Tristan und Isolde

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

Beware matchmakers.  Beware writing opera when in lust with Mathilde Wesendonck.  Beware love-of-death; it leads to the death of love, or death-porn.  Wagner must have seen himself as Tristan to Mathilde’s Iseult, Lancelot to her Guinevere, when he shelved the Ring and forged perhaps the most beautiful opera of all. T & I poses a number of problems.  Its staging should be spare yet lush.  It requires a measure of taste and discretion, for Wagner wrote this work while well-unzipped (he expected the work to be censored unless it was played as parody) and the material can stray dangerously near…

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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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Thirteen Days

(by Robert Kennedy) (film directed by Roger Donaldson) This matter-of-fact monograph of the Cuban missile crisis by a central figure is very readable and, considering it was probably whipped up ahead of RFK’s tilt at the Presidency, quite fair (note, by contrast, that in the vivid film of the same name, a key, in fact, critical adviser, Llewellyn ‘Tommy’ Thompson, an Eisenhower appointee, is nowhere to be seen). Kennedy needs and wields no purple prose: his writing is clear, taut and free of cant.  For a career politician, this is singular in itself; for an account of a moment on…

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Sweet Smell of Success

November 5, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classic Film, Drama Film, FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(dir. A MacKendrick) (1957) Great late melodrama, Lancaster rarely better, Tony Curtis never better. “I’d hate to take a bite out of you. You’re a cookie full of arsenic.” The sparse camera direction would gladden David Stratton’s heart, only producing the odd flourish where it enhances the scene (e.g. in “21”, where the camera’s eye swings from Manny Davis to Miss James and cuts back to J.J. Hunsecker, who is saying that every hep person knows that “ This one is toting that one around for you.” ). [NB: Vale Martin Milner, R.I.P. 6/9/2015, who was stout but dull as Steve Dallas…

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Sweet Dreams

(by Michael Frayn) Highly original and amusing satire of a bespoke heaven for boyish, middle management men of early middle age and their moral crises as the right hands of god.  You can see the influence cast by this book on, for example, Douglas Adams. The chaps, all from Cambridge naturally, are no longer scholars but creators, and they have an easy, breezy, Ian Fleming style way with women and imagine themselves to be radicals, even the lukewarm Head Man, in that smug, cosy, implacable bourgeois way, a la J. P. Sartre.  The heavenly staples – taramasalata, gigot aux haricots…

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