The Ring Without Words

July 12, 2022 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classical Music, MUSIC, OPERA, WAGNER |

(Der Ring ohne worte) (Richard Wagner Society SA @ the Grainger Studio, ASO, 10 July 2022) And we thought trying to present Every Musical Ever in an 80 minute show was audacious: in 1987, conductor/composer Lorin Maazel, one of the few Ukrainians we’ve heard of, created a “symphonic synthesis” with the Berlin Philharmonic of Wagner’s Ring Cycle (the tetralogy taking about 16 hours in full), reduced to a 77 minute recording. The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s Conductor Laureate Nicholas Braithwaite, a great friend of the RW Society, gave a very informative and entertaining talk (with musical and visual demonstrations) deconstructing how…

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Lohengrin

May 26, 2022 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | MUSIC, OPERA, Opera, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(Melbourne Arts Theatre, 21 May 2022) Lohengrin marked the end of Wagner’s ‘first phase’ and remains one of his loveliest operas, in musical terms (the overture alone is a gorgeous amuse-bouche)*. The story is, of course, very silly: Elsa (Emily Magee) is accused of doing away with her brother, heir to the Throne of Brabant, the charges levelled by nasty Telramund and his ‘handler,’ Ortrud (the very fine and sexy Simon Meadows and Elena Gabouri). King Heinrich (Daniel Sumegi) calls for divine intervention, and after some nervous foot-shuffling by the assembled knights, there, in a puff of swan feathers, is…

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The Golden Cockerel

March 10, 2022 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | MUSIC, Opera, OPERA, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

By Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov/ Directed by Barrie Kosky (Adelaide Festival, 9 March 2022) Pushkin’s slight morality fable of the idiocy of war-mongering autocracy (1835) was taken up (1907) by Rimsky-Korsakov as a reflection of the faltering reign of Tsar Nicholas II, who made Joe Biden seem like Pericles. The so-called dark wit, surreal burlesque, and satirical messaging is, regrettably, lost in this production. A colossal, over-extravagant Russian in-joke makes a not very good opera…and Mr. Kosky has, with his peculiar genius, turned it into an excruciating, absurdly repetitive, extended Monty python skit (we recalled Terry Gilliam’s filler cartoons from that series)….

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For Whom the Bell Rings

August 22, 2021 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classical Music, LIFE, MUSIC, Opera, OPERA |

August 2021: The Varnished Culture is gutted to learn that the Brisbane Ring Cycle set for October and November has been cancelled for the Second Time.  Due to the damn faux-plague. Opera Australia’s statement of 19/8/2021 followed its message to ticket holders the previous Tuesday: We’re sad to announce that all upcoming performances of the Ring Cycle and Aida in Brisbane have been postponed due to COVID travel restrictions.  This is hugely disappointing news, but we are committed to re-scheduling these spectacular productions so that the seven years of planning that has already gone into this project won’t go to waste….

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

March 4, 2021 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | MUSIC, OPERA, Opera, THEATRE, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(Opera by Benjamin Britten) (Directed by Neil Armfield) (Adelaide, 2 March 2021) “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” That’s what the impresario said about staging The Dream, one of Shakespeare’s wisest, wittiest and most surreal plays, full of beautiful poetry, but a nightmare to stage, invariably a disaster. Britten saw that it would make for better fare as a short opera, although the singing parts are eccentric (and the overall effect, flipping the switch to matinee vaudeville, appeasingly cartoon-like – Quoth Auden: “Dreadful! Pure Kensington”). So, here, is the set, but it is entirely apt for this production, a dappled…

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