My photography began when my father handed me the proverbial brownie box camera as a child. As cameras developed I went through Fujica and Olympus range finders graduating to my first single lens reflex camera, the Minolta SRT101, the latter being the greatest facilitator to my growth as a photographer. Digital photography has only added to this.
I was a regular contributor to Camera Craft magazine (Australian Camera ) for over three years.
During Australia’s Bicentennial year (1988) I made it a personal project to document the celebrations. This culminated in the creation of a book of my photos which was published in 1989. The book was called CELEBRATING AUSTRALIA and came with an accompanying calendar.
My works have appeared in a number of publications including the coffee book entitled MY AUSTRALIA (1989), publisher Robertsbridge Severn. This book had a preface by the then Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke.
I was a co-photographer on a book entitled SYDNEY- DISCOVER THE CITY with text written by Robert Treborland. Major Mitchell Press was the publisher.
Also for two years I was the photographer for calendars celebrating Sydney’s multicultural communities. The two calendars were entitled MULTICULTURAL SYDNEY.
My work appeared in a group exhibition held at Sydney’s Town Hall pertaining to the diversity of life in South America to raise money for orphanages there.
I have over one hundred photos stored in the New South Wales State Library archive. I had a solo exhibition held in 2007 entitled Ben’s Lens at the Sydney Jewish Museum which celebrated the vibrancy of the Sydney Jewish community. Some of these photos are on the Museum’s permanent display. I have exhibited internationally firstly at the Spruill Gallery in Atlanta Georgia, united states, and in an exhibition entitled Kosher and Co at the Jewish Museum in Berlin.
Currently I am a regular contributor to J-Wire and this esteemed publication.
Established in 2013 by Richard Gill AO, Rachael Beesley, Nicole Van Bruggen and Benjamin Bayl, the Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra (ARCO) has adopted a thematic approach to its repertoire. This was exemplified by its recent concert Italian Romance at the City Recital Hall which featured works by Beethoven, Hugo Woolf and Mendelssohn.
In the first half of the program the Orchestra was a smaller ensemble and stood. Beethoven’s CorialanusOverure was a particular choice as an example of Romantic Music. The work is not based on the Shakespeare play but on the equally gruesome story of a Roman General. The piece was played with precision and wonderful rhythm by the Orchestra. It was very much a ‘Sturm and Drang’ experience.
Beethoven’s Romance for Violin and OrchestraNo 2 featured Rachel Beesley as the soloist. Beesley played with tenderness and warmth, and created a wonderful dialogue with the woodwind section.
The next work which the Orchestra played was Beethoven’s 12Contradances for Orchestra. Most of the Contradances were just 32 bars in length and the Orchestra glided through each dance to create a seamless whole. The joyful music was however made more poignant with Gill reading out extracts from a letter which Beethoven wrote to his brother about his impending deafness.
The Orchestra’s performance of The Italian Serenade by Hugo Woolf featured a delightful conversation between the violin and cello.
The Orchestra reconvened after interval with a larger ensemble and delivered an impressive performance of Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony. The remarkable, glorious wall of sound that this Orchestra achieved was in spite of the fact that it was about half the size of a full Orchestra.
The success of this pleasing concert can also be attributed to the concert’s guest conductor Benjamin Bayl. His relaxed yet disciplined conducting brought out the best in the Orchestra.
ARCO performed its concert Italian Romance at the City Recital Hall, Angel Place on Saturday 25th March.
Petersham hosts a lively Portuguese community who have established the suburb as the culinary centre for authentic and delicious Portuguese food. Every year in March, this year it was Sunday 12th March, the community celebrates with Australia’s biggest Portuguese Cultural Festival held in Audley and Fisher streets, Petersham.
Featured image – Mark Speakman SC and Attorney General addressing the congregation. All photos by Ben Apfelbaum.
Although Church and the secular judiciary are supposed to be constitutionally separate, it is a tradition that the various religions bless the judiciary so that their decisions are wise and just.
On the 8th February it was the Jewish faith’s turn to place a benediction on the legal fraternity at the Great Synagogue, in the presence of the Chief Justice of New South Wales, the Hon. T.F.Bathurst AC.
Justice Stephen Rothman, President of the Great Synagogue, welcomed the legal profession to the service and outlined the contribution Jewish lawyers had made to New South Wales.
The Chinese community usually holds a huge parade down George Street but due to the construction of the light rail their substitute cultural expression is manifested in a display of lanterns depicting the Chinese signs of the Zodiac.
As it is the Year of the Rooster the lantern took pride of place by the Opera House and there have been various sculptures of the Rooster throughout the city including the QVB.
The Rooster always has its beak facing east towards the dawn and so Chinese people born under the sign of the Rooster look to the future with optimism and confidence.
PASSENGERS has met with critical hostility overseas. The previews concentrated on the action scenes in the film which in fact form a minor part towards the end. This created certain action movie expectations which were not met. I have to say that I did not mind the film, and stayed quietly engaged throughout.
This sci-fi film, directed by Morten Tyldum and written by John Spaihits, commences with a Star Ship Avalon transporting over 5,000 commuters to a commercialised planet called Homestead 2 which requires the passengers and crew to sleep in hibernation pods for one hundred and twenty years.
An asteroid hits the Avalon which causes a malfunction in mechanical engineer Jim Preston’s (Chris Pratt) pod. He awakens after only thirty years of the journey. With only an android bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen) for company Jim tries to overcome his loneliness by exercising and talking at length to Arthur. Continue reading ‘PASSENGERS’ FAILS TO REACH ANY GREAT HEIGHTS→
This is is a quiet gem of a film that slipped almost unnoticed through the Christmas/New Year holiday period. It is dedicated to director David MacKenzie’s parents – David John MacKenzie and Ursula Sybile MacKenzie who both died during the making of this film.
The phrase ‘hell or high water’ has two meanings in the States. The typical interpretation is that one does what it takes no matter what. However in an American lease, hell or high water means you must continue payments no matter what obstacles you encounter. The later meaning is similar to what in Australia we call a force majeure clause, although in Australia this can often be an excuse for non payment. Both meanings apply to this film.
HELL OR HIGH WATER deals with a divorced father played by Chris Pine and his ex con, older and volatile brother played by Ben Foster, who resort to robbing banks. Hot on their heels is soon to retire Texas ranger Marcus Hamilton, accompanied by his ‘Tonto’ Alberto Gomez, a half Indian/Mexican deputy, played by Gil Birmingham.
The film is confidently directed by MacKenzie who elicits an evocative ‘Robin Hood’ like performances from Pine as the measured, conflicted, haunted quieter brother and from Ben Foster as the reckless, homicidal yet loving older brother.
If you want grisly, the go to man is Jeff Bridges. As the crusty but wise Sheriff, he provided the humanity and wit of this film, even as he makes constant, politically incorrect, very funny Indian jokes at the expense of his Deputy. Even with his attitude, Bridges still manages to convey the affection and respect his character has for his sidekick.
The film is populated by oddball characters that small towns seem to contain. Many of the extras were local residents of the towns in which the film was shot.
The cinematography by Giles Nuttgene is stunning. Nearly all colour is bleached out, evoking a harsh and unforgiving landscape where heat sucks the hope out. The accompanying haunting and sometimes forlorn score is by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. The sensitive, humorous yet tragic screenplay is by Taylor Sheridan.
This movie has been called a neo Western with elements of High Noon in the plot. Given the neglect the West Texan setting demonstrates (albeit the film was actually shot in New Mexico), it makes comprehensible why people in these rural slums voted for Donald Trump.
The film premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section. It has received four Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Bridges), Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing. I have not seen the Oscar nominated films but I hope that this superior film is not swamped by shallow, vacuous, poorly sung and danced Welcome To La La Land, a film that people either love or hate. Discerning cinephiles should hopefully love Hell or High Water. I believe HELL OR HIGH WATER has done whatever it takes to win an Oscar or four.
The Sydney Festival has introduced audiences to new, unique and unconventional theatrical experiences. In this spirit Opera Australia has staged a ‘new’ and never before performed in Australia opera, KING ROGER by Karol Szymanowski. When I say new Krol Roger ,as it is known in Polish, was first performed in Warsaw in 1926. The composer himself died in 1937.
Before I deal with the opera itself I feel that I should introduce the composer. Szymanowski was the son of a wealthy landowner in Poland which was then part of the Russian empire. His privileged status allowed him to travel widely from the United States to Vienna but his spiritual home was pre World War 1 Sicily. There was a large gay scene in Sicily at that time where Szymanowski was able to mix with such gay luminaries as Oscar Wilde.
It was also in Sicily that he discovered King Roger 11, a Norman King who ruled Sicily in the 12th Century. Being at the crossroads between Byzantine Christianity in the West and Greek hedonism and Paganism in the East, he imagined the conflicts the conflicts the King had to endure. This gave him the material to compose King Roger which Szymanowski called a Sicilian drama or Misterium, meaning spectacle. This may have hampered its popularity as an opera. However when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 he was rediscovered by the West.
The version which we see in Sydney and eventually Melbourne is a co-production with the Royal and Dallas Opera Companies and directed by Kasper Holten. In one of the most striking sets that I have ever seen, the first two Acts are dominated by a gigantic head. We are left in no doubt that this will be a psychodrama.
What I find especially compelling about this opera is that it can be interpreted on so many levels, especially due to the confluence of influences that Szymanowski was exposed to. One can see Sigmund Freud’s conflict between the ego and the id, the struggles Byzantine christianity had with works such as Euripides, The Bacchae, the inner conflict he, like many artists, endured, between his homosexuality and concealing it in less tolerant societies so as to remain acceptable. And of-course there is the direct experience he endured when, at first, seeing the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution through ideologically romantic eyes to the scales falling from them when his family’s estate was seized and his treasured grand piano thrown into the lake by the Bolshevik in the early 1920s. Over the six years Szymanowski laboured on this opera, the latter experiences forced him to revise the final Act.
Act 1 starts spectacularly with the giant head with moving projections on its surface to reflect King Roger’s public face. The Australian opera chorus perform from windows of a Colosseum arcing behind a giant bust. Gennadi Dubinsky and Dominica Matthews as the Archbishop and Deaconess whose lower registers bring a grim authority to their roles as prosecutors who have found a shepherd preaching hedonism. Both the religious leaders and the Chorus demand the death penalty for the shepherd with melodies infused with Byzantine Christian choruses with Arabic refrains. James Egglestone as the King’s trusted advisor Edrisi is the voice of moderation counselling with the support of Rogerś wife Roxana to bring the shepherd before the people to plead his case. The Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu, whose thrilling tenor not only seduces the masses but also his new Sydney audience.
Act 2 sees the giant head revolved to symbolise the inner workings of Roger’s multi-storied mind. Sinewy, muscular dances, choreographed strikingly by Cathy Marston, ride below waiting to ensnare Roger to follow the shepherd. Roxana, Roger’s wife, played by Lorina Gore, whose burnished soprano pleads with Roger, played by Michael Honeyman, to follow her and join the Shepherd. The wraiths then descend to Roger and try and ensnare him and throw his books to the ground but Roger resists.
Act 3 sess Roger on trial after he ventures out and the book throwing becomes book burning as the chorus has now turned to the Shepherd/Prophet who has wrought nothing but destruction Roger is attacked by the crowd but Roxana yields to his pleas and comforts him. As the dawn breaks Roger feels the future is hopeful as he has rejected the Shepherd totally who now regards himself as a God.
In the original Act 3 Roger follows the Shepherd but with the events in europe and in particular Russia, provoke a different ending.
Michael Honeyman as Roger has a glorious baritone which ranges seemingly effortlessly from authority, inner conflict, to yearning and finally resignation.
Egglestone’s warm tenor perfectly complements Michael Honeyman’s baritone.
The score is a combination of seemingly incongruous melodies from Gregorian like chants, Eastern melodies, and dare I say it modern movie theme music. These are all beautifully harnessed by conductor Andrea Molino who does so without a musical score.
Director Kasper Holten has achieved the seemingly impossible by making opera lovers totally engrossed in the inner workings of a mind rather than the usual infidelity/betrayal and death motifs.
To add to the vividness of this spectacle, credit must also go to the lighting designer Jon Clark and the dazzling set by Steffen Aarfing enhanced by the magnificent sound that it the Australian Opera chorus.
The efforts of the director and his team, the designers, and the soloists, have magnificently rescued this operatic jewel and raised it to an operatic triumph. It should not have taken 90 years for Australian audiences to encounter Karol Szymanowski and his Roger. I have no doubt that this majestic production will be heard again in the future with greater frequency. This brave and potentially risky staging has become a masterstroke for Opera Australia. King Roger rules again.
The opera is sung in Polish with English surtitles. Running time 2 hours with one interval.
The remaining performances of KING ROGER are on Wednesday 8th and 15th February at 7.30 pm and Saturday 11th February at 1 pm.
The York Theatre foyer at the Seymour Centre proved to be an informal red carpet whilst invitees gathered for drinks prior to the recent Sydney Theatre Awards ceremony.
As well as being able to put faces to the critics, young and upcoming actors and creatives took the opportunity to mix with journalists, award winners and even theatre royalty such as Peter Carroll and Maggie Dence.
Unlike in the States where the media is a little insular, Sydney’s media is a collegiate where everybody is supportive and approachable. This convivial atmosphere was on show for all to see on the night.
Featured image- Peter Carroll and Maggie Dence. Images by Ben Apfelbaum (c).
Several people, to escape the large crowds in the Meriton Festival Village in Hyde Park North, would escape to the refreshing spray of the Archibald Fountain. To their delight entertainment was still at hand.
At one stage an elegantly dressed man in a white silk suit with spats on his shoes suddenly appeared. He beckoned to a female member of the ‘audience’ to join him. Then almost as suddenly Tango music began to play and the ‘couple’ glided around the Fountain.
Then just as suddenly ‘the audience’ started to tango and one vicariously enjoy the vitality of the music and the pleasure that the tango exponents exuded.
This was a ‘flash mob’ in the best sense of the word under the auspices of a group called Tango Synergy comprising members of a number of tango clubs around Sydney.
As soon as they had finished, classical music wafted through the flower beds and the fountain. A young busker, rather than simply doing his wonderful yoyo tricks ad hoc,performed them in perfect time to the music. It was a beautifully choreographed and skilfull yoyo ballet. Many coins and notes were thrown into his collection box which he richly deserved.
Perhaps the most visited and popular event of the recently completed Sydney Festival was THE BEACH. There were no rips, you could not drown nor suffer a sunburn if you attended.
THE BEACH, in fact, was a white coloured ‘pool’ of 1.1 million recyclable polyethylene balls that ebbed and rose up against a sixty metre wide shoreline with no sand to shake out of a towel or out oif your shoes. To complete the theme deck chairs with redundant umbrellas lined the shoreline so that parents, in addition to lifeguards, could watch their children cavorting in this plastic ocean.
What was striking was the multicultural nature of the event with women in saris or burqas plunging without inhibition into the monochromatic balls. The queues to enter were very long and routinely by 3 pm one could no longer gain entrance.
THE BEACH was designed by Snarkitecture, a New York based art and architecture practice. This free happening took place from the 7th to the 29th January at the Cutaway, Barangaroo Reserve.
Artists of the Great War is a collaboration between the National Gallery of Australia, and the Australian National University (NGA). It has been curated by David Hansen with contributions from students of the Centre of Art History and Theory.
The recently opened, specifically constructed oval space, to greatest effect, one of the most iconic artists Sidney Nolan, and his greatest ‘muse’ Ned Kelly.
In 1977 Sunday Reed the early 20th Century art collector and benefactor donated 25 of the 26 paintings on the National Gallery of Australia’s entry level. Nolan’s paintings were inspired by Kelly’s own words, the French artist Rousseau, and sunlight. It is clear from the paintings titles that Sidney Nolan meticulously researched Kelly’s life and in particular the events leading up to his capture.Accordingly, Nolan’s two passions – literature and the visual arts combined perfectly in the Ned Kelly series. Continue reading THE NGA COLLECTIONS : THE NED KELLY SERIES GALLERY→
CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA was the winner in an opera competition for its composer Pietro Mascagni and premiered in Rome in 1890. Its first American performance was held in New York in 1891 directed by Oscar Hammerstein, the grandfather of the great American lyricist. Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci premiered in Milan in 1892. The two operas were performed together as early as 1893.
Opera lovers are a hungry lot & one short opera of say 1.5 hours is not long enough to satiate an operaphile’s appetite. Due to their common themes of infidelity and revenge ‘Cav & Pag’, as they are affectionately known, have been performed regularly since the late 19th century.
Director Damiano Michieletto has brought his highly original Royal Opera production here from the UK. He sets both operas in the same village in around the 1950s and, unusually, the three male leads are played by the same singers – Diego Torre, Jose Carbo and Samuel Dundas. However the two female leads are different – in Cavalleria Rusticana it’s Dragana Radakovic – in Pagliacci it’s Anna Princeva.
Diego Torre also makes this production especially distinctive as he is one of the very few tenors to sing the lead in both operas. He joins a unique club which includes Benjamino Gigli, Placido Domingo & Jonas Kaufmann,
Both productions have cross plots and with a triangulated set of scenes on a revolving stage doing away with the necessity of curtain raising and dropping means there is no loss of tension as both tragedies build to their inevitable crescendos.
With glorious arias, the wonderful voices of the Australian Opera Chorus and Children’s Choir, passionate & committed performances by the leads and with the Opera’s orchestra at full throttle under the musical direction of Andrea Licati. This production has had excellent word of mouth. A sellout season seems assured,
This Opera Australia production is playing the Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House until the 4th February.
Sydney and Canberra have an embarrassment literally of riches due to the British Museum, the Tate Collection and the Palace of Versailles enabling us to see priceless objects, paintings, and sculpture from the other side of the world.
The double bill of the History of Art in 100 Objects at the National Museum and Versailles, Treasures from The Palace at the National Gallery of Australia are both well worth a weekend away in Canberra.
This eight day Festival celebrates the Festival of Judah Maccabbee over the Greeks. He and his troops recaptured the holy Temple in Jerusalem which the Greeks had defiled in one of its attempts to ‘Hellanise’ the Jews. In order to re-consecrate the Temple, holy oil was needed to light and clean the Temple for a period of eight days. Judah found only one vial of oil, enough insufficiently for one day. By a divine miracle the oil lasted for the requisite eight days.
Held at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, this exhibition covers two million years of human history in one hall.
It started out as a joint project of BBC Radio 4 and the British Museum compromising of a 100 part Radio Series written and presented by the British Museum’s Director Neil MacGregor. At least one of his selections, the Rosetta stone is not in this exhibition, but Australia has two exhibits – an ancient Aboriginal basket, and the wifi machine prototype invented by the CSIRO, Object No 101.
Firstly, a belated Happy New Year to my colleagues and readers of this esteemed journal.
Over the years one has seen the Foti family have had the budget for the New Year’s display reduced. Fireworks used to explode off high rise CBD towers including Centrepoint and from North Sydney. My recollection was that the fireworks also lasted longer.
The Parkes Elvis Festival is held in the 2nd week of January to coincide with Elvis’ January 8th birthday. It was started 25 years ago by some Elvis fans who ran the Graceland Restaurant when at that time of year, tourists were non existent.
Elvis had an early hit with Mystery Train, whose lyrics inspired indie writer/director Jim Jarmusch to make a cult film with the same name, but the Elvis Express is anything but enigmatic.
The exuberance, joie de vivre and sense of anticipation at Central Station on January 12th was infectious. Thousands of fans lined up, first to be entertained by some excellent Elvis impersonators and then to queue for the rebranded XPT.
The variety of costumes of the train travellers to Parkes, would have added a riot of colour to the 150 events with this year’s theme – Viva Las Vegas.
The town’s population triples, as 25,000 visitors are hosted by a majority of Parkes’ 12,000 residents.
There is so much nudity in the media particularly in the cinema and clothes are so skimpy that this exhibition has attracted no controversy, no calls for it to be shut down and as such you can visit the exhibition and admire the artwork itself.
One is astonished to read when researching that when August Rodin’s The Kiss was first exhibited in England it was covered in a sheet for fear it would corrupt local youth.
This was the Australian Haydn Ensemble’s (AHE) final concert for the year. The concert focused on the ‘Sturm and Drang’ movement of the 18th century, this concert was a treat in every way. The Sturm and Drang movement was characterised by drama and passion with sudden shifts of dynamics and rhythm. The four works presented in these concerts delivered these in spades.
There was a good atmosphere at the recent Sydney premiere of ROGUE ONE – A STAR WARS STORY at the Hoyts Cinema Complex, the Entertainment Quarter.
Celebrities attending included David Campbell and his son Leo,members of the Aria Award winning group Peking Duk, Tom Williams, Leeanna Walsman, Isabel Durant, Tai Hara and Lincoln Younes. Also, Cosplayers dressed in a variety of colourful costumes took some of the limelight.
LION, based on the autobiographical book, A LONG WAY HOME by Saroo Brierley and Larry Buttrose, tells the story of how Saroo, adopted by a loving couple in Tasmania, with the help of Google, searches for and finds his birth mother.
Nicole Kidman stars as his adoptive mother Sue Brierley and David Wenham plays his adoptive father John. Dev Patel stars as Saroo.
The film’s Sydney premiere took place on the 19th December at the State Theatre saw the real life Brierley’s join their celebrity counterparts on the red carpet.
Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour, as well as its surrounds, has been refurbished. Gone is the moat and nearby fountains. However, it now appears to have a slightly concave shape which means it is likely to have better drainage than previously. It has a brand new and larger stage which now faces north rather than west.
One of the first uses of this revamped park is the staging of the Polish Christmas Festival. The area was a sea of red and white with visitors either carrying the flag or dressed in the national colours. There were posters celebrating their national hero Tadeusz Kosciuszko after whom our highest peak was named by its first conqueror Count Strezlecki. Next year there will be commemorations held by the Polish community acknowledging the year of this death, two hundred years ago.
There was folk dancing and folk musicians, the later tapping a deep well of nostalgia with many in the crowd singing happily along.
Tumbalong Park was ringed with food, gift and travel stalls who all seemed to be doing a brisk trade on a glorious sunny afternoon.