All posts by Randolph Magri-Overend

One of the questions Randolph hates to answer is “Where do you come from?” Why? Because the answer can be so time-consuming and, in a way, also gives away how old he is!! Plus the questioner has to wrestle with the wish he hadn’t asked the question!! He was born in Cairo, Egypt, many moons ago of British parents although he can trace Maltese and Croatian ancestry in his lineage. Educated in a Jesuit college in London his wander lust for things unorthodox drove him to embark on a seafaring career with both Canadian Pacific Steamships and Shaw Savill. That in itself dates him because both lines have been redundant for many a year. One of his boasts is that he was the Purser on the “Gothic” which ten years previously had been Queen Elizabeth II’s Royal Yacht soon after her coronation in 1953. One of the objects imported on the ship by HM and left behind was a tape player which Randolph utilised on many a memorable Sunday evening with a classical concert for his passengers. Thus began a journey that not only awakened Randolph’s love for good music but also eventually led to his extensive knowledge of music in all forms. That he loves the era of Sinatra, Crosby, Armstrong, Dorsey (both) and many many more exponents of the post-war music scene is also part and parcel of his appreciation of the music of many an era. These days Randolph is retired but still reviews CDs and DVDs and has written articles on such diverse personalities as Yvonne Kenny, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Alexander Briger, the late Sir John Tavener, Sir James Galway, Dawn Upshaw and countless probes into the music of Gustav Mahler, Elizabeth Shwarzkopf and her husband Walter Legge, Glenn Gould, Leonard Bernstein and many many more he regrets to admit he has lost track of! Before emigrating to Australia, Randolph spent a number of years as a Flight Dispatcher in Canada. Since arriving in Australia, Randolph has written for The Weekend Australian (especially in their travel pages), The Sydney Morning Herald, Opera Opera and Fine Music magazine as well as some jazz magazines. If you require an extensive coverage of your music to a public that, at last count, reaches the best part of 818,000 please contact David Kary on editor.sydneyartsguide@gmail.com or email me directly on ibmar@bigpond.com. This also includes advertising any forthcoming shows by promoting featured artists. Cheers and thank you.

THE COLOUR ORANGE

According to a recent QI programme, Stephen Fry (that oracle of knowledge and wisdom on television) confirmed this quote I’ve extracted from Google (another oracle of knowledge):

“Before the late 15th century, Europeans simply referred to orange as yellow-red until they were introduced to orange trees, when the pigment was finally awarded its true name. During the 16th and 17th centuries, orange became a symbol of Protestantism and an important political colour in Britain and Europe under William III’s reign.”j Continue reading THE COLOUR ORANGE

THE ACACIA QUARTET AND GUNTER RAPHAEL

This CD was first conceived in Berlin in the spring of 2017 when the friendship between leading violinist Lisa Stewart and the founder of the Christine Raphael Foundation, Frederik Pachla decided that some form of recognition to the music of Günter Raphael was necessary.  The first concerts of his works were played in Sydney to a very appreciative audience and after further concerts in Berlin the present CD was recorded with three of Raphael’s string quartets – two early works, #1 Op 5 in E minor, #2 Op 9 in C major (1924 and 1925 respectively) and the last quartet he composed in 1946, #6 op 54 in F major. Continue reading THE ACACIA QUARTET AND GUNTER RAPHAEL

JACK CARTY : THE WORLD, WHEN IT’S SLEEPING

Have you heard of Jack Carty?  If you’re a Country and Western fan, then perhaps you have.  I haven’t but I wish I had. He’s an Aussie who has recently come back from 2 years spent living, recording, writing and performing in the UK and Europe.  One of the reasons he’s returned to his homeland (he’s a Bellingen NSW boy) is because his wife is expecting their first child.

Actually this EP album, comprising 5 songs written and recorded by Carty, is more Country than Western.  Perhaps that is the reason I have taken a liking to it. Which reminds me of the joke in the hilarious movie The Blues Brothers when the saloon owner is asked whether they did Country and Western and he replies “We do both Country AND Western!”  Continue reading JACK CARTY : THE WORLD, WHEN IT’S SLEEPING

ACROSS THE STARS : ANNE SOPHIE MUTTER AND JOHN WILLIAMS

CD Review – Across the Stars

Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin

The Recording Art’s Orchestra of Los Angeles/John Williams

DG 4797553

4 out of 5 stars

Anne-Sophie Mutter and John Williams belong to same mutual appreciation society.

Of Mutter, Williams writes: “Anne-Sophie Mutter is many things…..a great artist, a brilliant woman who brings honour to her country, and, through her many travels, a highly contributive and outstanding world citizen”.  Of Williams, Mutter writes: “There is only one John Williams! What he writes is just extraordinary. Every time I go to one of his films and there is a violin or cello, I think, I would like to play that! And now I have his wonderful translations of all these iconic themes.” Continue reading ACROSS THE STARS : ANNE SOPHIE MUTTER AND JOHN WILLIAMS

SONGS OF CHRISTMAS : SOME TIME FOR REFLECTION

Have you ever wondered what the best-selling Christmas song is?  Unexpectedly, it’s Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’ sung by Bing Crosby.  Written in 1940-41 when sheet music sales were much more numerous than record sales it has, to date, sold more than 150 million.  It has even surpassed Elton John’s ‘Candle in the Wind” a song written in 1983 to commemorate Marilyn Monroe and later re-recorded, in 1997, to commemorate Princess Diana’s death.  Crosby first aired ‘White Christmas’ on Christmas Day 1941 on his Kraft Music Hall show. His interpretation soon became a favourite, especially with the troops overseas. It received millions of requests on the Armed Forces Radio.  The troops, most on their first overseas posting, obviously identified with the nostalgia in the lyrics and the song has since been covered by many artists, including Elvis Presley, Karen Carpenter and Lady Gaga. 

Other Christmas songs that have rattled the hit parade can be classified in 3 different categories –  Popular, Religious (or Christmas Carols) and Country-inspired…no Western in this…..hope it was an amicable divorce!  Trouble is that depending on what publication you research disagreements tend to occur. Here then are the favourites in each category. Continue reading SONGS OF CHRISTMAS : SOME TIME FOR REFLECTION

MATT MUNRO : POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS

He was born on December 1, 1930 as Terence Edward Parsons and, in an attempt to reach some kind of recognition for his singing talent, assumed names like Terry Fitzgerald,  Al Jordan, Fred Flange (Fred Flange?…more on that later) and finally, as we know him, Matt Monro.

Matt was re-named by no less an entertainer than Winifred Atwell – remember her from Black and White Rag, the theme song for the TV programme Pot Black?  Matt came from Matt White, the first Australian journalist to write about Matt and Monro from Atwell father’s first name.  

Monro came to Atwell’s attention when she heard a recording he had made in Glasgow with some musician friends .  The song Polka Dots and Moonbeams impressed Atwell so much that she helped Monro win a recording contract with Decca.  Monro was still very much a lorry-driver then and carried on in that trade even after Decca recorded his first album Blue and Sentimental in 1956.  The recording led to him signing with the BBC Show Band.  By then he was driving a bus in London, which he told reporters at the time, he would continue to do.  But that didn’t last long. Continue reading MATT MUNRO : POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS

GEORGE ELLIS : BRINGING CLASSICAL MUSIC TO THE MASSES

George Ellis is quite unique in the music world.  Who else loved The Beatles at age 4 and finished off conducting a motley mixture of music (including classical) for a living.  And arranges songs to boot! And is a composer! And is so energetic, he could pass for a 15 year old! What else can I say? Oh yes, he conducted at the 2000 Sydney Olympics!  He’s also had a hand in the music for the Bruce Beresford’s movies Mao’s Last Dancer and Ladies in Black.

I catch up with Ellis at his daughter’s flat where he’s baby-sitting his grandson.  I congratulate him for being one of the few celebrities who answer their fan’s comments on Facebook.  “I know this may sound ingenuous,” he says, “but I don’t do it for my own gratification….people react positively to my social media posts and I think it’s a nice thing that they’ve taken the time – even though it’s not much effort – but it’s still a thought….that’s one of the good things of social media.” Continue reading GEORGE ELLIS : BRINGING CLASSICAL MUSIC TO THE MASSES

ETTORE BASTIANINI : THE SINGER WHO WOULDN’T STOP SINGING

Australian baritone, José Carbó and his partner, soprano Jenna Robertson think he’s the bees-knees!  And so do I. But more from them a bit later. 

Just before and just after the Second World War was a golden era for opera singers.  In the baritone register there were Tito Gobbi, Gino Becchi, Robert Merrill and the subject for today’s article, Ettore (the accent is forcefully on the first syllable) Bastianini;  in the tenor ranks we had Benjamino Gigli, Jussi Bjorling , Giuseppe di Stefano, Franco Corelli and Mario del Monaco and in the soprano ranks we had Maria Callas, Zinka Milanov, Renata Tebaldi, Joan Sutherland, Birgit Nilssen and Kirsten Flagstaff.  Of course, there were others, but these were the most famous of the voices.  Continue reading ETTORE BASTIANINI : THE SINGER WHO WOULDN’T STOP SINGING

POP AND BLUES LEGEND : DUSTY SPRINGFIELD

She was nicknamed “Dusty” because from a young age she liked playing soccer with the boys.  A tom-boy; which probably was an indicator for her later years when her sexual orientation was (at least according to her) indeterminate.

Born Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien on 16 April 1939 she was the second child to Gerard Anthony O’Brien and Catherine Anne (nee Ryde).  He’d been raised in India and worked as a tax accountant and consultant, she was originally from Tralee, County Kerry and included a number of journalists as relatives.  Their dysfunctional frustrations would sometimes boil over and would manifest itself in food-throwing, a custom Dusty and her older brother Dionysius continued as adults, to the great regret of the managers of the hotels they were staying at.  Dusty was brought up in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire and educated at St Anne’s Convent, Northfield. Continue reading POP AND BLUES LEGEND : DUSTY SPRINGFIELD

OPERA LEGENDS : LUCIANO PAVAROTTI

According to his former manager, Herbert Breslin, Pavarotti loved ‘music, women, food and football.’  At 150 kgs he devoured heaps of pasta, heavily sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and loads of salami. His conception of dieting consisted of a whole chicken, beans and more beans, mashed potatoes topped off with three scoops of ice cream.  When on a long tour he would ask any friend travelling from Italy to smuggle kilos of tortellini, Parmesan cheese and oodles of salami. I say ‘smuggled’ because I doubt if any customs institution would allow entrance into their country with meat in their luggage.  Even on his death-bed, his ex-wife Adua, whom he had divorced for a woman 34 years his junior, visited him and he persuaded her to cook him some spaghetti bolognese.

Pavarotti’s nickname was ‘Big Lucy’ for obvious reasons.  He was also called ‘Luciano Havelotti’ because of his size.  He was also known as the ‘King of the High Cs’, an appendage he earned after two 1972 performances singing Tonio in Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment at London’s Covent Garden and New York’s Metropolitan. In one of the arias he sang nine high Cs in a row.  At the Metropolitan he was called back for seventeen curtain calls….a record number, according to some. It was then that Pavarotti came of age as an operatic tenor. Continue reading OPERA LEGENDS : LUCIANO PAVAROTTI

SHOWBIZ LEGEND : JUDY GARLAND

There’s a new bio pic ‘Judy’ about Judy Garland opening in cinemas this Thursday. Sydney Arts Guide writer Randolph Magri-Overend has prepared this bio piece for readers prior to seeing the movie.

On 22 June 1969 Mickey Deans arrived home at his rented house in Chelsea, London to find his wife dead.  They’d only been married three months. The lady was Judy Garland. She was 47.

Judy had said prior to her marriage to Deans : ‘Finally, finally I am loved.’  But her daughter Lorna Luft chose to disagree with her when she wrote in her book Me and my Shadows: Living with the Legacy of Judy Garland that Deans was a ‘dreadful man….if she put an advert in a newspaper for the most unsuitable person to take care of her, she wouldn’t have had a better response….I don’t know what possessed…..well, I know what possessed her because he gave in to her and fed her all the things she wanted.’

Although a known drug-addict and alcoholic, Judy Garland’s death was deemed to be an accidental overdose of barbiturates.  At the inquest, Coroner Gavin Thurston indicated that there had not been an inflammation of her stomach lining and no drug residue in her stomach, which indicated that the drug had been ingested over a long period of time rather than as a single dose. Continue reading SHOWBIZ LEGEND : JUDY GARLAND

CLASSICAL MUSIC LEGEND : MARIA CALLAS

Some legends never die.  I suppose that’s why they’re legends.  Maria Anna Cecilia Sofia Kalogerpoulos   (shortened to Callas) born 2 December, 1923 was one.  Articles, like this one about her have been written – even a documentary film – and she’s been dead for more than 40 years.  What fascinates us still about her life? Other better singers have passed away and they’ve almost been forgotten. What’s so different about Maria Callas?   People and critics who derided her when she was alive now have nothing but praise. Even her debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York as Bellini’s Norma, and the following six performances, in October 1956 were booed.  Of course it didn’t help that preceding her Metropolitan debut, Time magazine wrote scathingly about her temper, her supposed rivalry with Italian soprano Renata Tebaldi and her severed relationship with her mother.

In those heady days – the 1950s and 60s – Callas was just as much followed by the paparazzi as Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift are these days.  And yet her voice could not be classified as a thing of beauty. It was deemed uneven and forced.   Continue reading CLASSICAL MUSIC LEGEND : MARIA CALLAS

MUSIC LEGENDS : GLENN MILLER

On 15 December, 1944 a US plane, the UC-64 Norseman, took off from RAF Twinwood in Clapham (on the outskirts of Bedford) and disappeared over the English Channel.  On take-off the weather was foggy and was forecast to remain that way all the way to its destination, Paris. On board were Major Glenn Miller, Lieutenant Colonel Norman Bacsell and the pilot John Morgan.  Miller’s disappearance was not made public until 24 December when it was announced that Miller would not be conducting the scheduled BBC broadcast and that Miller’s deputy conductor would stand in. The occupants of the plane were never found.

Immediately rumours began to circulate.  Some speculated he had been assassinated; others that the supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe, Dwight D Eisenhower had sent him on a secret mission to try and negotiate a peace deal with the Nazis.  The Germans themselves spread the rumour that he died of a heart attack in a Parisian bordello.

Another theory that gained traction was that the plane had been destroyed by Allied bomber planes returning from an aborted raid over Germany and were forced to jettison their unused bombs.  Continue reading MUSIC LEGENDS : GLENN MILLER

CLASSICAL MUSIC LEGENDS : GLENN GOULD

Glenn Herbert Gould was a genius.  Leonard Bernstein thought so and so did Vladimir Ashkenazy. Bernstein remarked once that “There is nobody like him, and I just love playing with him.” George Szell, who conducted Gould with the Cleveland Orchestra,  exclaimed to his assistant: “That nut’s a genius!”

Ashkenazy only met Gould once.  It was in the mid-1960s, he tells us that Ashkenazy was performing the Mozart Double Concerto with Malcom Frager in Toronto.  Gould got in touch and they decided to have lunch. Ashkenazy writes: “He was extremely good company – very warm, very amusing and it was a great pleasure to talk to him….he was extremely intelligent.  As for his gift, it was a gift of a genius. His recordings of Bach are incomparable.”

Ashkenazy had actually seen Gould perform in 1957, when Gould was the first North American to play in the Soviet Union since World War II.  Gould’s first concert was about half-full, more like a let’s-see-what-this-guy’s-got to-offer kind of crowd. By the time the next concert took place the word had spread and it was a sell-out.  Ashkenazy also went to the student’s concert at the conservatorium. Gould performed music by Berg and Schoenberg, “music that had never been heard in Russia at the time because the Communist Party forbade it.”                    Continue reading CLASSICAL MUSIC LEGENDS : GLENN GOULD

JAZZ LEGENDS : ELLA FITZGERALD

Ella Fitzgerald was not the only black person to suffer racism and discrimination.  In 1946 Ella, whose contract with the Decca Recording Company had just expired, started touring with Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic.  Granz became her mentor and guide with Ella signing up for his Verve label and launching a series of recordings would secured her place in musical history.

The members of JATP entourage became highly protective of Ella, especially Granz.  On one occasion, in a series of performances in Houston Texas, Granz had advised patrons that the concert would not be segregated.  On the first of the concerts Granz noticed three men in business suits standing backstage. They advised him they were off-duty police detectives who wanted to listen to the music.  Oscar Peterson was on stage and Gene Krupa, Illinois Jacquet and Dizzy Gillespie were in Ella’s dressing room playing a one-dollar game of craps. The detectives entered the room and arrested them for gambling.  When Granz entered the room he too was arrested for running a gambling game. Noticing that one of the cops had entered Ella’s bathroom and becoming fearful that the cop was about to plant narcotics, Granz followed him.  The cop threatened him with “What are you doing?” “Watching you!” Granz replied. The cop pulled out a gun “I ought to kill you,” he said. 

Granz, Dizzy, Jacquet, Krupa  and Ella were taken to a court house and charged with gambling.  But Granz discovered after the event that newspaper photographers had been warned in advance to attend the concert.  Granz posted the $50 bail saying that “they’d set us up to smear us.” Noticing Ella’s embarrassment, Granz decided to fight the levy and won.  He spent $2000 to get the $50 back. Continue reading JAZZ LEGENDS : ELLA FITZGERALD

CLASSICAL MUSIC LEGEND : HEPHZIBAH MENUHIN

There are two films that have left indelible impressions in my memory bank.  The first is a 1957 feature film directed by Stanley Kubrick called ‘Paths of Glory’ which tells the story of three randomly picked soldiers in the First World War who are court-martialled for cowardice during a suicide mission. The second is a 1998 documentary directed and produced by Curtis Levy called simply ‘Hephzibah’.  Oddly enough there are parallel similarities in each. The Kubrick feature is about man’s inhumanity to man whereas the 1998 documentary delves into one person’s attempt to alleviate man’s inhumanity to man. 

Hephzibah Menuhin was 3 when her elder brother, Yehudi made his first public appearance as a solo violinist with the San Francisco Orchestra Symphony in 1923.  Yehudi was seven years old. None of the Menuhin children had any formal schooling and Hephzibah was taken out of her school (she only spent 5 days there) and taught to read and write at home.  Her mother, however, made sure that she was taught to play the piano.  Continue reading CLASSICAL MUSIC LEGEND : HEPHZIBAH MENUHIN

POP LEGENDS : TONY BENNETT

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The popular song world (and I’m talking here about the world when music was more than just excessive gyrations both physically and vocally) is full of American singers who proudly claim Italian heritage  Singers like Bobby Darin, Vic Damone, Al Martino, Julius La Rosa, Frankie Laine, Russ Colombo, Frank Sinatra and, of course, Anthony Dominick Benedetto.

Anthony Dominick Benedetto (Italian for Blessed) known most lovingly as Tony Bennett was born in New York on August 3, 1926 even though he supposedly left his heart in San Fransisco.  Not only is he a singer of great renown, he is equally a painter of many works, which are signed under his birth name, many of which are on public display in several institutions. In addition he is the founder and driving force behind the Frank Sinatra School of Arts in Astoria, Queens, New York which also happens to be Bennett’s birthplace. Continue reading POP LEGENDS : TONY BENNETT

VLADIMIR ASHKENAZY : A PROFILE

Vladimir Ashkenazy

Do you equate large hand spans with being a good classical pianist?  You’ll have to equate again, I fear. Look at the likes of Alicia de Larocha, Emil Gilels, Maria Joao Pires whose hands are/were on the small size. Even composers like Chopin who wrote music that required the hands to play more than an octave had normal sized hands.  

On the other hand (!) composers/players like Rachmaninoff and Liszt had enormous hands and composed stuff that a normal player would find impossible to achieve.  Both their fingers could simultaneously play notes that were a 13th apart.  But then Rachmaninoff was supposedly suffering from Marfan syndrome and his fingers (and other parts of his body) were unnaturally elongated.  Although I have no concrete evidence I think Martha Argerich has an above average hand span. I recently saw a close-up of her hands and the fingers are unnaturally long.  

So how do you override this short-handedness (!) and still sound musical and faithful to the music?  Small handed pianists like Vladimir Ashkenazy have a way of covering this ‘deficiency’ by rolling their fingers on the piano keys to make it sound authentic. Listen to him playing the opening of Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto #2 or the same composer’s Prelude in C# minor and you can gauge how successful this technique is.   Continue reading VLADIMIR ASHKENAZY : A PROFILE

THERE IS NO ONE LIKE DAME KIRI TE KANAWA

There are some people who enjoy singing at openings of international importance.  I daresay it has a domino effect – you do one and before you know it you’re asked to do more.  Dame Kiri Te Kanawa is one such person because she thrives on appearing in more than her fair share of bigger-thanBen-Hur events.  Take the day she sang wearing that unique multi-coloured hat at some wedding or other in London and was watched by an audience of 600 million.  Or when she sang the anthem for the 1991 Rugby World Cup in the British Isles. That was OK, incidentally, because Australia won the tournament.  And the previous year she drew an audience of 140,000 to an open air recital in Auckland. That’s almost the entire population of New Zealand – people, that is, not sheep.  And then, she regaled us at the opening of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games when she defused a potentially tricky diplomatic situation by singing one verse of God Save the Queen together with Happy Birthday to Her Majesty.

Dame Kiri was born Claire Mary Teresa Rawstron in Gisborne, New Zealand to a European mother and a Maori father who gave her up for adoption as a foundling .  She was raised by Nell and Tom Te Kanawa who themselves were of mixed ancestry. She has never attempted to look for her birth parents. Continue reading THERE IS NO ONE LIKE DAME KIRI TE KANAWA

HUMOUR IN MUSIC

Music and humour have been cosy partners for centuries.  Mozart, for example, used it in his Divertimento in F for 2 horns and string quartet in 1787 to satirise contemporary composers and performers of popular music.  At the time it was considered a musical joke and, at best, brought a wry smile to lips instead of the guffaws and falling-abouts one associates with a good joke.

You really have to advance to the last two centuries to find some form of meaningful relationship between laughter and music.  The emergence of the film industry probably had a great influence on this. Who can suppress a smile when listening to the music that introduces the Laurel and Hardy comedies; that bouncy, jaunty juxtaposition of discordant notes has always proved a harbinger of good, if slightly farcical, times.  And then there are comics like Danny Kaye and his unfailing ability to get into the most awful scrapes. In the 1947 film comedy ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ he dreams of escaping from his mundane occupation as a writer of cheap novelettes by fantasising he is someone else. And so he mimics a conductor PLUS some of the musical instruments in The Little Fiddle or Symphony for Unstrung Tongue and thus transports us to a surreal  sphere of musical dreamland.   Continue reading HUMOUR IN MUSIC

HOW YOU’LL GET TO LOVE OPERA

So you wouldn’t be seen dead attending an opera?  Well, that’s understandable. The opera stage, on an average, is littered with dead bodies – so one more or less wouldn’t make a difference.  Corpses are part of the fatal charm of what some wish was a dying art form. But far from dying, opera is vibrantly alive and kicking. There was a time when it was in a state of dormancy but what with the Opera on the Harbour and the Domain, the Verdi and Wagner bi-centenary celebrations in 2013 (the latter albeit exclusive to Melbourne – drat!) there has been renewed interest in an ‘industry’ that connects all the dots visually, dramatically and aurally. 

 But if you are still unconvinced and secretly harbour misconceptions that opera is a breeding ground for behemoths brandishing fearsome assegais, wearing horned helmets and trilling away till all the chandeliers in the auditorium start playing a tune of their own, then allow me the opportunity to change your mind.  Don’t be distracted by the illusion perpetuated by that late great Dane, Victor Borge, when he insinuated that no opera was over till ‘the fat lady sings’.   Continue reading HOW YOU’LL GET TO LOVE OPERA

GILBERT AND SULLIVAN OPERATTAS : HOW ARE THEY TRAVELLING?

To quote Basil Fawlty I am about to ask the bleeding obvious.  Have the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas finally done their dash?  They are over a century old, the text and libretti must be obsolete by now and surely the cudgels that W.S. Gilbert took up and A.S. Sullivan set to music have no relevance to 21st century morality, social interaction or mode of life. 

Not so, according to Stuart Maunder, former Executive Producer at Opera Australia and now a free-lance theatrical producer.  “We are the same people as when Gilbert first lampooned authority,” he explains. “We are the same as when he raged against the class system or when he raged at self-made men who became so grand they totally ignored the people beneath them.  The satire is still there.”

Which begs the question whether the success of the operettas is due more to Gilbert’s scripts than to Sullivan’s music.   The music is an essential part, of course, but one only has to recall that Sullivan without Gilbert was, except for a period at the start of his career, an unqualified disaster.  His opera Ivanhoe, even with the imprimatur of Queen Victoria, failed miserably and the last opus he left us with, The Emerald Isle, is still unfinished. Continue reading GILBERT AND SULLIVAN OPERATTAS : HOW ARE THEY TRAVELLING?

CONTEMPORARY CONDUCTORS : VALERY GERGIEV

He occasionally uses a toothpick for a baton, often performs in a Nehru-style black suit and hardly ever appears in public clean-shaven.  But whenever the name of Valery Gergiev is mentioned there is a whiff of controversy in the air. This is not surprising considering he is arguably a champion of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in the Ukraine, has applauded the suppression of activist band Pussy Riot and continues to support the Russian government’s attitude towards gays.

Has his political stands affected his musical career?  No, not at all…except perhaps for the likelihood of public outbursts at his concerts.  He is just as popular and in demand as ever and, discounting the Russian corporate oligarchs, his personal wealth is third in line after tennis player Maria Sharapova and singer-songwriter Grigory Leps.  . Not so long ago he conducted three orchestras in three different countries in the space of 24 hours. But these days he is more circumspect about burning the candle at both ends. Aged 66, he is now content to be the general director and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre, chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic and artistic director of the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg and also has had musical directorships at the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra (he was succeeded by Sir Simon Rattle in 2015),  the World Orchestra for Peace (founded by Sir Georg Solti) and the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. Continue reading CONTEMPORARY CONDUCTORS : VALERY GERGIEV