All posts by Lynne Lancaster

A passionate theatre person Lynne is originally from Sydney and holds a B.Ed (Art) - a postgraduate Diploma in Information Management (Librarianship) and an MA in Theatre. While living in London ( 2002 -2007 ) Lynne completed the dance criticism course at Sadlers Wells linked in with Chichester University. Lynne has worked for both Ticketek and Ticketmaster here in Australia and was involved with the original production of THE BOY FROM OZ An Ausdance member Lynne is passionate about dance and has studied ballet and Flamenco. Before moving to London she photographed the Sydney Dance Company and Australian Ballet among other companies and has exhibited internationally. Lynne is a SAMAG member and a volunteer at the Art Gallery of NSW. Currently Lynne writes for arthub, danceinforma and sydneyartsguide.

AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA: TOGNETTI TCHAIKOVSKY BRAHMS

ACO: Photo Julian Kingma

ACO: TOGNETTI TCHAIKOVSKY BRAHMS
This is a vibrant , electrifying concert that was superbly played and had the packed audience bursting with enthusiasm. The work of two masters was paired with that of two female composers born in 1980 and included an Australian and a world premiere.There was a rich lustrous sound throughout. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA: TOGNETTI TCHAIKOVSKY BRAHMS

Coming up at the Purple Noon Gallery : Helen in Wonderland and Inked Wings

It is with great pleasure that Purple Noon Gallery presents concurrent exhibitions ‘Helen in Wonderland’ and ‘Inked Wings’ as its first show for 2018, opening on Saturday 24th February at 6:00pm. Ross Wellings will officially open the show and there will also be an address by guest speaker Emeritus Professor Col Jordan. The exhibition will run until April 8. Continue reading Coming up at the Purple Noon Gallery : Helen in Wonderland and Inked Wings

RODIN: PART OF THE FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL

Izïa Higelin as Camille Claudel in Rodin

For me, clay comes first.”

While yes perhaps this is a little slow and ponderous at times it is full of fascinating detail, beautifully photographed and examines how artists can be visionary and struggling (sound familiar?) and, focusing on Camille Claudel , Rodin’s mistress and muse, also the problems of being a female artist , especially at that time but also still very relevant today , as embodied by Claudel . Continue reading RODIN: PART OF THE FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL

NT LIVE: FOLLIES

This image: Janie Dee as Phyllis Rogers Stone in FOLLIES at the National Theatre (c) Johan Persson

Sondheim fans rejoice! This is a dazzling , very moving absolutely HUGE production with a cast of 37 and incredible costumes.

The original Broadway production of FOLLIES was in 1971. This is the first time FOLLIES has been staged by the National in the UK . Here in Australia , there have been a couple of concert versions – 1998 and 2016 but so far as I am aware no fully staged version .
Directed by Dominic Cooke FOLLIES has an absolutely stellar cast led by among others Imelda Staunton and Philip Quast. Maestro Nigel Lilley conducts a fabulous orchestra of 21 that is hidden from view but plays superbly. Continue reading NT LIVE: FOLLIES

Traffic Jam Galleries – The Beach 2018

THE BEACH is Traffic Jam Galleries opening exhibition for 2018 with the summer theme of ten artists interpretations of ‘the beach’. Artists included are Andrew Grassi Kelaher, Tracy Dods, Nada Herman, Rebecca Pierce, Bruno Mota, Hugh McLachlan, Katherine Wood, Jenny Green, Terry Barclay and Heidi Hereth. Riotous explosive colour and texture are contrasted with far more ominous deep waters in this most exciting exhibition. Continue reading Traffic Jam Galleries – The Beach 2018

WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY AND CHOIR : OPENS 2018 WITH A GLORIOUS GALA

The Willoughby Symphony and Choir combined to bring us an absolutely superb concert , the first of this year’s season, simply entitled GALA .  They were precisely and energetically conducted by the inspirational Dr Nicholas Milton who also introduced the various pieces and the soloists . The Choir is directed by Chorus Master Peter Ellis The program had an Italian opera theme with works by Puccini ,Rossini , Verdi etc. and the excellent soloists were from Pacific Opera. Continue reading WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY AND CHOIR : OPENS 2018 WITH A GLORIOUS GALA

BACKBONE: RIVERSIDE THEATRES PARRAMATTA

Adelaide-based Gravity & Other Myths is directed by Darcy Grant and stuns in their new show BACKBONE at Riverside Theatres Parramatta, a mesmerizing blend of physical theatre/circus /acrobatics . It is a virtuoso performance of rigorous discipline , super-elite physical acrobatics . The company has been previously nominated for Helpmann awards. Continue reading BACKBONE: RIVERSIDE THEATRES PARRAMATTA

MODEL CITIZENS: CIRCUS OZ UNDER THE BIG TOP PARRAMATTA

MODEL CITIZENS: The latest wonderful production from Circus Oz, the first production for the company by new artistic director Rob Tannion and celebrating 40 marvellous years, started the 2018 Sydney Festival with a bang. Continue reading MODEL CITIZENS: CIRCUS OZ UNDER THE BIG TOP PARRAMATTA

Royal Opera House Live : The Royal Ballet perform Sir Peter Wright’s ‘The Nutcracker’

Featured photo- Alexander Campbell and Francesca Hayward.

You can tell it is Christmas as we have revivals of THE NUTCRACKER again.

This was another revival of the much loved production with some cast changes for some of the principals to the version I saw earlier this year.

It is a lavish, opulent, incredibly detailed production – a quite traditional and enchanting rendition , seeking to keep to the original Petipa/Ivanov , with some technically amazing dancing, particularly in the second act. The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, led enthusiastically and energetically by maestro Barry Wordsworth played magnificently. Continue reading Royal Opera House Live : The Royal Ballet perform Sir Peter Wright’s ‘The Nutcracker’

NT LIVE:PETER PAN IS STRIKING AND ORIGINAL

Bold , striking and original this is a sensational reworking of JM Barrie’s PETER PAN as part of the NT Live series .It was a co-production with the Bristol Old Vic , as directed by Sally Cookson. It is enchanting and is at times childlike and playful, vibrant and colourful, at others quite melancholy ,or dark and sinister . The ending is extremely moving . There is a haunting sense of loss and of the wearing away of innocence.  Continue reading NT LIVE:PETER PAN IS STRIKING AND ORIGINAL

NEW BREED: FROM SYDNEY DANCE CO

 

Cass Mortimer Eipper and Nelson Earl in Bell Jar. Photo: Pedro Greig

NEW BREED: Sydney Dance Company

Quite a mixed bill in this latest presentation by Sydney Dance , the fourth presentation of NEW BREED – something for everyone yet challenging and provoking .

First up was Bell Jar choreographed and performed by Cass Mortimer Eipper and Nelson Earl . Inspired by Virginia Woolf’s work in some ways it is about confronting one’s inner demons. It was very macho yet intimate , strong and sweaty, very powerful and thrillingly performed with hints of violence hidden below the surface. The two were topless and in dark trousers In some ways it was as if they were two halves of a whole and Earl was trying to escape perhaps.

It was slithery, fast and furious with sinuous arms and a martial arts feel at times. Other sections featured the use of angular elbows, or sculptural silhouette .  The music by Marco Cher-Gibard at times crashed and roared.  There was an emotionally powerful ending with Earl perhaps dying in Mortimer-Eipeer’s arms.

Next came Petros TreklisThe Art of Letting Go .” 7 dancers portraying one man and his mind”.It opened with a fantastic solo for Sam Young-Wright looming out of the darkness. The seven wore grey outfits. In some ways it is perhaps reminiscent of Murphy’s ‘Purgatory ‘ .  Choreographically the work featured fluid, slinky movement , exciting ensemble work , runs , some striking , dangerous lifts … isolation movements are included , as well as stylized repeated small movements .There is an atmosphere of love and loss . It concludes with more tumultuous slinky , ensemble work.

Tyrone Earl Lrae Robinson’s strange [bio]Curious was first after interval , which he informs us in the program notes is attempting to question the relationship we have with the natural world. I found it coolly clinical yet simultaneously stylised and extremely sensual.

It opens with Chloe Leong like a goddess in the bath , in a heavily stylized and textured leotard , who entices with a slinky , sensual solo ( echoes perhaps of Murphy’s Some Rooms ? ) . Nelson Earl appears and there are slithery pas de deux . The set is of plants mostly in display cases but some on a table and there is much symbolic use of the plants – sniffing , tasting etc . Their tryst is interrupted by Davide Di Giovanni in a black floral mask – a reference perhaps to the serpent and garden of Eden ?

Melanie Lane’s WOOF with its pulsating music by Clark , flickering lights and sculptural lines explores various intellectual and physical ideas , with fine ensemble work by all . While WOOF is perhaps a little long Lane reveals enormous potential. It strives to express ‘ the fantasy of a post-human collective spirit ‘ and has a cast of twelve. Aleisa Jelbart’s delicate ghostly white costumes become dirty by the end because of the blackened hands of the dancers .

There are allusions to Baroque paintings and Bangarra perhaps , with allusions to other past pop dance and art ‘schools’ which gradually develops into a pastiche of contemporary and includes lots of fast , fiddly footwork . Choreographically it also included lots of runs , fast furious jumps and lots of walks and sections on high demi pointe. At times the ensemble writhed sculpturally, at others they split into smaller groups of trios or quartets . Absorbing .

Sydney Dance NEW BREED runs at Carriageworks 30 November – 9 December 2017
https://www.sydneydancecompany.com/productions/new-breed-2017/#.WiTmt0qWbDd

The Royal Ballet in Alice in Wonderland

THE ROYAL BALLET IN ALICE IN WONDERLAND
NOVEMBER 2017

Bold, bright, colourful and exotic this is a wonderful revival by the Royal Ballet of Christopher Wheeldon’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND first seen in 2011. It is part of the Royal Opera House 2017/18 Live Cinema Season. Visually stunning it showcases some fabulous theatrical effects, wonderful dancing, and Wheeldon’s inspired, outstanding choreography. The work feels, at times, perhaps a little dominated by set and visual design values but it is a stunning visual feast and full of delightful whimsy.

Continue reading The Royal Ballet in Alice in Wonderland

British Museum Presents : Hokusai : After The Great Wave

 

This latest film as part of the British Museum Presents/strong> series is a fascinating look at the life and times of Katsushika Hokusai , who is often regarded as Japan’s greatest artist , in the exhibition that was in London at the British Museum May 25 – August 13 2017. Continue reading British Museum Presents : Hokusai : After The Great Wave

CORIOLANUS: ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY

Photos by Helen Maybanks
© RSC

This updated production (it is set now, or perhaps in a possible near future) as directed by Andrew Jackson emphasizes the politics and bloody battles. It is beautifully spoken and a play of contrasts: this is a production where patricians wear dinner jackets, the plebeians wear hoodies and the tribunes are as sleek as TV presenters. Political speeches are contrasted with whirling violent battle scenes. Continue reading CORIOLANUS: ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY

Live at Lunch – Ravel and Faure

Live at Lunch
RAVEL STRING QUARTET, RAVEL & FAURÉ DEUX PAVANNES
THE CONCOURSE NOVEMBER 2017

To round off the 2017 series of Live at Lunch concerts we were treated to a most elegant and inspiring concert, with a majorly French feel , featuring artistic director Jane Rutter the renowned flautist and the tremendous Acacia Quartet led by Lisa Stewart. Founded in 2010, Acacia Quartet has quickly won great respect for their versatile and inventive programs which often couple established repertoire with the unorthodox. In 2013 Acacia was nominated for both an ARIA Award and an APRA-AMCOS Art Music Award.

The Acacia members were in orchestral black while Rutter was dramatic in a red and black outfit.

First up we heard an enchanting version of the lush, lyrical and seductive Pavane by Faure ( arr George Pikler) with Rutter on her favourite golden flute . A pavane is a Renaissance dance that’s generally described as a formal processional walk accompanied by a stately melody. The performance was full of elegant floating grace .
The main section of the concert was devoted to Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major in four movements as performed by the Acacia Quartet.

Ravel dedicated his work to Faure and it leans towards neo-Classicism . It was written in 1903 when he was 28. The quartet played magnificently , intently and with a great sense of being a unified whole .The first movement was passionate and questioning , volcanically ebbing and flowing. Rippling sections were contrasted with sharp spiky ones and it had a soft shimmering finish (note the use of pizzicato too.)

The second movement dashed off to a boisterous exuberant start and included dizzying scurrying violins. A passionate lamenting segment was contrasted with a stinging one. The third movement was fluid and intense and the final movement was fast and emphatic, full of dynamic intensity and was bubbling and flowing in parts. The finale is challenging because of its constantly shifting tonal changes and the Quartet handled this brilliantly.

Pessard’s Andalouse and Bolero followed taking us to Spain (the Andalouse , elegant and courtly with dominating swirling , bubbling flute ) and then the vibrant Bolero a bit more French ( no , NOT Ravel’s) with its darting shimmering flute and bubbling strings.
Before the final piece the Mayor of Willoughby Gail Giles Gidney was introduced and Rutter announced the most exciting season of seven concerts for 2018 .

The concert concluded with the heartfelt, delicate and flowing Pavane pour Une Infante Defunte by Ravel (1899). It is a meditation on grief and loss and a way of life that has disappeared. As we left for lunch we could buy CDs and brochures for the 2018 season were handed out – the box office was extremely busy!

Live at Lunch RAVEL STRING QUARTET, RAVEL & FAURÉ DEUX PAVANNES was at the Concourse for one performance only 15 November 2017 .  For more information visit:  http://theconcourse.com.au/live-lunch-2017-2/

 

SHERLOCK HOLMES THE AUSTRALIAN CASEBOOK-EDITED BY CHRIS SEQUEIRA

A most enjoyable collection of Australian Sherlockian stories as edited and collected by Christopher Sequiera who is renowned internationally for his Holmes-related writings.

Sequiera’s published work includes poetry, prose, and comic-book scripts, including Pulse of Darkness, Rattlebone: The Pulp-Faced Detective and The Borderlander.
It is a selection from both established and emerging writers (better known names include Meg Keneally, Kerry Greenwood and Lucy Sussex).

Other writers include Kaaron Warren, , L.J.M. Owen, T.S.P. Sweeney, J. Scherpenhuizen, Will Schaefer, Robert Veld, Doug Elliott, Philip Cornell, Raymond Gates, Jason Franks, Narrelle M. Harris and Steve Cameron).

The writers imagine the famous detective duo in Australia in 1890, and visiting various locales in all the States and Territories from the outback desert, bush and city . It is not presented in chronological order per se. Continue reading SHERLOCK HOLMES THE AUSTRALIAN CASEBOOK-EDITED BY CHRIS SEQUEIRA

THE YOUNG KING: SLINGSBY AT SOH

THE YOUNG KING – a tremendous production by Slingsby at the Sydney Opera House

This is a magical, inspired production that had the young children enthralled (and adults too) .  It is an interactive immersive production devised by the wonderful Slingsby company based in Adelaide.

Sensitively adapted by playwright Nicki Bloom (Tender, The Sun and Other Stars, Little Bird), the production is based on Oscar Wilde’s classic story , first published in 1891 , and retains some of Wilde’s magnetic, hypnotic, lush language. Memorable , tantalizing ,lyrical descriptions of snaking perfumes of jasmine, and of pearls shaped like the full moon and brighter than the morning star are provided .

As we enter there are harassed but welcoming busy courtiers , mysterious chambers , curious installations to examine and secret compartments , the only sound the relentless ticking of a clock , on the journey to the Young King’s coronation. There’s instructions involving a secret, directions as to how to greet the king, your card checked, a slight interlude while waiting in ‘the first chamber’ to enter and then we get to make a cardboard crown and take our seat .

Are you an Industrious Denizen of the South ? A Rough Fisher folk of the North? Come from the gruff Forest Folk of the East ? Or a Gritty Prospector of the West ? We are welcomed and the various gifts from the people arriving from the four directions presented and displayed before being carefully taken for safekeeping, (much fun with the last one where ‘pass the parcel ‘ and messages are included in the many layers of wrapping) .

It is the story of an art-loving princess who rebels against her traditionalist father the Old King; and of her son, raised in the forest by goatherds who is revealed to be the heir to the kingdom. Unaware of his birthright, fate eventually catches up with the young man , removing him from his idyllic forest to the palace to assume his royal duties.

As a quest ensues for treasures to create his robes, crown and sceptre, the boy faces a series of meditations and internal struggles as revealed by three dreams . Privilege and treasures are laid at his feet – but at what cost to others ? The three dreams – of the looms, of the diving for pearls , of the battle between Death and Avarice – are vividly brought to life. The Young King’s eventual rejection of the oppressive structures of feudalism rocks the Kingdom to its core.

Wendy Todd’s wonderfully seemingly simple but fabulously intricate set — a wooden fireplace of panelled walls — has various incredibly detailed secret compartments that slide in/out or open , containing fascinating objects, and an element of surprise.

The specially commissioned, wonderfully atmospheric score, at times rollicking , at times piercing beautiful and lyrical , is by Quincy Grant who accompanies the action live on several instruments, including piano and clarinet . The delicate ,extremely effective , atmospheric lighting by Geoff Cobham (fashioning everything from gleam of gold to the soft glow of jewels ) is beautifully incorporated.

Tim Overton and Jacqy Phillips narrate the story and act the cast of thousands and are also splendid at shadow play, torches , and puppetry .( think sort of a blend of Theatre of Image and 1927 perhaps ) .

They’re terrific together — Overton as the young fresh faced king with boyish charm : he is wide eyed with wonder and curiosity , awed by the beautiful objects and his robe for the coronation , but saddened to discover the hardships suffered to obtain them . As Death he is far more sinister with thrilling use of torches and shadows . Phillips in theatrical black is grumpy , cantankerous and scary as the Old King and as Avarice in the battle between Avarice and Death.

The transformation scene at the end is poignant and lyrical , Wilde’s moral tale still extremely relevant today.

THE YOUNG KING runs at the Sydney Opera House 11-12 November 2017.  For more information visit:

https://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/events/past-events/Kids-and-Families/2017/the-young-king.html

EBB AND FLOW : A NEW EXHIBITION BY KATHERINE WOOD @  TRAFFIC JAM GALLERIES 

Featured artwork. ‘Wishing Upon Dreams’ by Katherine Wood.

The latest thrilling exhibition at Traffic Jam Galleries features the glorious work of Katherine Wood, in a series of beach scenes highlighting her magnificent use of line, texture and composition.  The works are delicately yet strongly layered and textured.

Katherine Wood is originally from South Africa but she and her family now live on the Sunshine Coast.

Wood’s work can best be described as ‘abstract imaginings’ blending the divide between traditional landscape and contemporary abstraction.

Wood loves the ocean – in her works its deceptively calm presence and the sense of space at the beach is also revealed as a place to hope and dream for the future or, alternatively, to reflect on the past. Continue reading EBB AND FLOW : A NEW EXHIBITION BY KATHERINE WOOD @  TRAFFIC JAM GALLERIES 

NT LIVE ‘SALOME’: A CLASSIC TALE GETS A RADICAL REWORKING

This is a radical reworking of the Biblical story of Salome as directed by Yaël Farber which features some very strong performances and some fantastic visual theatrical effects.

Farber’s aim is to retell the story of Salome but NOT the story of Salomé as a femme fatale imagined by the historian Flavius Josephus and later interpreters like as Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley and Richard Strauss. Salome becomes a revolutionary, downtrodden woman who is a voice for the oppressed, the silent, the persecuted, the refugee.

So Farber divides the character in two. One, simply called Nameless, (a wonderful strong performance by Olwen Fouere) is an older, ghostly one might say, embodiment of voiceless women down the ages who mostly acts as narrator, ragged and barefoot.

The younger Salomé (Isabella Nefar) lives in Roman-occupied Judea, is the trapped victim of her voracious stepfather, Herod, and becomes the instrument of major change. If she demands the death of the prophet Iokanaan (John the Baptist), it is so that his martyrdom will stir revolt against the oppressive Roman occupation.

Salome is attacked by crowds , tortured in prison and, JUST baptised, required to dance for the Roman leaders of the occupation

We see how Salome is infatuated with the mysterious outlawed fanatical prophet Iokanaan who invites her to bathe, naked, in water, a respite from the harsh sand that pours down at other points in the play as played by wild eyed, bearded Arabic speaking Ramzi Choukair, who mostly wears only a loincloth. Continue reading NT LIVE ‘SALOME’: A CLASSIC TALE GETS A RADICAL REWORKING

DAME BERYL GREY : FOR THE LOVE OF DANCE

Celebrating Dame Beryl’s 90th birthday , this fascinating book was recently released by Oberon Books. It blends the story of twentieth century English ballet told from the point of view of one of its leaders and person memoir. Dame Beryl uses her extensive diaries as a base and also acknowledges the assistance of archivist Jane Pritchard .

Dame Beryl’s life is defined by her love of dance. Both as a ballerina and an Artistic Director she helped make British ballet the world renowned force it is today. Knowing and working with virtually everyone in the dance world, she reveals fascinating insights into the people, characters, and institutions that made up world dance in the 20th century.

Dame Beryl records vividly her relationship with Dame Ninette de Valois, (Madam’s mood changes and temper), and what it was like to work with Wilfred Stiff, John Gilpin and others.

We learn how she managed to navigate the tricky change from ballerina to administrator and leader of a major ballet company. Continue reading DAME BERYL GREY : FOR THE LOVE OF DANCE

WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA : A TRIUMPH INDEED @ THE CONCOURSE

This was a jaw dropping, absolutely breath taking concert by the Willoughby Symphony. The program, under the umbrella title of TRIUMPH, consisted of two works, Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with a most astonishing and impressive performance by special guest artist Kristian Chong and after interval Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony.

The Orchestra was in marvellous form with a rich, extremely balanced, golden tone as energetically, enthusiastically and precisely led by Dr Nicholas Milton. There was also another special reason to celebrate as it is John Cran, the renowned bassoonist’s 90th birthday this week.

First we heard a dazzling, captivating, fiery and tumultuous performance of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 ( readers might remember it from the movie Shine) with spellbinding soloist Kristian Chong who gave a stunning performance aristocratically sculpted. It is an iconic, mammoth work often regarded as the pinnacle of Romantic pianism. Chong and the orchestra treated it with due reverence.

Rachmaninov’s work consists of three large movements. The opening melody has relatively little orchestral accompaniment. (It is perhaps reminiscent of some chants of the Russian Orthodox Church.) There are also hints throughout the work of the composer’s Rhapsody On A Theme of Paganini and perhaps Stravinsky influences.

The well-known opening melody was played by Chong with a languid legato, conveying outward confidence blended with a dark undertone of anticipation. In the first movement Chong’s playing of the cadenza was wild and hair-raising while the second movement was more rhapsodic and melancholic .Chong’s playing in the lyrical or melodic sections was enchanting and luminous contrasting with his fiery passionate volcanic eruptions at other times.

Milton was highly attentive to Chong’s playing and the delicate shaping around it and in the gradual builds toward climaxes he revealed himself as a master of phrasing, pacing and layering sounds. In the second movement there were sharp spiky sections, an intriguing use of pizzicato, haunting woodwind and at various points throughout the work there were swirling, turbulent segments. Sparks flew. There was tumultuous prolonged applause and screams of ‘Bravo’ for Chong.

After interval we heard a passionate, turbulent rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony ( 1877/1878) ‘a haunting journey of tragic reality, passing dreams, visions of happiness, from the deepest trenches of human despair to the glorious triumph of the human spirit.

The work is permeated with unprecedented indications of the composer’s personal emotions, the intensity of which escalate gradually through each movement.It reflects his turbulent personal life at the time and is dedicated to his patroness Nadezhda von Meck .It opened with emphatic brass ( quite Swan Lake -ish) – the ‘fate’ leitmotif. followed by anxious strings and swooping woodwind.

The second movement opened with a poignant heart twisting oboe solo with the strings quietly murmuring underneath. Sometimes the orchestra in this movement was slow and stately like a flowing river, at other points it was anxious and pulsating , sometimes dance like .

Crash! The third movement featured scurrying strings, who then later sounded quite melancholy and then were strident, the horns, and the entire orchestra going full throttle tempestuously. There were hints of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture too and an interesting use of surging pizzicato.

The final movement, incorporating a famous Russian folk song, was fast, joyous and surged towards the agitated, breathless conclusion.

There was thunderous applause and numerous curtain calls. A TRIUMPH indeed.

Running time 2 hours including interval

Willoughby Symphony in Triumph played the Concourse on the 28th  and 29th October 2017

 

AUSTRALIAN BRANDENBURG ORCHESTRA :  BITTERSWEET OBSESSIONS

BITTERSWEET OBSESSIONS, marking the 450th anniversary of Monteverdi’s birth. as presented by the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, is structured around three works by two of the most iconic of baroque composers and includes Bach’s famous comic coffee cantata.

LAMENT
Monteverdi | Lamento della Ninfa.
A beautiful, moving story of loss and mourning, the nymph, angrily and with broken heart, sings the story of her traitorous lover.
TRAGEDY
Monteverdi | Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda.
A story of love, tragedy and mistaken identity.
COMEDY 
J.S. BACH | Coffee Cantata.

A rollicking satire about the coffee-drinking antics of this lusciously-jolly, caffeine-crazed woman.

Soprano Natasha Wilson ties these three worlds together in a dramatic, staged performance with the Brandenburg. Through the concert we discover the heartbreak, passion and comic revelry within a repressive world.

Joining Natasha on stage are tenors Karim Sulayman from the USA and Australian Spencer Darby, as well as Danish bass Jakob Bloch Jespersen.

Paul Dyer has reunited the Australian creative team with whom he collaborated on the Brandenburg’s acclaimed and first-ever staging of Handel’s Messiah in February 2017, NIDA graduates director Constantine Costi, set designer Charlotte Mungomery and costume designer Genevieve Graham.

The creative team is completed by the leading Australian lighting designer, John Rayment, who in 2018 will be lighting the Commonwealth Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies on the Gold Coast, as well as Opera Australia’s new production of Aida.

It is most impressively ‘partially staged ‘ and musically and vocally is superb. The performance is in three parts or ‘scenes’ and follows a woman’s journey through the sweet and bitter of life, through pleasure and pain, and opens with Monteverdi’s Nymph’s Lament, a tale of spurned love from his eight book of madrigals.

The concert is set in a cornfield with observing shepherds who act as a sort of Greek chorus.  Natasha Wilson plays the nymph in white drifting around rather Ophelia – like and lamenting her traitorous lost love in ravishing arias.

The highlight of the first half and one of the major highlights of the performance was the striking, dramatic staging of Monteverdi’s Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda (The Battle of Tancredi and Clorinda) first performed in Venice in 1624 and based on a story of the First Crusade by Torquato Tasso which explores the fused themes of love and war through the story of the tragically star-crossed lovers.

The front cloth is lifted to reveal large metal staircase scaffolding which Jakob Bloch Jespersen and Wilson clamber up and down. For most of the performance Wilson and Jespersen are up on the top layer of the scaffolding and blindfolded. The dominant colour is red and a red banner is unfurled at one point. Karim Sulayman as the narrator below was passionate and intense describing the various events of the battle, the anger, exhaustion and eventual despair and parting.

This work is also notable for its inclusion of  Aikido– a modern Japanese martial art as the intricate, tightly choreographed battle is excitingly performed by Melanie Lindenthal and Andrew Sunter. ( http://aikidoinsydney.com/)The work features one of the earliest known uses of pizzicato in Baroque music and also pioneered the use of tremolo and the ‘agitated style ‘ to convey tension.

Wilson as Clorinda is superb her dying arias piercingly, soaringly exquisite. Jakob Bloch Jespersen ( from Denmark) as the noble warrior Tancredi was magnificent , commanding and vibrant in the battle , horror struck and grief stricken at the end .

The Bach Brandenburg Concerto No 4 BWV 1049 (first movement only) was given a sprightly, elegant and filigreed performance. The Orchestra had a warm luscious tone.The Baroque flutes /recorders ( Melissa Farrow and Mikaela Oberg) bubbled and darted in a delightful, enchanting performance that left us wanting more.The other interludes included in both halves of the program were also delightful.

“Don’t get between a girl and her coffee “ – the bulk of the second half consisted of J.S Bach’s Coffee Cantata, BWV 211 which was given a sparkling performance. A delicious satire, with bewitching music, this is classified as a cantata ( a vocal composition with instrumental accompaniment intended for concert performance) yet it is rather like a mini opera with three characters. Bach himself was a caffeine addict.

The set was reworked during interval to become a coffee shop and there were huge bags of coffee beans scattered around. There was also the use of mobile phones, Liesshen takes quite few selfies. Karim Sulayman here acts as the overworked barista/narrator.

Jakob Bloch Jespersen (Mr Schlendrian, Lieschen’s harassed father) is here dressed in casually expensive jeans t shirt and jacket and is growing weary of constantly forking out money for all the coffee that his daughter drinks. Lieschen is portrayed by Natasha Wilson as spoilt and self centred. She wears a red dress, fishnet stockings ankle boots and a large striped faux fur coat. The love of her life is COFFEE to which she is extremely addicted to. She must have it, drink it, be gifted it.

To her, coffee is more delicious than a thousand kisses. More pleasing than wine. Wilson’s arias to coffee are sultry and sensational. But her father declares she must give up coffee and marry. Leischen eventually agrees, thinking that her husband to be will pay for all her coffee. It ends with a wonderful tightly choreographed trio for the barista, Lieschen and her father drinking , stirring and raising their cups – to the joys of COFFEE.

Another cappuccino please ..

Running time just under 2 hours including interval

The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s BITTERSWEET OBSESSION is playing the City Recital Hall until the 1st November and Melbourne until 5 November 2017.

For more about Australian Brandenburg Orchestra : Bittersweet Obsessions, visit https://www.brandenburg.com.au/

LIVE AT LUNCH : LOVE SONGS AND LULLABIES @ THE CONCOURSE

The packed audience was swooning with delight at the latest Live at Lunch concert at the Concourse entitled LOVE SONGS AND LULLABIES.

The concert featured Artistic Director Jane Rutter on flute, Vincent Colagiuri on piano and opera superstar Teddy Tahu Rhodes who performed a delicious selection of classic love songs and lullabies from Broadway including works by Elgar, Rogers & Hammerstein, Schumann, Fauré, Cole Porter, Lerner & Loewe and more!

Colagiuri and Tahu Rhodes both looked debonair in magnificently cut suits whilst Rutter was elegant in white and silver.

The program opened with the bright, seductive Non Piu Andrai from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Continue reading LIVE AT LUNCH : LOVE SONGS AND LULLABIES @ THE CONCOURSE

NT LIVE : YERMA

This latest offering as part of the NT Live series, filmed at the Young Vic, is a very strong and powerful production, bleak and emotionally shattering.

Simon Stone, the Australian director, has taken Federico García Lorca’s 1934 tragedy and morphed it from 1930’s rural Spain to contemporary London, turning its story of the agonies of childlessness into a challenging, extremely contemporary play.

In the original, Lorca’s heroine is a farmer’s wife driven crazy by her failure to conceive, in a repressive society where child¬bearing is regarded as her main raison d’etre.

Here in this version (with mobile phones and computers, and lots of strong language) Stone’s protagonist (simply called Her, as played by Billie Piper) is a successful journalist who has always refused to be defined by the ticking clock of her reproductive system. However, on the day she and her partner, John (Brendan Cowell) move into their new home, she reveals her wish to have a baby. We then follow them through five harrowing years of barrenness, Her’s baby wish becoming a catastrophic obsession.

The play takes place in a glass cube with reflective mirrors. Mostly the stage floor is white, but at some points it has grass included. Minimalist various props (chairs, drinks tables, trees etc) are carried on/off by the cast and crew.

Lizzie Clachan’s design has the effect of making her life a goldfish bowl and the production strongly hints that Her’s blog has made her private life fair game for the more troll-like members of the online universe.

There is a strange rather surreal scene towards the conclusion, where Her, now high on drugs at a festival and drenched by light misty rain, paws at the soil as if trying to invoke some sort of Pagan goddess.

Billie Piper (yes Rose Tyler from Doctor Who) eponymous’ character is Her, an affluent journalist who habitually writes about her obsession with starting a family in a blog which is simultaneously articulate, self centred , and embarrassingly hurtful to those she loves.

She and John, talk over each other, get drunk, bicker, goad each other, and enjoy their increasingly privileged life together as sophisticated left-leaning ‘smug marrieds’ in London – until She decides she wants a baby. Adoption, however is not an option.

Billie Piper as Her is luminous and amazing in a searing, towering, powerhouse performance that leaves you shattered at the end. She performs with a disturbing, passionate apparently spontaneous truth as we watch her spiral into darkness.

Excellent Australian actor Brendan Cowell is on a knife edge balancing between the understanding and sensitive and the selfish in John’s participation and agreement with Her wish to have a child until looming financial ruin and her worrying mental health force him to declare an end to the IVF treatments.

We follow John’s journey from a cosmopolitan guy scared of commitment to emotionally pummelled and stressed one. He desperately attempts to meet Her needs, to try and save Her, but this becomes impossible.

The scenes with her ex that unexpectedly returns (Victor, as wonderfully played by John Macmillan) are tender, wistfully heartbreaking imaginings of what might have been, oppressively disturbing to consider given the current situation.

Stone has his cast interrupting each other, with very quick speeches at times, or not completing sentences and often speaking quietly, sometimes even murmuring in hushed tones which sometimes meant that the dialogue was at times almost inaudible.

This was contrasted with the snap of blackouts, the use of Brechtian like surtitles to indicate the time frame, and the audience being deafened by the score during scene changes (women’s voices blasting out choral chants for example). Strobe lighting is also used .

There are fine performances throughout by the very strong ensemble. Stone accentuates the multi layers of Her’s sense of being an unnecessary victim. Her rather detached, abrasive mother (Maureen Beattie) doesn’t pressure her and her and her post¬natally depressed sister (Charlotte Randle) is a torment to her because of the irony that producing babies has apparently been no problem for these seemingly unmaternal women.

This is a confronting play and Stone directs it dynamically with a great sense of urgency. We are asked to question the stereotypical conventional ideas of what being a woman is and whether being a mother is the be all and end all of everything. YERMA (which, by the way, means barren in Spanish) is both inexorable and scrupulous in its roughly 90 minutes ranging from witty and vibrant social comment to cataclysmic extremes.

Running time allow 2 hours (there is a short film and interview beforehand and the ads) the actual performance is 90 minutes no interval.

YERMA screens as part of the NT Live series in selected cinemas from October 14 2017