dreamily handsome Kyle Kazmarik. Jimmy is passionate about art and Frank but questions her integrity when she finds herself in difficult situations. Rhett Walton plays the rather brutish and mulish property developer, Rhett Walton, who does love his daughter. As Vince Martin the property developer Rhett Walton is rather brutish and mulish generally but does love his daughter and wants her to be happy. Deborah Galanos is very controlling as Paula Martin, who doesn’t her daughter or the art world in which she moves. Some of the plot and dialogue may benefit with a little reworking but this remains a provocative and earnest production featuring sizzling performances. This is a play that raises a lot of issues for discussion, and is an intense, incisive look at the contemporary art world of Sydney. Running time 2 hours. Thomas de Angelis’ UNFINISHED WORKS is playing at the Reginald Theatre, the Seymour Centre until Saturday 2nd April. Bookings 93517940.

Huang Yi and Kuka

This was amazing ! Here's my thoughst , again for The Guide Can a robot actually dance ? In this case, yes. Huang Yi from Taiwan always wanted a robot companion as a child. Now he has one. This work was first performed in 2013 and has travelled internationally. It was inspired by childhood pressures. Huang’s family was in dire financial straits, his parents were greatly distressed and he felt the need to become emotionally detached and to appear to be ‘perfect’. The answer, Huang discovered, was robots. In this work contemporary dance and visual arts have become intermeshed with robotics. Listed by Dance Magazine as one of the “25 to Watch,” is widely considered one of Asia’s major choreographers. Huang was immersed in the arts at a young age, spending much of his childhood in his parents’ studio watching them teach tango and learning to paint alongside his father. Huang’s work has been highly praised internationally , and featured in among others the Ars Electronica Festival (Austria), Tasdance and Dancenorth (Australia), Joyce Theater, Engien-Les-Bain Centre des Arts (France), Cloud Gate 2 (Taipei), the Indonesian Dance Festival (Jakarta), New York Live Arts, and the American Dance Festival (North Carolina). Huang’s collaboration with Cloud Gate 2 toured internationally in 2012, to much acclaim. He has received awards for his work at Digital Arts Center Taipei and the 3rd Cross Connection Ballet International Choreography Competition in Copenhagen, among many others across Europe and Asia. The German-manufactured robot ,which takes Huang 10 hours to programme to produce one minute of movement, is somehow lyrical and poetic in its movements and interaction .Kuka the machine, mostly used for making cars, has a mind of its own. At times it is like a dragon, hissing and spitting. At other times, it is a large predatory bird, or a nervous highly strung horse. In some sections it performs on its own, at other times it mirrors Huangs actions, or interacts, for example pushing a chair, or acts as support in a pas de deux. Large and orange it has both a red and green laser light. Huang has created a mesmerizing at times lyrical and haunting piece. It mainly uses the music of Mozart and Bach. The lighting is starkly dramatic at times quite dark .Sometimes there is just a small square or corridor of light concentrating on one of the performers. Huang wears an elegant dark suit with socks but no shoes. One section uses repetition. Huang performs an intricate quite princely ballet like solo with wonderful rondes des jambes and extremely expressive twinkling, almost talking, hands. This is then repeated in silence, but with Kuka mirroring the moves hidden in the dark so all we hear are the hisses and squeaks of that machine. The solo is then repeated again, with the music, but this time Kuka is also visible. The final section has two dancers Hu Chien and Lin Jou-Wen who perform a sort of slow-mo robotic pas de deux. Kuka uses a red laser light to manipulate, control and separate them. They swap places and eventually embrace. Is this a reunion of parted lovers (a la Brief Encounter) ? Is it Yi and Kuka, transformed into a human, in a parallel universe? Are they memories of his parents? A multi layered very intriguing work that captivates. Some audience members will establish a linear narrative, some not .Go see. Running time – just on an hour(approx) no interval. Huang Yi and Kuka runs at the Seymour Centre 16-19 March 2016

NT Live - As You Like It

This was superb loved it Here's my thoughts as for the Guide latest of the NTLive series is this delightful enchanting version of Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ directed by Polly Findlay and filmed at the Olivier Theatre. From a set design perspective this production is tremendous. The court scenes early in Act 1 are devised as garishly stylised, bright, bold and colourful regimented offices of a major company with a terrible multi coloured carpet. There is a magnificent coup de theatre transformation scene where all the desks, chairs and more are lifted and become the looming Forest of Arden. Lighting by Jon Clark is terrific too. In this version especially in Act 1, you really do get a feeling of how cold it is, how eerie and mysterious the Forest is, with the forest creatures looming in the darkness. The eeriness is articulated even more by onstage singers who present Orlando Gough’s atmospheric score. The ensemble work is splendid.Much fun is had by audience and cast when the cast are sheep in white woolly jumpers and black socks. The office in Act 1 is tightly controlled with regimented, timed to the second, lunch breaks. The wrestling match, presented as a team building exercise in Act 1, is also precisely choreographed, – poor Orlando doesn’t seem to have a hope. The wrestler Charles is twice his size. The fight with flashing lights, pounding music and chanting is a draw with Orlando winning on technical points. Most of the office workers have clapped and cheered Charles on. Our Rosalind, Rosalie Craig, with beautiful long red hair cascading in tumbled curls, is radiant. Her character is strong and quick witted, and Craig gives a delicious reading of the part. In disguise, as Ganymede, her hair is cut very short. She is instantly struck by Orlando, becomes dizzy with love, and verbally spars with him reminiscent of Beatrice and Benedict in another Bard play. As Rosalind Craig is beautiful refined and elegant , as Ganymede exuberant and energetic. Both hint at feline grace. Rosalind’s loving, loyal cousin Celia was delightfully played by small, dark impish Patsy Ferran who gave an impassioned, thoughtful and supportive performance. Our affable hero Orlando, who we first meet as an office cleaner, is wonderfully played by Joe Bannister, who gives a vibrant, and at times edgy performance. Orlando bemoans his treatment by his brother Oliver and his lack of education. Once in Arden he grows in confidence and is joyous in his love for Rosalind. leaping around leaving his love notes on the trees. His concern for old Adam in Act 1 is very touching. Phillip Arditti plays Oliver, Orlando’s brother, who is a villainous and sinister presence in Act 1 but has a major transformation in Act 2 in order to unexpectedly win Celia’s hand. The character of Touchstone is wonderfully played by Mark Benton. Benton plays his character as gruff, cynical and bearlike; a commonsense , earthy ‘fool’. Paul Chahidi portrays his character Jacques as a bit of a misanthrope; cynical, scornful, world weary, and aloof. Chahidi delivers the Seven Ages of Man speech artfully. Alan Williams’ Corin the shepherd is no dull dimwitted figure of fun rustic but a rueful, alert observer. Ken Nwosu as Silvius, and Gemma Lawrence as Phebe, also depict the unhappy fractured reality behind the fantasy of pastoral idyllic love. This was a multi layered, richly textured AS YOU LIKE IT that leads to a joyful conclusion. Running time – allow 3 hours 15 mins including one interval The NT Live screenings of AS YOU LIKE IT play at selected cinemas from 19 March 2016.

That Eye The Sky at the New Theatre

Here's my thoughts as for Sydney Arts Guide THAT EYE, THE SKY has been lovingly adapted from the Tim Winton novel and brought to the stage by Richard Roxburgh and Justin Monjo and directed by David Burrowes. It is beautifully, eloquently written and the show is extremely polished with an incredibly talented cast but the work is mostly cerebal and we feel distanced observers. The play asks the big questions about the nature of religion and the meaning of Life and Death. Briefly the plot can be summarized as follows – in an outback Western Australian town young Ort Flack is struggling to come to terms with terrible changes in his world Long ago, his parents ‘dropped out’ to follow a hippie lifestyle. Now his father lies paralysed in a coma, his older sister is consumed by hate, his grandma exists in a fog of dementia and his once-carefree mother is now unable to cope. For Ort, the struggle to understand the world around him draws him towards faith and religion. Full of optimism, yet lonely and frightened, loving unconditionally Ort becomes obsessed with the belief that somewhere ‘up there’ someone or something watches over them all, controlling their destiny, and that his father can be cured….Then one day a mysterious stranger suddenly appears and entrances them all leading to further massive changes. This is a bleak yet intense production with at times almost a cold ,futuristic sci-fi feeling. There is an intriguing use of damaged grey twisted mannequins to represent characters who are both present yet absent The soundscape created by Hugo Smart and Dean Barry Revell pulses, throbs shatters and hums restlessly. Ben Brockman’s lighting is visually stunning and astonishing at times blinding and similar to strobe lighting. Tom Bannerman’s flexible giant grid set is part trellis, part fence, looking down on the action with a monitoring lightbox that can transform and become a boat among other things… Control and focused energy are important in this show for example in the use of introspective pauses or the depiction of a traffic accident. Joel Horwood’s portrayal of the main role of Ort who does not want to grow up is outstanding. While tall and grown he brings a wide eyed, questioning innocence to his character that is convincing and remarkable. Ort’s mother and sister Alice and Tegwyn are marvelously played by Romney Stanton and Emma Wright,who almost look like twins and perform with delicate nuance and sensitivity in elegant yet understated characterization. As Alice, Stanton is wearily accepting of the drudgery of her life and she bravely tries to protect her family. Tegwyn is restless and wants out,something better and taunts and teases Warburton. Hulking, rather scruffy Shaun Martindale energetically plays the pivotal role of Henry Warburton a born-again, travelling self-styled evangelist with a sinister hidden menace full of enigmatic danger and complexity. He leads Ort and his mother to baptism yet corrupts Ort’s sister. The novel has been adapted into a thought provoking piece of ‘theatrical magic-realism‘ about Ort’s experiences of love, loss of faith and family full of humanity. It is also about the relationship with the land, the importance of caring, nurturing females and Christianity’s ability to conquer with salvation or destroy. Technically this is a terrific production with a splendid cast, terrific set,costumes and lighting effects though one felt a little emotionally distant. Running time two hours including interval. THAT EYE THE SKY is playing the New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown until Saturday 16th April. Peformances are Thursdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm and Sundays at 5pm. Ticket price $17- $32. SEASON 15 March – 16 April PERFORMANCES Previews: Tuesday 15 and Wednesday 16 March 7.30pm Opening Night: Thursday 17 March 7.30pm Season: Thursday – Saturday 7:30pm, Sunday 5pm

The Bald Soprano at King St Theatre

Most unusual BALD SOPRANO (aka The Bald Prima Donna) was Ionesco’s first play. Written in the 1950’s a production in France has been running since 1956. Ionesco , regarded as one of the major figures of the French Theatre of the Absurd ,was inspired by his English language primer when he was trying to learn English . An ‘anti –play’, it shows the absurdities of human interactions, breaking and ignoring the conventions of a traditional play . With no linear narrative it concentrates on themes rather than plot and it is as if the characters are behind a glass window at a zoo portraying a social dinner party with people you don’t like and attempting to make entertainment out of that. Awkward moments become relevant as part of the play’s meaning, full of Dada like ridiculousness. Here at King St (where by the way this marks the 201st production) this strange, quirky and exciting play was given an excellent performance by its small cast. It has been updated a little as all four of the Smiths and Martins have mobiles. Under Walsh’s direction the play is on one level all about time. The set is a neutral coloured sitting room , with many , many clocks , of various shapes and sizes , all over the walls, on the table, underfoot near the chairs and sofa..there is even a Dali-esque Surrealist like clock melting over one corner of the table. The play is about everything and nothing , the mundane uselessness of life, the human condition , the use of language and repetition. It is about nonsense, things that make sense and clichéd overwhelmingly true yet twisted phrases .Like Beckett’s Godot the Bald Soprano is crucial to the plot but never actually appears. There is fine ensemble work from all the cast. Blonde Mrs Smith (Ellie May) is tall, refined and elegant in a beautiful black and white outfit. Mr Smith (Timothy Hope) is more comfortable with his trousers rolled up,his slippers and his pipe. Mrs Smith has a big monologue about the food the just ate and there is a repetitive confusing dialogue about Bobby Watson. When the Martins arrive Mrs Martin is dressed similarly to Mrs Smith. The Martins have a long stilted convoluted and very polite conversation (with impeccable timing ) , with lots of repetition of “how bizarre , what a coincidence ‘ and Mrs Martin constantly saying ‘but I am afraid I don’t recall..’ leading up to a recognition scene and reconciliation. The perky maid (Luciana Nguyen)breaks through the ‘fourth wall’- or does she ? – to explain that nothing is what it seems , and skitters away at one point after declaring ‘ My name is Sherlock Holmes ‘. The young bearded Fire chief in uniform with yellow hard hat (Matthew Neto) appears charming but admits to arson in order to create work for himself. There is an odd sequence, again using repetition , where the doorbell rings several times ( with different sounds) but no one is there. Or are they? And a strange dinner party like section where they all tell fables and are interrupted by the maid who wants to recite a poem. .. Running time 70 mins (approx.) no interval. THE BALD SOPRANO runs at the King ST Theatre 15-26 March 2016

Bolshoi Lady of the Camellias

A whhirlwind passionate performance breathtaking production by the Bolshoi Ballet of John Neumeier’s Lady of the Camellias is full of shattering, overwhelming tempestuous passion that had some audience members in tears at the end. This is the Neumeier version originally created for the Stuttgart Ballet in 1978 telling the story of Marguerite Gauthier and Armand Duval as in the Dumas novel, the opera la Traviata and Ashton’s ballet. It is a tale of tragic true love interwoven with the story of Manon Lescaut and Des Greiux (for example Marguerite and Armand attend a performance of a ballet version of Manon and identify with the characters). The ballet uses the delicate yet volcanically passionate music of Chopin. The orchestra under the direction of Pavel Sorokin was splendid. The ballet, set in 1847, is told in flashbacks of Armand’s memories and opens Phantom of the Opera like with the auction of Marguerite’s effects and Armand, distraught, arriving late and confronting his father. The ballet is structured mostly as a series of all encompassing passionate pas de deux for Marguerite and Armand. Light and shade is provided by the ballroom dances for the ensemble throughout and also the idyllic summer games and celebrations that are the first half of the second act. Neumeier’s choreography is extremely acrobatic and demanding with huge challenging lifts. Great detail is provided in the characterization throughout. The set consists of a few tables, chairs and chandeliers with its compactness allowing for fluid scene changes. The stunning costumes are incredibly detailed. As Marguerite, Svetlana Zhakarova is extraordinary. An elegant courtesan in ravishing costumes she falls unwillingly totally in love with Armand and sacrifices herself for love. In Act 1, at their first meeting, she is in quite feline, sensual and alluring, though her illness is already evident. Margueritte is joyously transformed by her unexpected mature true love for Armand and broken by his father’s harsh demand that she leave him. The pas de deux with Monsieur Duval, who here looks more like Armand’s brother than father, is shattering. There are hints of Zhakarova’s recent portrayal of Giselle. at times and stuttering, sobbing pointes combine with long swooping lines. Our Armand is tall, blonde delightfully handsome Edvin Revazov. From the moment he first sees Marguerite he is smitten , mesmerized as if struck by lightning. Technically he is dazzling with tremendous elevation and ballon and a lyrical yet clean finish. His split jetes in Act 2 are amazing. The relatively minor characters are delightfully portrayed. The transfer of the ballet from stage to screen worked well with great cinematography employing effective use of closeups at times or pulling back in the large ensemble scenes to enable us to see the patterns of the choreography. This was a thrilling, marvellously danced, entrancing production Running time – 3 hours 20 minutes includes interviews in the two intervals. The Bolshoi Ballet’s presentation of John Neumeier’s LADY OF THE CAMELLIAS screens at selected cinemas from March 12.

Paris Opera Ballet : Ballets Russes this was fascinating here's my review for the Guide With this screening ballet lovers are in for a great treat with the wonderful Paris Opera Ballet bringing us an extraordinary quadruple bill of four famous Diaghilev Ballets Russes works that are very rarely performed on the contemporary stage. The performances took place as part of the Company’s Centenary program in 2009. The ballets have been lovingly recreated and beautifully danced. It felt almost like being in a time machine and being able to see these works at their premieres. Three of the works have links to the legendary Vaslav Nijinsky. At the start of the twentieth century, Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes overthrew conventions and led the way in modernity, bringing together painters, musicians and choreographers of the avant garde. The artistic elite of the era was brought together in a dazzling team of stellar greats. They included artists of the calibre of Debussy, Stravinsky, Falla, Picasso, Bakst, Massine, Nijinsky, Fokine …. First in the program was the dreamy Spectre de La Rose based on the Mallarme poem. The Benois set is gloriously recreated with its large open windows, chairs and sofas (but no birdcage). As the dreamy young girl (the Karsavina role) in white– note the exquisite detailing of white ruffles and lace on the bodice– Isabelle Ciaravola is terrific, although perhaps looking a lot older than the role required– the close ups were cruel! In the famous Nijinsky role Mathias Heymann manages excellently to overcome his rather unappealing costumes which have been dyed various shades of pink. There is marvellous attention to detail in the petals and arm bands. But that hat! He has amazing extraordinary ballon with huge soft jumps and turns and the choreography alludes to another famous Nijinksy role that of the Golden Slave in Scherazade. As the essence of a rose Heymann is slightly alien, mysterious and exotic. The Fokine choreography demands at times gentle and sinuous arms with some fiendishly killing jetes and entrechats.Not forgetting that famous leap out the window at the end ….. Next we saw a recreation of Nijinsky’s L’Apres –Midi D’Un Faune ( Afternoon of a Faun) to Debussy’s lush, languid, pulsating and sensual music. At the time the work was considered ground breaking and very controversial as it goes against balletic convention with its turned in walk, frieze like poses and God forbid bare feet. Now that over a hundred years have passed we can hopefully better appreciate Nijinsky’s attempt to break choreographic forms. It is a lazy summer afternoon until the Faun spies the nymphs and their leader, startles them and captures the scarf the lead nymph drops, returning with the scarf to dream rather erotically on the rock. Nicholas Le Riche as the haughty Faune is spotted and dappled with vines and grapes on his shoulder and groin and tiny pointed horns on his head. The lead nymph’s (Emilie Cozette) costume- Ancient Greek dress- and shawl are plain, her companions wearing similar dresses but with spots or stripes as detail. A Greek vase brought to life. Le Tricorne (The Three Cornered Hat), which Massine famously choreographed and danced the role of the Miller is much exuberant fun with glorious dancing. The landmark Picasso sets and costumes are deceptively simple, bold and colourful masterpieces in their own right .The starring roles of the Miller ( José Martinez) and his Wife (Marie-Agnès Gillot ) are danced with dazzling technique and much relish. Martinez is tall, dark and dreamily handsome. Powerful and hypnotic his solo zapateado is fiery and captivating and brings the house down. Gillot is sultry and volcanic underneath. Her anguished solo when the Miller is arrested is tremendous. Mostly however she is bright, strong fiery and flirtatious. Her teasing of the Magistrate, played as a lecherous comic buffoon, is delightful. The ominous whirling of the other magistrates, like birds of ill omen, was well handled Last on the programme was another famous Fokine /Nijinsky piece, Petrouchka. The fairground scenes, with the clash between the busking acrobat and the dancer, the coachmen, elegant nursemaids was well done though a trifle artificial. The first appearance of the Magician,eerily played by Stéphane Phavorin gives one shivers. He is cold and manipulative yet terrified at the end when the ghost of Petrouchka comes to haunt him. Clairemarie Osta as the Ballerina in her pink and red outfit is doll like and enchanting,and the exotic Moor is wonderfully danced by Yann Bridard. Benjamin Pech as Petrouchka, channeling his inner Nijinsky, was superb. Fragile and poignant he is indeed ‘a puppet with a soul’, tormented by his love for the uncaring Ballerina and his enforced slavery to the magician. The glimpse of him in his cell railing and raging against the Magician was brilliant. This was a magnificent, quite shattering performance. This screening represents a wonderful opportunity for ballet lovers to see an extraordinary performance of four legendary works that still have much resonance today. Running time 2 hours and 20 minutes including one interval The Paris Opera Ballet in Ballets Russes is screening at selected arthouse cinemas until 16th March.

Teatro Alla Scala Temple of Wonders

This was enthralling .Here is my rave for the Guide you hear them? Here dwell the spirits of the great artists of the past”. One of the leading theatrical impresarios of all time, Paolo Grassi, said this of the Teatro Alla Scala, and this is what makes La Scala unique – it is haunted by the invisible ghosts and voices of some of the greatest in opera history, including icons like Verdi, Puccini,Toscanini, Pavarotti and Callas. In this glorious film brought to us by Luca Lucini and Silvia Corbetta, the audience has unprecedented behind the scenes access to one of the most exclusive popular temples of the elite performing arts in the world and its fascinating history spanning over more than 200 years. There are dazzling shots of the huge interior of the lavish, golden auditorium. The film is organised chronologically, following through the history of the building since it first opened in 1778. The site was previously a church . We see the damage the building took as a result of the bombing during World War 2 and its subsequent reopening in 1946. It is also noted that the building was closed for major renovations from 2002-2004. Mention is also made of what were then regarded as scandalous productions during the 1950’s particularly La Traviata with Callas (cue a recording of her singing Sempre Libre). We follow scurrying present day backstage cleaners and various stage and technical managers at work. Also orchestra members, and we visit the huge scene painting and costume workshops. Interwoven with this is archive footage of the theatre’s long and fascinating history. There are incredible photos and film footage of Verdi’s funeral for example, and wonderful shots of many important opera productions. These are spliced with meanderings where actors have been employed to bring a selected few greats of classical music to the screen with first person accounts explaining a particular aspect of their history. Examples include Luigi Illica, Puccini’s librettist and Bartolomeo Merelli, the impressario. There are also interviews with current /ex performers including Domingo, Bolle and Ferri. Some of La Scala’s history has been dominated by the great composers, at other times it is the conductors including Toscanini , Daniel Barenboim, Riccardo Muti and Claudio Abbado) or the great divas including Callas and Tebaldi, and divos including Pavarotti, Domingo , and Carreras. So many of the opera greats have performed here! We see footage including Domingo’s dynamic entrance in Otello , a gigantic Cecil B.De Mille like triumphal march from a 1950’s version of Aida, – and cut to a 2012 sultry version with Roberto Bolle – snippets fromRossini’s The Barber of Seville and Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde and Puccini’s La Boheme. There is magnificent footage of a young Pavarotti from the 1960’s in Verdi’s Requiem that gives one goosebumps. And and and … The work of the chorus and the chorus master is also considered– there is a performance of Va Pensiero ( the ‘’ Chorus of Hebrew slaves ‘’from Verdi’s Nabucco) that is gripping and chilling . The ballet side of La Scala is also briefly mentioned – we see the school and there are mentions of Nureyev . Opera lovers in particular will wallow in this film with delight and bravos ( Balletomanes like this author will be going, more please! ). This was an inspiring film. Running time allow 2 hours (approx) no interval. LA SCALE TEMPLE OF WONDERS is screening at selected arthouse cinemas from 27th February.

Bolshoi Ballet Giselle This was fabulous here's my review for the Guide For the sixth consecutive year Sharmill Films are bringing ballet lovers filmed versions of four ballets presented by the legendary Moscow ballet Company. The first in time is this splendid, very traditional, terrifically danced production of GISELLE. The ballet was clearly filmed with effective use of close up at times while at others pulled back so we could see the patterns of the choreography ( for example, in the peasant revels and the intricacies of the work for the Willis). GISELLE is regarded as a cornerstone example of the Romantic ballet, a major test piece for both the ballerina particularly and her partner. Act 1 is mostly bathed in russet Autumnal colours, whilst Act 2 is a ghostly woodland glade. It is interesting to note that in this version there is no chilling mime solo for Berthe , Giselle’s mother telling the story of the legend of the Wilis. Nor is Giselle crowned Queen of the Harvest Festival (although there is a Bacchus like figure who sits atop a wine barrel leading the celebrations). And in this version Hilarion is called Hans and the ‘Peasant pas de deux’ is shown as being part of the general festival celebrations. The Orchestra of Bolshoi Ballet performed terrifically under Pavel Klinichev. The ensemble of the corps de ballet gave fine performances in each act; as villagers in Act 1 or, for the women, Willis in Act 2 . The peasant pas de deux were marvellously danced too by Daria Khokhlova and Igor Tsvirko. The two lead roles were wonderfully danced. Both Giselle and Albrecht were convincingly enamoured of each other with little flashes of detail in the acting throughout Act 1 increasing the drama. Svetlana Zakharova as Giselle was sensational. She breathlessly dazzles in her interpretation of the role. In Act 1 she was a shy, innocent beautiful village girl blossoming under Albrecht’s attention. The pas de deux in Act1 was joyous. Her ‘mad scene’ was shattering, grippingly danced and acted, her broken almost uncomprehending desolation made believable. Svetlana has command of a very light upper body and soft high jumps combined with steely, assured pointe work and fast fleet footwork even more noticeable in Act 2. In Act 2 as Giselle’s ghost she was a fragile whisper invisible to Albrecht yet he could feel her presence.(The two main pas de deux in Act 2 were ravishing – the transition from arabesque to turns and developes were refined and elegant, the travelling lifts and poses with floating arms handled brilliantly). Handsome Sergei Polunin as Albrecht was tremendous. In Act 1 he is cheekily impressive, a bit of a playboy with a dazzling smile, genuinely in love with Giselle and shocked and grieving at her unexpected death. The appearance of Bathilde rattles him. In Act 2 he has a very posh glittering black top with white inserts in the black sleeves. Technically he was superb with brilliant soft jumps, high elevation, pantherine’ ballon and impeccable finish. He is also a tremendous actor, – in Act2 we see princely brooding and despair. Ekaterina Shipulina as Myrtha , with her photogenic cheekbones, was cold, imperious and regally implacable as the Queen of the Willis, ignoring Hans’ pleas for his life and condemning Albrecht to death as well. The demanding choreography included cabrioles, brises and testing jumps and tours as well as gliding bourees , all of which were excellently performed , creating a chilling characterization. The corps of Willis in Act 2 was precise and menacing. They breathed and pulsated as one. Young, handsome Denis Savin as the woodsman Hans acted and danced terrifically. In Act1 he unwitting betrays Albrecht’s double life causing tragedy and in Act 2 is terrified and driven to his death by the Willis. This was a terrific traditional version gloriously danced by its two principals. Running time – 2 hours including introduction and interviews before and during interval. THE BOLSHOI BALLET ON SCREEN : GISELLE screens at selected arthouse cinemas from 27th February 27.

Luisa Miller

A fabulous opera This Verdi opera is rarely performed , despite having a series of show stopping arias in both acts. It was first performed in 1849 and is based on Schiller’s play Love and Intrigue. It was written at the beginning of his ‘middle period ‘, which includes popular favourites like Il Trovatore and Rigoletto, and concludes with La Traviata. This version comes from the Opéra de Lausanne and is directed by Giancarlo del Monaco. The first thing you notice about this amazing production is William Orlandi’s extraordinary set which rather dominates the proceedings. A white sculptural domestic tableaux of an idealised family , complete with a fireplace with a bust of Verdi observing , is cantilevered in a coup de theatre to act as a reflective mirror of the action. ( Death overturned by all conquering love ?) The stage set is black and reflective with various scaffolding and sections that are adjusted as required. LUISA MILLER opens Evita like with what appears to be Luisa’s funeral. Luisa is lying on a huge bier garlanded with flowers .The candle carrying chorus enter sombrely garbed in Edwardian black .They mostly loomed ominously and sang in the shadows, but burst out explosively when necessary, as in the end of Act 1. Under the dynamic enthusiastic baton of Andrea Licata the orchestra played superbly, at times with great range and detail, at other times with enormous impact as in the concluding Act. The narrative begins with two young people in love- Luisa, who is the daughter of injured, retired soldier Miller, and Rodolfo, the local count’s son in disguise. (Shades of Rigoletto and Giselle) . Rodolfo passionately declares his love for Luisa but is forbidden to continue the liason by his domineering father, while , to save her father’s life, Luisa is menacingly forced into declaring that she ‘loves’ the Count’s sinister, villainous steward Wurm. Through the opera there is sniping at blue-blood snobbery whilst, at the same time, extolling the decent bourgeois life, and like several Verdi operas, such as Rigoletto and Don Carlos, the work also sharply critiques family life and love relationships. There are six main characters performed by a superb cast . The eponymous role of Luisa was sung by diva Nicole Car who some are calling the next Dame Joan Sutherland, freshly returned from wowing audiences and critics in London. Car is splendid in her first Verdi role, and brings dramatic force and power to the opera’s climactic moments, Her voice has agility, an elegant coloratura and a bright resonance combined with great dark liquid shades as well . The duets with her father as well as with her lover were a great highlight. As Rodolfo, Diego Torre was impassioned and fiery with great dramatic force. He has a huge voice but scaled it back at times to great effect, and his singing featured some glorious top notes. His show stopping aria Quando le sere al placido was magnificent , garnering much applause and bravos, and the final duet with Car was enthralling. Slovakian baritone Dalibor Jenis (who was Car’s 2014 Onegin in Sydney) was in refined , controlled glorious vocal form as Luisa’s injured, elderly father. His portrayal was very sympathetic. Jenis showed off his wonderful legato and powerful tone especially in his show stopping aria, Sacra la scelta è d’un consorte (The choice of a husband is sacred). He will do whatever he can to protect his beloved daughter. In this opera Verdi has provided two terrific roles for evil basses, one of the great composer’s penchants. American Raymond Aceto was wonderful as the complex, implacable Count Walter. While acknowledging that he was in thrall to the Devil, he was also nonetheless driven by a sort of patriarchal, authoritarian love. Aceto demonstrated a strong stage presence and his voice was superb- his aria Il mio sangue la vita darei was thrilling. Daniel Sumegi with his deep, resonating bass was inspired and creepy as the menacing Wurm, a character out for all that he can get. The duet, where each realise they may both be doomed, is yet another thrilling showstopper. Sian Pendry is great as ’ the other woman’, the widowed duchess who is deeply in love with her childhood friend, Rodolfo. Pendry is a picture of elegance in a very posh, stylish long black gown. She sings superbly, bringing her character sympathetically to life with a warm tone, strong focus and great expression. There are sadly only a few performances remaining of this rarely performed opera – try and catch it if you can. Running time – allow 3 hours including one interval. Opera Australia’s Production of LUISA MILLER is playing the Joan Sutherland Auditorium until the 29th February.