Tosca

November 5, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | AUSTRALIANIA, MUSIC, Opera, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

Callas wouldn't cop Spoletta

(Melbourne, 2010) What on earth were alleged professionals thinking with this? A set from Rebus or The Wire and a finale where Floria, rather than hurtle over the parapet, has her brains blown out by Spoletta? It is such textual vandalism that renders Joseph Kerman’s sneer (a ‘shabby little shocker’) as true. Grumbles with setting and textual vandalism aside, Nicole Youl was a fine leading lady and the incomparable John Wegner a formidable, ferocious and frightening Baron Scarpia.

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Der Ring Des Nibelungen

November 5, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | AUSTRALIANIA, MUSIC, Opera, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, WAGNER |

(Melbourne, 2013) As Barry Millington observed, it’s “the story of a man who buys a house and can’t keep up the payments.”  But it is so much more of course. The greatest music-drama yet concocted was staged by Opera Australia in late 2013, as well as could be done outside of one’s own head (save for Adelaide 2004). At the cycle’s end, you had the same feeling as when leaving the Sistine Chapel – that of awe and exhaustion. It was directed by Neil Armfield, conducted by Pietari Inkinen.  Kudos all round.

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Recollections of a Bleeding Heart

(by Don Watson) A portrait both affectionate and sharp, of Paul Keating, Australia’s Prime Minister from 1991 to 1996, beautifully written and constructed by his ‘bleeding heart’ speechwriter (scribbling for him 1992-96).  For all his faults, Keating was a remarkable polemicist and his panache, once he had got to grips with a concept, or a slip by the enemy, was extraordinary. Best example: turning John Hewson’s budget reply charge that Keating would “pull everyone down to the lowest common denominator” into a lethal riposte: “Nothing Keating said in 1992 was as good as this. John Hewson had defined himself as Gordon Gecko….

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Power Without Glory

(by Frank Hardy) Never mind that Hardy was an unreconstructed Commo; this is a great, great-big book, a scandalous roman-a-clef based on a Collingwood Mafioso, John Wren and his rise (and rise).  Blessed with no literary touches but a lot of narrative drive, the book has become, in its unpretentious way, a landmark of Australian literature.  Hardy had to overcome a myriad hurdles to get his work published and only then did his troubles really begin, in the form of various reprisals, including an almost ruinous trial for criminal libel.

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Picnic at Hanging Rock

(dir. Peter Weir) (1975)         St. Valentine’s Day, 1900.  The young ladies of Appleyard College are treated to a picnic at Hanging Rock, a volcanic pile in the heart of the Victorian countryside, near Mount Macedon.  There is twittering around the teacups, too much cake and Australian sunshine, and whilst the party are having an al fresco siesta, people go missing.  But while the film has aspects of a whodunit or a thriller, it cannot be categorised because it simply transcends classification.  As F.R Leavis said of Wuthering Heights, you can call this a sport. Totally magical,…

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