SYDNEY PHILHARMONIA CHOIRS : ST JOHN PASSION REIMAGINED : TRANSCENDANT

This was an exquisite and rare event, engaging Bach’s masterful two hour long St John’s Passion, mixed with new compositions by Joseph Twist and Brooke Shelley. The audience proved to be deeply delighted with this presentation, and rightly so.

There is a long standing debate about the relationship of religion and Bach, specifically his musical composition. This issue comes to the fore with his St John’s Passion, especially as presented by the Sydney Philharmonia Chamber Singers. The inclusion of new works, in homage to Bach and cut into the original text, as well as the faithful resonant rendition of Bach’s original composition, encourage interpretation that while Bach was a faithful believer in his Lutheran heritage, his creative works cannot be too readily circumscribed in form, ideas or motivation to this same heritage. Bach’s music supplements and indeed transforms traditions of liturgy and religious music, and invites close attention and wonder by audiences at the time of first performance at Leipzig in 1724, as much as Chatswood Sydney in 2021. 

Different music types are used to embrace different modalities of faith. In recitation it faithfully reproduces the story of Christ’s conviction crucifixion and resurrection, in terms of the direct speech of participants of the event. The result is a characteristically Protestant manner to the main part of the work – the story is personalised and owned realistically by individual agents of the narratives, covered by accomplished voices of Richard Butler (Evangelist) and Andrew O’Connor (Christ).  Continue reading SYDNEY PHILHARMONIA CHOIRS : ST JOHN PASSION REIMAGINED : TRANSCENDANT

PINCHGUT’S OPERA : MONTEVERDI’S ‘VESPERS’ @ CITY RECITAL HALL

The live audience was ecstatic with thunderous applause for Pinchgut’s magnificent, finely burnished and lushly detailed performance of Monteverdi’s VESPERS. Fortunately you can catch it online at the moment until 1 May, 2021.

Written in 1610, Monteverdi’s VESPERS (Vespro della Beata Vergine ) is now rarely heard. Monteverdi (1567 – 1643) was comfortable with both Baroque and Renaissance music and is regarded as one of the great composers. He wrote music for the church, temporal works and among other things, opera as well. In his Vespers, Monteverdi energetically transformed ‘traditional’ Renaissance polyphony into strikingly advanced styles. 

Musically and vocally the performance was polished, precise and superb, the Orchestra of the Antipodes including some now uncommon Baroque instruments. Hannah Lane  exquisitely played on the harp throughout and there was a theorbo, (Simon Martyn-Ellis ) cornetti (Matthew Manchester and John Foster) and sackbuts (Ros Jorgensen, Nigel Crocker and Brett Page), amongst others. Continue reading PINCHGUT’S OPERA : MONTEVERDI’S ‘VESPERS’ @ CITY RECITAL HALL

SALON SERIES : GERARD WILLIAMS @ THE LANGHAM HOTEL

Delicacies at the Langham Hotel. Pic David Rowden

Sunday on a sunny brisk Autumn afternoon, a small crowd gathered in the conference room of the Langham Hotel in central Sydney.  As New South Wales descended at a glacial pace down through the various stages of covid lockdown The Langham, in cooperation with Andrew McKinnon Presentations, launched “The Salon Series”. This is a monthly event featuring a high profile performer or ensemble accompanied by a delicious meal – either a High Tea or Degustation dinner with wine package. 

This month featured renowned pianist Gerard Willems AM. He is Associate Professor at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music but still regularly tours the world performing as a concert soloist and giving master classes. Willems is the first Australian pianist to record all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas and also recorded the complete Piano trios by Mozart so has built a remarkable discography over the decades. Continue reading SALON SERIES : GERARD WILLIAMS @ THE LANGHAM HOTEL

‘SUPERNOVA’ STARRING COLIN FIRTH AND STANLEY TUCCI : FIVE DOUBLE PASSES

SUPERNOVA is a heart-rending modern love story about a couple struggling with a diagnosis of early-onset dementia and their journey travelling across England in an old camper van visiting friends, family and places from their past. It’s an intimate drama about love and mortality written and directed by award-winning actor turned filmmaker Harry Macqueen. 

SUPERNOVA stars Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci. The film opens on Thursday 8th April, 2021 at Dendy cinemas Newtown.

Madman Entertainment has given Sydney Arts Guide five in season double passes to give away. Email editor.sydneyartsguide@gmail.com with Supernova Promotion in the subject heading and your postal address in the body of your email. Winners will be advised by email

FAULTY TOWERS THE DINING EXPERIENCE : SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE

I think that it is fair enough to say that almost everyone loved the BBC television show Fawlty Towers, written by John Cleese and Connie Booth, and broadcast between 1975 and 1979. It was such a fabulous, easily relatable show, performed to comic precision by John Cleese, Connie Booth, Prunella Scales and Andrew Sachs.

I haven’t been able to source the name of the person(s) who wrote the script to this tribute show, ‘Faulty Towers The Dining Experience’.(Note the different spelling). I can ascertain that the show was written in April 1997 and has well and truly had ‘legs’.  As well as being performed widely in Australia it has been playing in London’s West End since 2012, prior to Covid intervening. Actors have come and gone over the time with over thirty actors having played parts in the show. Continue reading FAULTY TOWERS THE DINING EXPERIENCE : SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE

THE NATIONAL 2021 : ARTISTS WITH THEIR ARTWORK

Abdullah M I Syed – Drawing Memories, A Life In a Day
Agatha Gothe Snape – Appaitonal Surge
Betty Kuntiwa Pumani – Antarai
Cameron Robbins – Oenograf
Caroline Rothwell -Carbon Emission 5, Constructivist Rococo
Judith Wright – Nature, Nurture
Lauren Berkowitz – Plastic Topographies
Mulkun Wirrpanda Tribute
Sally Smart – The Artist’s Ballet
Sancintya Mohini Simpson – kuli kubani
Sarah Rodigeri – On Time

A major survey of contemporary Australian art, The National 2021: New Australian Art, opens today across three of Sydney’s leading cultural institutions, the Art Gallery of New South  Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks and Museum of Contemporary  Art Australia (MCA), presenting 39 new commissioned projects by established, mid-career, emerging artists and artist collectives from across the nation. 

The third iteration in a series of biennial surveys, originally launched in 2017, The  National 2021 showcases the varied and vital work being made by Australian artists,  in urban and regional centres, as well as remote communities, by artists of different generations and cultural backgrounds.  

Three distinct exhibitions have been developed by four curators, Matt Cox and Erin  Vink (AGNSW), Abigail Moncrieff (Carriageworks) and Rachel Kent (MCA Australia).  Each exhibition invites collective dialogue about the ideas and concerns mobilising some of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists.   Continue reading THE NATIONAL 2021 : ARTISTS WITH THEIR ARTWORK

WSO AND PACIFIC OPERA : THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO : POCKET OPERA

What is a Pocket Opera? It’s an abridged version of a longer work trimmed down to all the best arias and musical pieces. A quick fix for those in a hurry, but also an ideal vehicle to showcase talent in a storyline production on a smaller scale. 

Pacific Opera has been supporting and nurturing the talent of tomorrow’s up and coming Opera stars since 2003. They offer masterclasses, training on the practical side of stagecraft and performing opportunities to a select few each year. Working with a slim line version of the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra they presented a pocket version of The Marriage of Figaro on Saturday night. Using the Concert Hall of The Concourse, Chatswood they created a raised stage surrounded by blacks with simple props and scenery with the orchestra out front. Continue reading WSO AND PACIFIC OPERA : THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO : POCKET OPERA

$20 TICKETS FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS TO SEE ‘LA TRAVIATA’

Opera Australia has partnered with The Bourne Foundation to offer year 11 and 12 students  $20 tickets to see Verdi’s La Traviata, during its current season at Handa Opera on Sydney  Harbour. 

School students with an interest in music, drama, fashion, art and design are invited to  experience the joy of live opera, with subsidised tickets at a cost of $20 each for students and  their teachers. 

In recognition of the tough year COVID-19 caused for Australia’s youth, including education,  employment and mental health challenges, The Bourne Foundation is enabling access to  Opera Australia productions for school students at a dramatically reduced price. The offer was  designed especially for those who are geographically or financially challenged.  Continue reading $20 TICKETS FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS TO SEE ‘LA TRAVIATA’

THE FATHER: OSCAR FRONT RUNNER

Haunting, harrowing, heart breaking, THE FATHER is a horror comedy.

The Demon is Dementia and there is no rite of exorcism to release the diseased from the hell of hallucination.

Anthony Hopkins plays Anthony. He lives alone in his London apartment and refuses all of the nurses that his daughter, Anne, tries to impose upon him. Yet such a necessity is becoming more and more pressing for her, as she can’t see him every day anymore: she has taken the decision to move to Paris to live with a man she has just met…

But if such is the case, then who is this stranger who suddenly bursts into Anthony’s living room, claiming to be married to Anne for over ten years? And why is he claiming with such conviction that they are at the supposed married couple’s home, and not his?

Is Anthony losing his mind? Yet he recognizes the place: it is indeed his apartment, and only just the night before was Anne reminding him of her divorce… And didn’t she decide to go and live in Paris? A city made unintelligible by virtue of a foreign tongue. Continue reading THE FATHER: OSCAR FRONT RUNNER

AUSTRALIAN BRANDENBURG ORCHESTRA : HANDEL’S ROME : AN EXQUISITE CONCERT

A musically lush, lavish, very powerful concert exquisitely played. Under Paul Dyer’s direction the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra gave a very moving musical feast, at times sombre, at other times joyously explosive.

Corelli, a renowned violinist, wrote Twelve Concerti Grossi now today viewed as the best and earliest examples of this style. In his Concerto Grosso in D major, Op. 6 No. 4 adagio with its exquisite, pulsating ebbing and flowing strings,  you could almost hear the tears drop with Paul Dyer’s harpsichord rippling. The allegro, however, was bright and joyous with a dancelike atmosphere and, at times, an almost galloping melody with frantic strings. The piece included the use of two Baroque trumpets and sackbuts. 

The Corelli Concerto Grosso in D major, Op. 6 No. 7 had a stately yet emphatic opening and included the use of the trumpets. The allegro section was slower, more refined and thoughtful with its entwining theme. The adante was glistening, glowing and palpitating with its circular melody. The Vivace featured Lee-Chen in fiery short solos and a spirited discussion with the rest of the Orchestra. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN BRANDENBURG ORCHESTRA : HANDEL’S ROME : AN EXQUISITE CONCERT

LIVE AT LUNCH SERIES : FIGARO, FLUTE AND FLOWERS @ THE CONCOURSE

Featured at The Concourse Chatswood is the ‘Live at Lunch’ series produced by Jane Rutter. The series has been running for 10 years starring new guests with Rutter for each performance. It’s a brilliant concept where the show runs for an hour starting at midday followed by an optional lunch at a neighbouring restaurant with the performers. Here, audience members can speak directly with the performers, collect photos and autographs making an intimate and memorable experience.

Rutter originally studied with Jean-Pierre Rampal in Paris and, after many years of professional contribution to the Arts, was awarded Chevalier de L’ordre des Arts et Lettres from the French Embassy. She has built a large following of adoring fans who are dedicated to her concert series at the Concourse as well as her regular regional tours. Joining her today was international bass opera star Teddy Tahu-Rhodes accompanied by renowned pianist John Martin in a concert titled “Figaro Flute and Flowers”. Continue reading LIVE AT LUNCH SERIES : FIGARO, FLUTE AND FLOWERS @ THE CONCOURSE

SYDNEY YOUTH ORCHESTRA : CELEBRATING STRAVINSKY @ VERBRUGGHEN HALL

Above : Principal clarinet of SYO Katherine Howarth on stage with guest conductor Jessica Cottis at  Sydney Conservatorium’s Verbrugghen Hall.

Following an international tour to the UK in 2019, the SYO, like so many other performing groups across the globe endured a forced hiatus with regards to public performance.

Back on stage for SYO’s Concert 1 of 2021, the youth defied the pandemic that fractured the routine of their secondary and tertiary education last year.

The learning experience behind this concert and presentation of an interesting music history snapshot was an admirable way for the group to return. They convincingly celebrated a revolutionary era in music making from the past as well as the unique complexity and voice of Stravinsky and Claude Debussy. Continue reading SYDNEY YOUTH ORCHESTRA : CELEBRATING STRAVINSKY @ VERBRUGGHEN HALL

NEXT CHAPTERS : UPLIFTING ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES : TWO DOUBLE PASSES

Pic Robert Catto

As part of the Chatswood Cultural Program, concert goers will be uplifted by the rhythmic richness of the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra when – for the first time – it joins forces with powerhouse aerialists from physical theatre makers Legs On The Wall for the thrilling Next Chapters concert on Saturday 22 & Sunday 23 May at the North Shore’s leading cultural hub, The Concourse, Chatswood.

This inspiring program, presented by Willoughby City Council, features three Australian composers, one moody Russian, a world premiere, a symphony orchestra, a choir, a saxophone quartet and Australia’s leading physical theatre troupe.  Continue reading NEXT CHAPTERS : UPLIFTING ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES : TWO DOUBLE PASSES

THE AUSTRALIAN BALLET RETURNS TO SYDNEY WITH ‘NEW YORK DIALECTS’

New York Dialects : Serenade Pic Pierre Toussaint

The Australian Ballet is returning to Sydney with its new show, ‘New York Dialects’.

‘New York Dialects’ is a triple bill. Two of the works are by the godfather of modern ballet, George Balanchine.

The third  work is  the world premiere of a new work by New York native Pam Tanowitz, who created the piece specifically for the dancers of the Australian Ballet. Continue reading THE AUSTRALIAN BALLET RETURNS TO SYDNEY WITH ‘NEW YORK DIALECTS’

COOEE ART GALLERY IN REDFERN : AN EXCITING NEW INDIGENOUS SPACE

Cooee Art Gallery Managing Director Mirri Leven
Adrian Newstead – Co-owner of Cooee Art Gallery
Djon Mundine – Artist Elder
Ken Done

Sydney’s newest gallery is the COOEE ART gallery in a new expansive 480sqm warehouse premises on Thurlow Street, Redfern.

COOEE ART in Redfern will operate as its new flagship gallery and auction space, in addition to its Bondi Beach location, with a program of monthly exhibitions alongside public program workshops and artist talks. The hybrid space will host the COOEE ART MARKETPLACE auction program and house an extensive archive collection of works for private appointments with collectors and art buyers.  

Founding Director & Senior Art Specialist for COOEE ART, Adrian Newstead OAM said: “We have now opened our new 480m2 warehouse space in Thurlow Street, Redfern. The premises is owned by Ken Done and was his art studio and clothing warehouse for many years. Cooee Art will now have its collector’s gallery at Bondi Beach, and an exhibition and auction space at this new Redfern premises. The Redfern location is everything we could have desired. It is large enough to accommodate Cooee Art as it expands into the future. From June we will hold two Indigenous Fine Art auctions each year as well as continuing to exhibit our stable of independent Aboriginal artists and remote community-based artists. Later this year we will celebrate our 40th year promoting Australian art, design, and culture nationally and internationally.” Continue reading COOEE ART GALLERY IN REDFERN : AN EXCITING NEW INDIGENOUS SPACE

THE COURIER: A DANGEROUS LIAISON

Cold War thrillers don’t come any better than THE COURIER.

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as British businessman, Greville Wynne, recruited by MI6 and the CIA to form a partnership with a GRU officer willing to supply intelligence to the West.

The simplicity of the subterfuge is that Wynne did not have to pose or pretend. His cover was genuine – a businessman doing business in Eastern bloc countries. Hiding in plain sight, he was merely a courier, taking dispatches from the Russian to the British and Americans.

Exploding attache cases and projectile propelling pens are eschewed by the spies in this griping cloak and dagger, instead simple trade craft is employed, like the wearing of a particular tie bar.

Espionage, by its virtue, and also by its vice, employs amateur and professional alike, and those two streams collide and collude to create conflict.

Cumberbatch is very good as the amateur and plays off nicely with Merab Ninidze as the seasoned spook, Oleg Penkovsky.

Jessie Buckley continues to thrill and astonish as Wynne’s wedded wife, suspicious of her husband’s secret work, suspecting infidelity rather than espionage.

Production values are first class. Cinematography by Sean Bobbit (Oscar nominated for Judas and The Black Messiah) continues to confirm and consolidate his uncanny photographic knack of replicating the Sixties.

Suzie Davies production design, costume design Keith Madden and Abel Korzeniowski’s score complete and compliment the picture.

Tom O’Connor’s script is witty and concise, a construction of character and place, depicting the specific time yet mirrororing contemporary concerns.

Dominic Cook’s direction is equally crisp and concise.

THE COURIER is an exemplary example of espionage thrillers building on suspense to sustain interest, more subtle and exceedingly more satisfying than far fetched stunts, and the creation of characters that the audience can relate to, characters that have aspirations of family and freedom.

STOP GIRL : SALLY SARA’S DEBUT PLAY AT BELVOIR STREET

Playwright Sally Sara and actress Sheridan Harbridge who plays her in ‘Stop Girl’ at Belvoir Street. Pic Brett Boardman

“It’s a horror movie there on my TV

Horror movie right there on my TV

Horror movie and it’s blown a fuse

Horror movie, it’s the six thirty news 

Horror movie, it’s the six thirty news

And it’s shockin’ me right outta my brain”

 Skyhooks 1974

I have a good friend who flatly refuses to watch the news. If I switch on the news she’s out the door in a flash. She says it’s too distressing. It’s negative energy.   

Sure it hurts one’s head to cope with too much reality. Sometimes it does shock one right outta one’s brain. But think about this. How much harder is it for the journalists who actually investigate and report these stories?! They are on the front line. They are right there, whilst we watch these events on our televisions from the comfort of our living rooms. Continue reading STOP GIRL : SALLY SARA’S DEBUT PLAY AT BELVOIR STREET

THE SMASH-UP: GAME OF FROMES

THE SMASH-UP could have been a mash-up, a pastiche or just plain plagiarism, but author Ali Benjamin is just too good a writer to let that happen.

Certainly inspired by Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then THE SMASH-UP is sincerely the most flattering book of the year so far, but just as certainly it is not a fawning flattery, as it flexes its own literary muscles and takes on the Zeitgeist of Me Too and gender identity.

When Ethan and Zo moved to town sixteen years ago, a row of massive elms flanked the bottom of schoolhouse hill.. seven years go they were drowned in the floods of Hurricane Irene. The town tried to replace the trees with several other species to no avail before proclaiming “sorry, folks, the climate’s changing too fast, no hope for it, we’re in the apocalypse now, might as well enjoy the view.” Continue reading THE SMASH-UP: GAME OF FROMES

HANDA OPERA ON SYDNEY HARBOUR LA TRAVIATA

 

Pic Prudence Upton

After such a deluge of rain and flooding around New South Wales last week, thoughts drifted towards perhaps the need for Noah’s Ark. There must have been much nail biting as to the weather leading up to opening night of La Traviata on Sydney Harbour. With an immense, heavily raked (ie. tilted towards the audience) stage, many stairs and no shelter overhead for cast nor audience, the company stated the show would go on regardless.

Blessed we were, the gods were smiling on poor Opera Australia who suffered so very badly last year. It was this production they had to cancel for lockdown whilst they were in the final stages of dress rehearsal. This time around we made it to opening night. The skies cleared, the sea was calm and gently lapping against the sea walls; the temperature was balmy with not a wisp of wind to be found and small contributions were made from the park’s fruit bats.  Continue reading HANDA OPERA ON SYDNEY HARBOUR LA TRAVIATA

ECHOES OF THE JAZZ AGE : INSPIRED BY A CLASSIC SCOTT FITZGERALD ESSAY

Simon Tedeschi, John Bell, Blazey Best. Photo Steve-Polydorou-

In content the show was a montage of material from the 1920’s, with quips by Groucho Marx, Mae West and Al Capone; interviews with Gertrude Stein, F Scott Fitzgerald and George Gershwin; poetry by T.S Eliot, piano music of Scott Joplin, Louis Armstrong and James P Johnson, and songs by Gershwin, Ray Henderson and Fats Waller. This material and more was inspired by a renowned essay by F Scott Fitzgerald.

In style it is a hybrid of jazz club set, with a theatrical evening featuring two celebrities – pianist Simon Tedeschi and renowned Australian theatre lead, John Bell, along with guest artist Blazey Best. The staging, especially in the larger of the Riverside spaces, was simple, but accompanied by effective lighting. 

This show follows on from two others. One featuring John Bell solo, recently at the Sydney Opera House, was a journey through Shakespeare excerpts interspersed with his reflections. Its staging seemed even simpler than the Jazz Age event, yet his presence was no doubt personalised allowing his cultivated voice to be shaped around biographical, authentic storytelling, and script rendition close to his lifelong passions. Continue reading ECHOES OF THE JAZZ AGE : INSPIRED BY A CLASSIC SCOTT FITZGERALD ESSAY

WOMEN MARCHING : LIFE HATH NO FURY LIKE ANGRY WOMEN : JUST ASK SCOTT MORRISON

The sun shining and the lifting of Covid19 social distancing restrictions, meant that in Sydney more than 10,000 people came out to protest. The crowd was jam-packed from Park Street to Bathurst Street and into Sydney Square, beside the Town Hall. 

The crowd was mainly women, some from the baby boom era, some mothers marching with their daughters and a smattering of supportive men. 

The mood, reflected in some colourful placards, was rage and fury. Continue reading WOMEN MARCHING : LIFE HATH NO FURY LIKE ANGRY WOMEN : JUST ASK SCOTT MORRISON

PICTURING A NATION : THE ART AND LIFE OF A.H.FULLWOOD

An intriguing, most interesting book about the life and times of A H ( ALBERT HENRY ) FULLWOOD, nowadays a somewhat forgotten artist. Yet his work and that of Streeton and Roberts in particular shaped how Australia was viewed both here and abroad. 

While born in Birmingham, UK , Fullwood was regarded in his time as a major Australian Impressionist painter, and an example of the Heidelberg school.

Gary Werskey’s biography is extensively researched, generously illustrated and written in a captivating style, bringing Fulwood to life. The book is of small to medium size if a trifle thick, has a Prologue and Epilogue and is divided into fourteen chapters. At the back of the book there is a comprehensive index.

It has illustrations throughout both in black and white and colour. Continue reading PICTURING A NATION : THE ART AND LIFE OF A.H.FULLWOOD

GIRL SHUT YOUR MOUTH : A SHOW ABOUT VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

This ensemble show has much to recommend it.

It was pleasing to see such a collaborative style, which featured each of the four cast members – Kaylee Ashton, Alex Gonzalez, Kobi Taylor-Forder and Antonia Korn – respectively and in nice company synchronised moments. All cast members were given a platform to demonstrate their skills, and after they had warmed to the task on opening night each of them, virtually equally, rose to the task. It is a compliment to playwright Gita Bizard, along with director Carly Fisher, to evolve a work that is so democratic in allocation of dialogue and the stage. All performers lead, in a moody, ambient show about violence against women, set in a future dysfunctional state, that provides a rich seam of polished monologues, precisely paced dialogue, and emotional range and depth as material for satisfying dramatic acting. I particularly liked Kobi Taylor-Forder: but to be fair each performer took turns as lead, and each was commanding.

The work used an abstract, almost absurdist genre. The director’s notes refer to “dark comedy”, but that term might not be entirely applicable given the sense of menace achieved in elaborately sequenced language, action, the lighting of Mark Bell and sound design of Georgia Condon. Regardless, the style was not realistic, and alluded more than referred to its context and meaning. It was nice that the playwright did this: it signalled a maturity of expression in the writing of emerging artist Gita Bizard that should continue to deliver strong works.  Continue reading GIRL SHUT YOUR MOUTH : A SHOW ABOUT VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

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