Kosky Blows His Magic Flute – And it’s a Catastrophe

March 2, 2019 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Opera, OPERA, THEATRE, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(Directed by Barry Kosky, Festival Theatre, Adelaide, 2 March 2019) A filthy hot early autumn, Adelaide buzzing with stock car racers; construction blocking easy access to the Festival Theatre, its bars cash-free to absolve staff from learning to do sums in their heads; refugee photos on the gallery walls; no paper towels in the men’s to conserve resources (you use a dodgy blower the size of a cigarette packet – wonder what is available in the ‘female and unisex’ facility?) and a sweaty, sun-burnt matinee crowd, applauding every number performed by the ‘B’ team – What else could one add…

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Meistersingers of Melbourne

November 27, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classical Music, MUSIC, Opera, OPERA, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, WAGNER |

L-R: Daniel Sumegi as Pogner, Warwick Fyfe as Beckmesser, Andrew Jones as Nachtigall, Natalie Aroyan as Eva, Kanen Breen as Moser and Michael Kupfer-Radecky as Hans Sachs

Monday 19 November 2018 (Arts Centre, Melbourne) Royal Opera’s then house director, the notorious Kasper Holten, originally designed this production.  The Spectator’s Michael Tanner declared of the London version, “Nothing could prepare me for so deep an abyss of idiocy.”  We know what he means, but speaking personally, apart from some (very large) grumbles, we were not overly bothered by the sets or the “reinterpretation,” no doubt due to a combination of our own jaundiced lethargy and contempt. Also, Meistersinger is perhaps the only Wagnerian piece which is impervious to Regieoper, even when the Guild Hall in Act I is reconstructed…

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La Bohéme

November 23, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | MUSIC, Opera, OPERA, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

Melbourne, 20 November 2018 An interesting but not trouble-free evening at the Arts Centre for the virtually indestructible La Bohème. Pointlessly but harmlessly ‘re-imagined’ (by director Gale Edwards) to Berlin in the last days of the Weimar Republic, 100 years after the work is actually set, and not in Paris (the cast still sing incongruously in Italian – why not stage it in Rome and replace Benoit with Mussolini?). Sets were appropriately stark (the garret – it still looked like a garret to us, and the tollgate, replete with pretty and lethal snow falling outside) and lush (the Café Momus, looking more…

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Act III From “Meistersinger” – Mastered!

Come blow your horn

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Act III, Adelaide, 4 August 2018. The ASO and State Opera triumph again!  Our slate is free of crosses!  A dramatic version of Act III of Wagner’s magisterial comedy was beautifully presented on Saturday night, with Nicholas Braithwaite and the ASO, having had about 5 minute’s practice, fully on top of Wagner’s complex, rich sonorities, polyphonic master-touches, and yes, humour, and humanity.  Whilst The Varnished Culture overheard one dowager claiming afterwards that Hitler used to turn up for Act III alone (to absorb the finale’s Message about the retention of Pure Germanic Art), we have always considered…

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Gawd Help Us

July 19, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | OPERA, Ulalume |

Their night of nights

The Helpmann Awards (Australia’s answer to the ‘Tony’) are named for choreographer, dancer, theatre director and ham-actor (think 55 Days at Peking (1963), and Patrick (1978)) Sir Robert Helpmann. Awards are a concept well past the use-by date, now rapidly putrefying.  Even so, it is stunning how they can go so wrong. We suppose that the readiness is all… Recently, 4 Helpmanns went to that giant piece of dreck, Hamlet – The Opera.  The Varnished Culture is on record about this faux-est of all faux operas, so we’ll just list the winners, without much further comment: Best male performer in an opera –…

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