Triangle of Sadness

April 22, 2023 | Posted by Lesley Jakobsen | FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(writer and director Ruben Östlund) (2022, Foxtel)

In the 1988 movie Funny Farm, hapless writer Andy Farmer (Chevy Chase) is asked whether his novel in progress is comedy, action or adventure.  He replies, gleefully: “It’s all three”. Triangle of Sadness is a dreadful melange too and there’s nothing to be gleeful about. It’s a bore. Östlund didn’t know if he was making a gross-out, social satire, or survival movie. It is, in fact, a poorly executed scramble of all three, mixed with a bit of luxury yacht-and-model-porn. Östlund puts a stereotypical bunch of wealthy cruise-goers on board the SS Minnow – sorry, an unnamed yacht – and jabs madly at them with the blunted, worn-out spears of the woke left. The uber-rich can be lecherous, dumb, spoilt and unaware. Who knew! Other people have to serve them. Who knew! They can even be evil, as are the charming elderly British couple (subtly named Clementine and Winston) who turn out to be arms manufacturers.  The only vaguely amusing parts of the yacht scenes are provided by Woody Harrelson as the perpetually drunk captain listing to starboard [Shades of Captain Ron? – Ed.].

There is no amusement at all, however in the exchange between the captain and and a Russian oligarch, Dimitry (an excellent Zlatko Burić) of boilerplate capitalism v communism cliches – (Russian oligarchs can be capitalists. Who knew!) – unless it is guessing which tired maxim comes next. Dimitry, by the way, finds it amusing to answer the question, “how did you make your money?” by barking “I sell shit!”  then laughingly confirming that he means fertiliser. Still, Dimity is kind of likeable and believable. One of the few, including stroke-victim Therese, (Iris Berben) who conveys the dreadful frustration of being unable to speak with poignancy. Would that some of the other characters chose to remain mute.

The yacht hits a storm while the guests are eating peculiar but posh seafood dishes (of course).  A torrent of projectile vomiting, that would disgust both Peter Greenaway and Mr. Creosote, begins. Dimitry’s mistress rolls about in a vomit covered bathroom – apparently her punishment for coming on the cruise with her boyfriend and his wife. Never forget that this is a morality tale. No, don’t worry, you won’t be allowed to forget.

This onboard middle part of the film is pointlessly preceded by a Zoolander-like story of the unhappy relationship between two models – the perpetually confused Carl (Harris Dickinson) and his unpleasant girlfriend Yaya (the late Charlbi Dean). It might be that Carl is as mystified as we are that the drawn-out argument about which of them should pay for dinner is in this movie at all. Or why he had to ponce about at a modelling audition first.

There are pirates and a hand-grenade (the irony). The SS Minnow (sorry, did it again) goes down and some of our cast of haves and have-nots end up on a tropical island still in their class-indicative, clean and pressed clothes. “Now!” says our social justice warrior director, “we’ll turn the tables. Those who were up are now down. And so on”. [Shades of Lord of the Flies? – Ed.]  Abigail, (the excellent Dolly de Leon) a cleaner on the yacht, becomes the island leader. “I caught the fish. I made the fire. I cooked”. At that point, astonishingly, the term, “the means of production” is actually used.

The film looks marvellous, but the soundtrack is a horror. The music, storm and beach sound effects are mixed so loudly that dialogue can be hard to hear. And the eating noises! Why do sound guys love the unnatural slurping and chewing sounds they invent using vacuums and toilet plungers, or something?

Finally, Yaya and Abigail go searching and find something which is no surprise to the viewer, but the very ending, might be. It must have been written in one of Östlund’s ever so slightly more imaginative, less preachy  moments.

It’s not that Triangle of Sadness loses its way. It meanders heavily on its own confused but virtuous path, braying at the audience. It’s a righteous donkey. But don’t watch it if you like donkeys. The donkey on the island suffers a worse fate than the donkey buried on the Farmers’ property [Shades of The Banshees of Inisherin? – Ed.].  Watch Funny Farm instead. Or Lord of the Flies. Or Gilligan’s Island.

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Rice Paper Scissors

April 18, 2023 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | FOOD, Restaurants, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(15 Hardware Lane, Melbourne, April 2023)

It’s a little funky, a little trendy, dare we say? – a little woke, but while Rice Paper Scrs staff shoot from the hip, they are hip when they shoot. It’s a great lunch place, roughly on the edge of Melbourne’s Chinatown, but the grub is more a fusion of east and west – and it is terrific.

We started with some tasty cocktails, and then moved onto a nice Melbourne riesling, to wash down a Thai Prawn roll (a brioche bun stuffed with poached prawn salad, makrut lime mayo, sriracha and yarra valley smoked salmon caviar); Mushroom Dumplings (local mushrooms, lemongrass and garlic. served in tom kha sauce and chilli oil); a massive Thai Fried Chicken (marinated in ginger, garlic, chilli and lemongrass. served with sriracha mayonnaise); Sticky Soy Tofu; and the highlight, a signature dish, BBQ Lamb Ribs (marinated lamb ribs in a sticky mekhong whiskey glaze, melting off the bones).

By the time our salad did not arrive, we didn’t need it. Diners are encouraged but not dragooned to share, and the dishes are good for that. Staff very friendly but we got there early, and they were under the pump from about 12.30 pm – the joint was chock full by then, with a queue outside. Well worth a visit (we recommend booking).

Rice Paper Scissors | Group Dining | Hidden City Secrets

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Can You Ever Forgive Me?

March 27, 2023 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(Directed by Marielle Heller, 2018)

We were familiar with Ms. Heller’s work through that deceptively small film, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and here, as there, she clearly is the Goddess of Small Things, able to turn an interior work into something a bit special.

The story is ‘sort-of-true.’ Worthy but down-and-out and written-out journeyman writer, Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy, who was in the terrific comedy Bridesmaids) has rent and bills past due, can’t keep a job because of poor interpersonal skills, can’t afford veterinary treatment for her cat, Jersey, has a drinking problem, and an agent (Jane Curtin, in a superb performance) who is as calculating as Bebe Glazer in “Frasier,” and as remote and uninterested as Withnail’s agent.

Lee’s forte is biography (which should have grounded her sufficiently in the value of prime-source documents, but let that pass). Near the end of her tether, she finds an old letter from Fanny Brice wedged in a book on the famous Funny Girl, adds a personal and salty flourish to it on an old typewriter, and discovers that the lucrative memorabilia market is slightly sloppy in matters of provenance. So begins her career as a forger, in which she is joined by unreliable partner, gadabout and and drinking buddy, Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant).

This could have flopped, big time. After all, the story is wafer-thin and plays like a morality-tale free from moral restraint. But it succeeds, thanks to the sure but light directorial touch, and lovely performances, particularly by McCarthy and Grant. Grant is all louche charm – sleazy, boyish, transient, insouciant, soused and enthusiastically gay. McCarthy does great serious-comedic work as a frump and a grump with inner resources she had forgotten, and an awkwardness she is determined not to shed. The two make a fine pair of rogues and then, when all falls apart, a bittersweet brace of riffraff, up there (or down there) with Withnail & I or Ratso Rizzo and Joe Buck. We also liked “Towne” (the beloved cat), and the opportunity to re-visit Argosy Books (metaphorically).

Melissa McCarthy Is Receiving The Best Reviews Of Her Career For 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?' - Adelaide Film Festival

“What’s my name today?”

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March 24, 2023 | Posted by Guest Reviewer | FOOD, Restaurants, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

Kiin, Modern Asian Dining, 73 Angas Street, Adelaide, 22 March 2023

Kiin (Thai for ‘eat’) is Adelaide’s newest Thai restaurant, with a modern (‘fusion’?) menu amid understated but tasteful and comfortable surroundings. It is just up from the court precinct, so if you don’t mind dining amid lawyers, there’ll be no problem. TVC visited one mild Autumn night, and were enchanted – nay, dazzled – by a very funky bill of fare.

We had: A BBQ Chicken thigh skewer, smoked and served in a light yellow curry, which was fragrant and full of heat;

A lychee prawn pop popper (pop in the mouth for a fizzing heavenly explosion) – see below:

The oyster was dressed with angels’ tears;

A White peach ‘som tum’ salad had, tomato, chilli, peanuts, pear;

Stir-fried rice cakes, ‘pad prik king’, pork crackle, with herbs and

a very modern take on a Chicken Maryland dish (no battered banana and pineapple fritters here!)…washed down with:

Pol Roger ‘Brut’, a good Chenin Blanc, and a Pierre-Marie Chermette Beaujolais.

TVC had a minor quibble about an aspect of one dish – a higher-up dealt with it with a courtesy that is rare these days.



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March 21, 2023 | Posted by Lesley Jakobsen | Drama Film, FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(Directed by Oliver Hermanus, 2022)

Well, this is a new idea for a story!  A reserved and disciplined person of a certain age gets a terminal diagnosis and decides to LIVE before he shuffles off.  Mr. Williams (Bill Nighy) is a decent enough chap but frosty (and is in fact referred to as ‘Mr. Zombie’) in a middle management civil service position*. The table of junior civil servants over which he presides (stiffly and politely, of course) is piled ridiculously high, with towers of aged paper and nothing ever gets done.

After the appropriately stiff upper-lipped scene with the specialist, Mr. Williams decides to go rogue. Having notified no-one of his intended absence from work (impossible for this character), he takes off to the seaside and goes out and about with a louche young chap (Tom Burke). He visits low dives and sings a nostalgic song (there was not a moist eye in the house)**. Naturally, and quite laughably, he then takes a lovely young lady (Aimee Lou Wood – who knows how to LIVE) out to lunch and astonishes her with his wisdom. She makes him giggle and think about LIVING.

Mr. Williams goes on to do a really good thing. He dies (not a spoiler). His erstwhile workmates look at each other meaningfully under their bowler hats and resolve to do better because frosty old Mr. Zombie did so when he decided to LIVE…

Have we left out any clichés?  (The writers did not). Oh yes! (1) The Sir Humphrey types, grimacing at each other through the cigar-smoke in response to an eager young chap, who dashes into the room with a new idea which will help people of the lower classes LIVE; (2) the estranged son; (3) the disrespectful daughter-in-law and (4) the dead wife.

Bill Nighy does what he can with this trite, sentimental hash but it’s too subdued, too little, too late.

Living - Rotten Tomatoes

“His legacy? The most depressing playground ever…”

[*E.G. see The Browning Version: “The Himmler of the Lower Fifth” – Ed.] [**Or a full stomach – Ed.] Continue Reading →

Soweto Gospel Choir

March 20, 2023 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | MUSIC, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(Adelaide Fringe, Sunday 19 March 2023)

The Varnished Culture has seen a few choirs this season, but apart from being ordered to ‘Move’ at a cathedral show, nothing has been as kinetic as the Soweto Gospel Choir, appearing at ‘Gluttony’ in Rymill Park last night. With verve, colour, and in particular, motion, the group sang lustily and well, with minimal instrument backing (percussion, keyboard). You didn’t need to know the language to get the message of Hope, with some songs from their Grammy-winning album, Freedom, but it was refreshing to have some standards as well – Hallelujah and A Change is Gonna Come – in the joyous and friendly hour.

Soweto Gospel Choir - Hope

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March 16, 2023 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | MUSIC, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(Adelaide Chamber Singers, Adelaide Festival, St Peter’s Cathedral, Adelaide, 15 March 2023)

10 pm. St Peter’s Cathedral. After a quick drink at the Cathedral Hotel, we took our pews to see and hear the 20-strong* Adelaide Chamber Singers perform liturgical and general choral works, medieval and contemporary, all paeans to the heavens, under expert conductor Christie Anderson. They were sublime; strong but subtle, and in both harmony and melody, they provided great clarity.

The beautiful vaulted interior of St Peters provided the stage from which the ensemble sallied forth, disported about various points of the cathedral (high altar, pulpit, along the aisles, and so on). The programme (set out in full below) ranged from two interesting takes on J.S. Bach pieces; Elgar’s traditional and magnificent Lux Aeterna; a gorgeous homage to Dante, We Beheld once Again the Stars; and a simple poem called Stars, which came alive as the group gathered before the pulpit and sang whilst accompanying themselves with a cumulative glass harp (see the picture at the foot of this post).

The ‘surround-sound’ really came home to this correspondent during the lush funereal poem, Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep. L having stepped outside briefly for some air, P joined her to check all was well, but found on returning through the vestibule, that he was surrounded by the Singers, performing at the back (i.e. the front) of the cathedral. Neither sufficiently inspired nor able to join them, P crept into the nearest seat, which turned out to be reserved for a “Cathedral Steward.” After the enchanting experience of listening, virtually amid the group, it was slightly enervating to be approached by a lady (we assume a “Cathedral Steward”) who hissed at your reporter: “Move!”  But this justifiable yet brutal rebuke couldn’t detract from a truly wonderful experience.


Dou Way Robyn/Sancta Mater Gratiae (Anon C13th English, arr. Trio Mediæval)

Ubi Caritas (Paul Mealor)

Stars (Ēriks Ešenvalds)

We Beheld Once Again the Stars (Z Randall Stroope)

Bach (Again) Come Sweet Death (JS Bach, arr. Rhonda Sandberg)

Sleep (Eric Whitacre)

Videte Miraculum (Thomas Tallis)

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep (Joe Twist)

Lux Aeterna (Edward Elgar)

[*The singers: Andrew Bettison, Alexandra Bollard, Emma Borgas, Rachel Bruerville, Richard Black, Jonathan Bligh, Victoria Coxhill, Courtney Day, Christopher Gann, David Hamer, Nikolai Leske, Martin Penhale, Jordan Rose, Matthew Rutty, Sophie Schumacher, Imogen Tonkin, Kit Tonkin, Brooke Window, Emma Woehle, and Graham Yuile.]

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Kronos Five Decades

March 14, 2023 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | MUSIC, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(Adelaide Festival Theatre, 13 March 2023)

Kronos Quartet is not a string quartet: it is an anti-string quartet. “The Kronos Quartet has broken the boundaries of what string quartets do” quoth the holy New York Times. “…the most far-ranging ensemble geographically, nationally, and stylistically the world has known” was the verdict of the somewhat less paper-of-record Los Angeles Times. The group is from Seattle, by way of San Francisco, which is surely a ‘tell.’

Violinists David Harrington and John Sherba, violist Hank Dutt, and cellist Paul Wiancko can play their instruments beautifully, as they demonstrated in the 2nd part of the programme with a sublime modern piece called Enthusiasm Strategies. This was truly a string quartet in action, and the consummate manner of execution made mock of what otherwise was an at times interesting shambles.

For, unfortunately, that piece was buried beneath a play-list of discordant squeaks, shouts, gongs, maracas, muttering, and fiddling with water-tuned crystal glasses, and involved not-so-much playing the violins as beating them black and blue. At times it came across as if three superannuated members of Kraftwerk, and a sumo wrestler, were playing Portishead tunes on household implements.

The opener was George Crumb’s Black Angels, which first inspired Kronos to form in 1973, just as the war in Vietnam was winding down. It’s discord is meant to symbolise the war, but we’ve no idea how. It was akin to a soundtrack to an indie horror film. The 2nd work, ilektrikés rímes, had a structure at least, was written by someone called Aleksandra Vrebalov, featured a recorded Cossack chorus and could instead be titled ‘Taking Kyiv by Strategy.’

The second half started with the ‘world premiere’ of Beak, a paean to the pied butcherbird – by Australian composers Jon Rose and Hollis Taylor. Here, the by-now-all-too-familiar plinking and plunking accompanied an annoying bird, who did most of the work. 

Then alas, back to more discordant bollocks and then 3 Persian songs by Iranian vocalist Mahsa Vahdat, which was indecipherable to non-Arabic speakers: she could have been singing ‘Kill all infidels’ or ‘Impeach Trump’ for all we knew.

The crowd seemed to love it however, which, in the final analysis, is what counts.

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Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

(By Robert Louis Stevenson; Sydney Theatre Company adaption and direction by Kip Williams: Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide, 5 March 2023)

Stevenson‘s 1885 fable of the dangers of suppressing the id “is for ever being recalled, throughout the English-speaking world, to signify man’s divided nature.”* Filmed, staged and broadcast hundreds of times, the story is superior to the telling, and in this adaptation (by the team that presented The Picture of Dorian Gray) we are treated to a Gothic glory, vivified for the stage by dark demonic videographers, swarming hornet-like about the players. So it is not quite a two-hander.

Theatre Review: Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is dynamism and intensity personified - The AU Review

Stevenson’s key character of the lawyer, Utterson (Matthew Backer), is revived, and the ‘other guys’ are played by Ewen Leslie, in a virtuoso performance (or performances). Vast slabs of text are hurled at us in an impressive display of rote, but the effect comes-off as much too talky.

As in Dorian Gray, Williams employs imaginative stagecraft, melding on-stage actors, live video, and pre-recorded video (by moving flats and screens) to heighten the sense of nervous, blurry fragmentation. The set design, really more Edinburgh than London, is minimalist but apt, with its fog and lamps and autumn leaves, but is dominated by the video design. Yet the use, arguably, the overuse, of such techniques, tends to detract from the dramatic activity, particularly when the real characters are obscured by the set and we are reduced, as it were, to watch them on TV.

This production is clever, but (dare we use that critic’s weasel phrase) “too clever.” Styled as a thriller, the piece is so well known that the denouement lacks mystery. More profoundly, Hyde comes-off as a figure of pity, rather than horror. He is a murderer and villain, yes, but we do not get the sense of the evil that potentially enters (or “enters in”) the human heart.  And when Utterson has a crack at Jekyll’s potion and gets a rush akin to an opium or acid trip, the switch is flicked to vaudeville.  Some edits are due: this show would resonate more at 90 rather than 120 minutes.

Behind the scenes with the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - ABC News

It has been suggested that Hyde was inspired by a French villain, Eugene Chantrelle, who invited his victims in Edinburgh to supper parties with toasted cheese and opium. This production, sumptuous as it is, has a tad too much cheese.

[* J. B. Priestley, Literature and Western Man (1960), p. 272.] Continue Reading →

Escolania De Montserrat

(AF, Adelaide Town Hall, 4 March 2023)

Founded in the 13th century, this ensemble is the oldest extant boys’ choir in the world and its rigorous training and selection criteria ensure its standards never slip. The choirboys of Escolania are taught the Benedictine sacred repertoire at the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey in Catalonia (established in 1,025AD). Their core duty is to enliven pilgrims who come to Montserrat, so to see them on tour – 36 of the full complement of 50 – is quite special.

File:2012 Montserrat.jpg

Llorenç Castelló (see below) conducted the choir, who entered the Hall from the back, singing a Gregorian chant (full programme below). Pieces ranged from the full historical liturgical works to Catalan folk songs, contemporary pieces, the classic prayer to the Virgin (a daily work at the monastery) Salve Regina, (a rather terrifying piece, with the Town Hall’s great organ blasting out Hammer Horror sounds) and of course, Ave Maria. The choir was dynamic, changing places and disporting themselves about the stage and on one occasion, the audience floor, with the precision and timing of expert Swiss Guards or football players. This ‘surround sound’ presentation was sublime. Accompaniment was sparse, once with a lonely tambourine and hand drum, but generally either via the grand organ or grand piano, both brilliantly executed by Mercè Sanchis. The young men, in their crisp black and white smocks, sang as if they were angels. (It makes you regret the inevitability of puberty.)

The Programme:


Germinans germinabit
Gregorian chant (Introit of the Solemnity Mass to Our Lady of Montserrat, that the Escolania used to sing every morning around the main altar of the church.)

Llibre Vermell
Codex XIV century (Written in the 14th century, the Montserrat Codex contains different sections (religious and astronomical, for example) and a songbook of ten medieval songs and dances dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the result of the pilgrims’ devotion to the Virgin. It is a polyphonic motet, adapted to three voices, in which the figure of the Virgin Mary is praised.)

Anselm Viola (1738 – 1798)
Magnificat (Anselm Viola is considered one of the most prestigious musicians of the Montserrat music school. He devoted himself to his life’s work, which was teaching music to the choristers. His musical task was not limited to teaching, however, as he found time to compose musical works to cater for the religious requirements of the monastery. The vocal and instrumental works of Viola that have been preserved reveal a mature and prolific composer, up-to-date with the modern techniques and forms of his time. His style is characterised by highlighting especially graphic parts of the text with a correspondingly expressive musical setting, as well as by unexpected modulations.)

Àngel Rodamilans (1874-1936)
Moreneta en sou (Father Rodamilans is, without doubt, a special, rare and unique composer with a strong and charismatic personality and whose works have a characteristic mark that never leaves someone the same. The works from his dense and daring final period (with Moreneta en sou, for example), takes inspiration from the works of the first era, yet demonstrate a constant interest in evolving to a more complex and innovative style. We shall never forget the compositional bravery of Rodamilans, who didn’t want to follow certain norms or rules put in place by the era, but instead valued his own freedom of imagination and expression.)

Bernat Vivancos (b.1973)
Two liturgical pieces to the Virgin:

Ave Maria (from Ave Maria by Franz Schubert) (“I arranged it [Schubert’s Ave Maria] for my wedding… I found it ready-made!” said Bernat Vivancos with a grin, proof of his fascination for, and natural acceptance of, the mysteries of creativity. To open one’s eyes and let oneself be caressed by Ave Maria is to discover the effect of harmony in the minor key which, after the surprise of the initial disruption of expectations, becomes delectable in the unexpected expressive quality of the melody.)

Salve Regina (The Salve Regina is the prayer that the Escolania sings to the Virgin Mary every day at 1pm. This text has been set to music by many composers of very different styles and eras. The one we present to you comes from a contemporary aesthetic, which employs canatabile fragments, delicacy fragments and ferocious organ interludes. The composer, of international recognition, was a student at the Escolania and was also the director of the choir between 2007 and 2014.)


Francesc Civil (1895-1990)
La gata i el belitre (The cat and the scoundrel) (A Catalan folk song of a humorous nature that narrates the vicissitudes in the relationship between a cat and a dog. It is harmonised by Francesc Civil, a former chorister of Montserrat. He goes beyond the simple adaptation and harmonisation to finally become a new creation, developing the themes, making variations and adding new melodies.)

Bernat Vivancos (b.1973)
L’ametller (The almond tree) (Inspired by a poem by Catalan writer Joan Margall’s poem, Bernat Vivancos’ L’ametller (“The Almond Tree”), presents us with a landscape where the arpeggiated resonances of the piano surround a serene, three-voiced melody. The piece creates a painting of very personal tones.)

Josep Ma. Ruera (1900 – 1988)
La nostra dansa (Our dance) (This is an example of the sardana, a typical Catalan dance. This choir sardana has a fresh, bright and playful character with a high musical quality, reflecting the importance that Ruera gave to the sardana and the need to spread it at all levels.)

Bernat Vivancos (b.1973)
El cant dels ocells (The song of the birds) (A Catalan folk song, popularised by Pau Casals,this work narrates the announcement of the birth of the Infant Jesus through the refined song of the birds in the sky. The harmonisation adopts a neutral and modal language without ever disfiguring the main melody, always present, enveloped by an aura of sound that aims to be constant and uniform.)

Albert Guinovart (b. 1962)
Three pieces from El Bestiolari:

Aranya de sostre (Common spider)
Rossinyol viatger (Travelling nightingale)
Ull de bou de festa major (The chiffchaff of the festival) (These are three playful poems dedicated to three creatures: the common spider, the nightingale and the common chiffchaff. Music, always at the service of the word, plays, laughs and gets excited, giving rise to three small musical gifts.)

[Programme notes kindly supplied by AF – The Adelaide Festival.] Continue Reading →

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