All posts by Ben Apfelbaum

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.

SCULPTURE @ BARANGAROO EXHIBITION CAPTURES THE IMAGINATION

Featured photo- Christopher Langton and his sculpture ‘Shoe’. All photos by Ben Apfelbaum.

SCULPTURE AT BARANGAROO, presented in partnership with Barangaroo Delivery Authority and Sculpture By The Sea, opened last Saturday.

Official launch proceedings were held a day earlier with speakers David Handley, Founding Director of the Exhibition, Geoffrey Edwards, Exhibition Curator, and Barangaroo Delivery Authority CEO Craig Van De Laan.

The exhibition showcases 14 artworks by 9 established and emerging Australian artists.

Exhibiting artists include acclaimed Australian sculpture Michael Le Grand who is celebrating a mini retrospective of six works, Richard Tipping, Nicol Monks, Cave Urban, Andrew Rogers, Adam King from the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative, Teresa Trevor, Christopher Langton and Elyssa Sykes-Smith.

SCULPTURE AT BARANGAROO is on display at the Barangaroo Reserve until the 19th August.

Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes : Art Gallery Of New South Wales

Featured image – Archibald Prize winner Mitch Cairns  and wife Agatha Gothe-Snape in front of his winning portrait of his wife. All images by Ben Apfelbaum.

To the delight of Sydneysiders and I suspect the Board of Trustees there was the usual post Archibald and Wynne controversy.

Distinguished veteran John Olsen opined words to the effect that the winner of the Archibald Prize was not a portrait but a decorative Matisse like painting. A Herald letter writer said that she would no longer paint in the European tradition but would paint dot paintings.

David Gonski, the Director of the Board of Trustee, announced the Prize winners at midday last Friday with a huge media contingent present.

The Archibald Prize, worth $100,000, went to Sydney artist Mitch Cairns for his portrait of his artist-wife Agatha Gothe-Snape.

The Wynne Prize, worth $50,000, went to Betty Kuntiwa Pumani for ‘Antara’, her portrait of her homeland.

The  Sulman Prize, worth $40000, went to Joan Ross, for her painting, ‘Oh history, you lied to me.’

Jun Chen was highly commended for his portrait of former gallery owner Ray Hughes.

The  Young Archies finalists are on exhibition until 22nd October with the announcement of the winner taking place on 16th September.

The Archibald, Wynne and Sulman exhibitions are on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until the 22nd October.

The ANZ People’s Choice Announcement will take place on Wednesday 4th October.

The Salon-des- Refuges exhibition will be on display at the SH Ervin Gallery until Sunday 15th October.

RED CARPET : HELPMANN AWARDS 2017

Featured image – Paulini, Fijian Australian pop and rhythm and blues singer, songwriter and actress.

The 17th annual Helpmann Awards ceremony was held at the Capitol Theatre on the evening of Monday 25th July. The Helpmanns, the equivalent of the Tonys (Broadway) and the Oliviers (West End) honour far more categories than the later two awards.

Being often clothed in striking costumes the nominees graced the red carpet with style and glamour. The Red Carpet carried a diverse range of people from the up and coming young cast of The Book Of Mormon to promoter Kevin Jacobsen, Rhonda Burchmore and Ita Buttrose.

The Ceremony was broadcast live on Foxtel and will be screened on the ABC this coming Sunday at 9.30pm.

http://www.helpmannawards.com.au/

 

THE WINNERS CIRCLE : HELPMANN AWARDS 2017

Featured photo – Patti Smith and Bluesfest Touring 2017 won the Bobby for the Best International Contemporary Concert. All pics by Ben Apfelbaum.

The 2017 Helpmann Awards Ceremony featured excerpts from the Musicals The Book Of Mormon, Velvet, My Fair Lady, Green Days American Idiot, Aladdin, Beautiful:The Carole King Musical and the Ballet construct.

Ably hosted by Jan Van De Stool (Queenie Van De Zandt) and Tim Draxl the big winners were the Belvoir’s The Drover’s Wife, written by and starring Leah Purcell, and the Adelaide Festival’s production of the opera Saul, directed by Barry Kosky. Continue reading THE WINNERS CIRCLE : HELPMANN AWARDS 2017

WATERCOLOURS EXHIBITION @ THE ART GALLERY OF NEW SOUTH WALES

Victorian Watercolours were the first works of Art purchased by the fledgling Art Gallery Of New South Wales in 1874. For the following three decades British watercolours by living artists were actively acquired. Greatly prized in their day and more affordable than oil paintings, watercolours were viewed as highly appropriate additions to emerging colonial galleries, as well as providing an educational role for students and aspiring artists. Continue reading WATERCOLOURS EXHIBITION @ THE ART GALLERY OF NEW SOUTH WALES

PACKING ROOM PRIZE THE ARCHIBALD 2017

Featured photo – Lisa Wilkinson AM, retiring Head Packer Steve Peters and behind the winning entry Peter Smeeth’s portrait of Lisa. Pic Ben Apfelbaum.

‘High drama’ this was. This was the last time Steve Peters, after forty years on the job, selected the Packing Room Prize worth $1500. Peters has handed the reins to Breet Cuthbertson who will judge this coveted prize for the foreseeable future.

As the winning prize was announced, the sitter, Lisa Wilkinson, suddenly strode into the room. She was told that her portrait had won just as she emerged from surgery  on her right arm three days ago, due to a fall in Italy. Groggy after the operation she thought it was the Kerry Packer prize! The occasion was the first time that she had seen the portrait and she was absolutely delighted with it. ‘He got me’, she told the gathering.

Adding a touch of poignancy to the prize giving the artist, Peter Smeeth, was at the same time delivering a eulogy for a very dear  friend  in Yass. Lisa said. ‘This is the mark of this man.’

In the background of this portrait is a reflection of her family who were all present at the function.

Gallery Director Michael Brand noted that no Packing Room Prize winner has ever the Archibald Prize. Furthermore, the Prize had never been won by a reclining subject. He advised that if you are an arts punter don’t bet on Peter Smeeth’s portrait to win!

Finalists for the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes were also announced at the ceremony, as were the finalists for the Young Archie competition.

The announcement of the winner of the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes will take place on Friday 28th July at noon.

The 2017 Young Archie winners will be announced on Saturday 16th September and the People’s Choice announcement takes place on Wednesday 4th October.

AUSTRALIAN ROMANTIC AND CLASSICAL ORCHESTRA : ‘ITALIAN ROMANCE’ @ CITY RECITAL HALL

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 Corialanus Overure 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 Orchestra No 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 12 Contradances 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.

 

ST PATRICKS DAY 2017 : THE IRISH CELEBRATE THEIR DAY @ MARTIN PLACE

Until only a few years ago the Irish Australian community held an annual parade in Sydney second only in size to the St Patricks Day Festival held in New York.

Unfortunately a shortage in financial support has resulted in the Parade being disbanded.

This, however, has not stopped the Irish community from celebrating the day in various venues around Sydney including a lovely event that took place in Martin Place.

Pics by Ben Apfelbaum (c).

THE GREAT SYNAGOGUE SERVICE FOR THE OPENING OF THE LAW TERM

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.

Mark Speakman SC, Attorney General, representing the Premier delivered a message on behalf of the Government of New South Wales, emphasising how the rule of law sustains democracy. Continue reading THE GREAT SYNAGOGUE SERVICE FOR THE OPENING OF THE LAW TERM

CHINESE NEW YEAR : 28 JANUARY – 12 FEBRUARY 2017

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.

Images by Ben Apfelbaum (c).

‘PASSENGERS’ FAILS TO REACH ANY GREAT HEIGHTS

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

HELL OR HIGH WATER : A QUIET GEM OF A FILM

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.

OPERA AUSTRALIA PRESENTS THE AUSTRALIAN PREMIERE OF ‘KING ROGER’

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.

 

SYDNEY THEATRE’S BIG NIGHT @ THE SEYMOUR CENTRE

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).

TANGO SYNERGY AND YO YO MA-STER @ HYDE PARK NORTH

 

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.

All images by Ben Apfelbaum (c).

THE BEACH : A MUCH LOVED SYDNEY FESTIVAL EVENT

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.

All images by Ben Apfelbaum (c).

ARTISTS OF THE GREAT WAR @ THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF AUSTRALIA

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 display features loans from the Australian War Memorial and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, alongside works from the NGA collection. Continue reading ARTISTS OF THE GREAT WAR @ THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF AUSTRALIA

THE NGA COLLECTIONS : THE NED KELLY SERIES GALLERY

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 / Pagliacci @ the JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

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.

 

 

Images by Ben Apfelbaum (c).

VERSAILLES : TREASURES FROM THE PALACE @ THE NATIONAL GALLERY

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.

VERSAILLES, TREASURES FROM THE PALACE is a totally immersive experience with the largest room decorated by  huge gobelin Tapestries hanging on the walls and a gobelin carpet highlighting four huge vases. Continue reading VERSAILLES : TREASURES FROM THE PALACE @ THE NATIONAL GALLERY

HANUKKAH – THE JEWISH FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS

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.

To this day Jews all over the world, by lighting the eight pronged candelabra called a Hanukkiah. Each night a candle is added until the final night when all flames are ablaze. Continue reading HANUKKAH – THE JEWISH FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS

A HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN 100 OBJECTS @ THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AUSTRALIA

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.

The History demonstrates how we have shaped the world and how it shapes us. The Objects come from all over the globe, often demonstrating how trade or a conquest influences the local indigenous art. Continue reading A HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN 100 OBJECTS @ THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AUSTRALIA

NEW YEAR’S EVE 2017 SYDNEY

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.

However what the Fotis lack in budget, the Foti family compensated in ingenuity, coming up with new shapes, patterns, to vividly paint the night sky. Continue reading NEW YEAR’S EVE 2017 SYDNEY

ANN MILCH’S RETROSPECTIVE @ KU-RING-GAI ART CENTRE AND GALLERY

A little bit of 1940’s heaven can be found at the Ku-ring-gai Art Centre and Gallery where a retrospective of Ann Milch’s art is being held.

The Centre is a large weatherboard cottage which contains a workshop and hanging space for local artists. It is set beside a lovely little park and in keeping with the 1940’s allusion, lawn tennis courts! Continue reading ANN MILCH’S RETROSPECTIVE @ KU-RING-GAI ART CENTRE AND GALLERY