Tag Archives: Sydney Opera House

WHITELEY@ THE JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE

Brett Whiteley is a name many Australians would immediately recognise. His artwork shone so brightly and uniquely he was judged and awarded as a true genius the world over. The youngest artist ever (to this day) to have his work purchased by the Tate Gallery in London his celebrity star rose and fell, rose and fell yet his work is what lives on well beyond his untimely death at the age of 53 from a drug overdose.

Another work has now been completed in his name which can continue that legacy. Opera Australia’s commission for a biographical opera of his life, personally overseen by his ex-wfe Wendy Whiteley, was awarded to Elena Kats-Chernin a much loved composer here in Oz. Her work has its own unique, easily recognisable quality yet her love for art allowed her to delve deeply into Whiteley’s life and work to create a musical representation as unique as him. The premiere was held last night at the Sydney Opera House to a very full house.

The rhythm and flow of the music took a while to settle in, switching between vignette scenes of Whiteley’s turning points in life. Such a transient lifestyle, sometimes deliberate, sometimes unavoidable, called for transient music and there seemed to be very little to grab onto.

Whiteley himself said, “I really paint to try and astonish myself. That’s the basic sort of thing. To see what I haven’t seen. That can run off the rails but certainly repetition kills the spirit quicker than anything else. I mean I’d rather not do anything than go over old ground.”

This feels like what Kats-Chernin was aiming to achieve musically as well so, for those familiar with traditional opera looking for the audible clues to the end of an act/scene or where appreciative applause can be given after an aria, this may feel rather unsteady.

Like a musical play, there were times when a musical phase felt complete yet there were still 3 or 4 words needed to complete the sentence. Other times the familiar Kats-Chernin style flowed in great richness and sense of humour where the audience vibe lifted and relaxed. Conductor Tahu Matheson took an active role in the creative process so was well able to steer the very capable orchestra through the new material.

The libretto by Justin Fleming included many quotes and critiques from the life and times of Whiteley.  This often dumbfounded the audience with phrases that were patronising in their application and sounded highly intellectual or overly poetic. It felt a bit like the Emperor’s New Clothes idea where, if you put your hand up and said “I have no friggin’ idea what you just said”, you might be laughed at. I am guessing these words were the art critic voices Whiteley held in such disdain.

One of the strongest parts of the libretto that the audience responded to was the story of a mass murderer which fascinated Whiteley. In plain English the story was told followed up by a moving gallery of the ladies of the chorus parading past as victims plastered into the walls of his home. Whiteley said he was looking for the singular point of evil and this is what he had found. His astounding painting of the murderer was displayed in the background. A very moving moment.

What were the performers like?  The cast, in dealing with the challenges of free flowing music as well as constantly learning newly updated material during rehearsals were dealing with a task far greater than the regular season. They did a fantastic job.

Usually in opera, the singer’s musical capabilities and interpretation take the highest priority but in this production the title role, played by American Baritone Leigh Melrose, showed an acting ability far beyond what is normally expected of a singer. Whiteley is a complex, wide ranging character from a 20 year old surprised at the overnight success, to rock star socialite, tentative father and defeated drug addict.

Creating a character on stage that both newbies or experts can believe in and relate to is an exceptional challenge. Melrose rose to that challenge and I expect there would be few, if any, singers around the world who could better his performance. This is his debut role with Opera Australia and I really hope we see him return to Australia again.

Whiteley’s wife, played by Queensland Soprano Julie Lea Goodwin was outstanding. A powerful voice and highly versatile actress. I last saw her in the comedy role of Two Weddings One Bride for Opera Australia and she is well known for her Musical Theatre roles so this role should open the door to more serious roles if she desires.

As gorgeous and glamorous as the real life Wendy, Goodwin carried the story with Melrose progressing from a 15 year old student through to grieving 50-something ex-wife. Well established principal for Opera Australia Mezzo Domenica Matthews gave a very strong performance as Whiteley’s mother – the audience loved her.

I attended the talk Opera Australia held in the Utzon Room of Sydney Opera House 2 weeks ago as promotion for the production. The talk highlighted the constant flow of edits to be managed by a team working through the night to produce manuscripts for the following day. This process had been running 24 hours a day for around 6 months. So the focus of the whole company was “It’ll be alright on the night” and it was. If there were any major mistakes, we didn’t spot them. The mammoth task of creating a premiere seems to have bonded the already strong team vibe amongst both cast and production personnel.

The large video walls previously used in Aida, Madame Butterfly and Anna Bolena were used again for the ever changing scenery, and this time it felt like a perfect balance, neither upstaging nor overwhelming in video imagery. It enhanced the performance with large scale versions of Whiteley’s artwork, sometimes older artwork he was studying bursting into life, other times quiet, abstract panels to keep the focus on the performers – the best production yet in the use of these panels with credit to Director David Freeman, Production Designer Dan Potra, Video and Projection Design Sean Nieuwenhuis.

The audience gave a rousing applause at the conclusion, with many curtain calls. The performance  was just over two hours including interval and kept our attention throughout. It is a short season so hurry along if you want to see the most new and innovative production of the year.

Premiere season at Sydney Opera House 15 until 30 July 2019

Opera Australia website: https://opera.org.au/

BETWEEN TINY CITIES @ THE STUDIO

BETWEEN TINY CITIES was devised and choreographed by Nick Power, a Sydney-based choreographer whose early career was marked with ten years in a remote First Nations community called Lajamanu in NT. There he was mentored by elders of the community about Walpiri culture and here that he realised hip-hop has its own history, rituals and connection to culture , which eventually led to his creation of this production. The show is Power’s response to a four-year dance exchange program between Darwin’s D*City Rockers and Cambodia’s Tiny Toones youth program. There is warmth ,humour and some amazing dancing.

The audience enters and stands behind the clearly delineated circle on the floor that is the performance space. Dancers Aaron Lim and Erak Mith are extraordinary. Dressed in casual t-shirt and leggings with sneakers, they blend contemporary dance , hip hop , Indigenous and traditional Cambodian dance in a thrilling ,compelling mix full of incredible dynamic energy and fluid grace. They watch each other intently the whole time, at times mirroring each other, sometimes melding and becoming a fluid, moving sculpture like a wrestling match. The show begins in slo -mo but soon becomes very energetic and fast paced. At times it is a teasing dialogue ‘anything you can do I can do better ‘, at other times it is a considered discussion reaching towards mutual understanding . Continue reading BETWEEN TINY CITIES @ THE STUDIO

À Ố Làng Phố @ THE JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE

 

The joyous , playful and athletic À Ố Làng Phố is a truly entertaining and absorbing show. From the dramatic and sparsely lit opening to the extravagant dancing and singing finale this show is constantly entertaining.

As we entered the Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House we saw on stage a collection of upturned Vietnamese circular woven boats and heard the sound of the sea. These picturesque boats are found along the coast of Vietnam and produce fond memories for visitors and locals. This was a promising introduction and the subsequent performance lived up to expectations. Continue reading À Ố Làng Phố @ THE JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE

THRONES – THE MUSICAL PARODY @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

 

THRONES – THE MUSICAL PARODY and yes highly recommended because the whole hilarious 120 minutes is an absolutely amazing laugh fest. This unauthorised musical parody of all eight seasons of the delicious cable television show HBO GAME OF THRONES, about the books, about George R.R. Martins imaginative world, about the powerful families who want the Iron Throne and to rule the Seven Kingdoms in the fictional land of Westeros. George R.R. Martins best-selling book series “A Song of Ice and Fire” became HBO GAME OF THRONES.                                           Continue reading THRONES – THE MUSICAL PARODY @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

SYDNEY COMEDY FESTIVAL GALA

 

Pic by Ben Sanford.

People of Sydney can have a good laugh for the next few weeks as the Sydney Comedy Festival has started and runs until May 19. Gala shows were held at the Sydney Opera giving fourteen acts five minutes each to showcase the amazing talent that has assembled in Sydney. These artists will be performing their full shows in various venues during the festival and there will be comedy to suit a wide variety of tastes.

English comedian Joe Lycett hosted the event and joyfully harassed the front row of the audience. Joe thought the audience member who said he was employed as a service advisor was giving a vague answer and was probably a drug dealer. Venzuelan born Ivan Aristeguieta was grateful that Australia had given him a visa because his country has severely deteriorated since he left. He only wishes that the English he studied before migrating had focused more on Australian English. Scottish comedian Fern Brady squeezed a lot into her five minutes including her battles with homophobic Scottish politicians, smashed avocado and fellatio.

I suspect Phil Wang needs more than five minutes for his style of humour but he had some good observations about accents, forgiving the Japanese and Australian cities. Canadian Mark Forward has a brilliant, understated delivery and has a clever device to get the most out of his jokes. The joys and horrors of raising teenagers is explored by Georgie Carroll. Host Joe Lycett dropped into the program a few times with his charm and witty observations. He kindly warned us when he was going to be repulsive and also threw in some enjoyable audience participation. Continue reading SYDNEY COMEDY FESTIVAL GALA

AISTRALIAN BALLET : VERVE @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

A superb triple bill , first performed in Melbourne last year , that showcases the Australian Ballet at its best . The company’s three resident choreographers each present a striking work. All three have been or still are dancers with the company .

First we saw Stephen Bayne’s CONSTANT VARIANTS (2007) using Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme. The polished, transparent score is integral to the work and features a ravishing cello solo by Caleb Wong .

Four couples are paired on stage before splitting and reforming in various combinations. All wear dark high cut leotards , the men in sheer dark tops the women in velvety burgundy bodices. Michael Pearce’s set design features oversized segments of picture frames as if at an art gallery, above a rather shadowy lit stage with lighting as devised by Jon Buswell.           Continue reading AISTRALIAN BALLET : VERVE @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

THE CHOIR OF MAN @ THE STUDIO

 

Blokes singing in a pub, some good banter, a bit of tap dancing, some practical jokes and the playing a few musical instruments sounds like a great night out. The infectious bonhomie of this show is hard to resist. Added to this are their delightful harmonies, a pleasing balance of voices and free beer. Before the show the audience is encouraged to walk up to the bar on stage and grab a beer. Again, this is hard to resist.

The narrator weaves together a story about the merits of an intimate local watering hole, the benefits of friendship with diverse characters, and some references to their partners so that they can launch into some superb arrangements of popular songs such as Queen’s Somebody to Love, The Pina Colada Song, The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), The Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset and The Impossible Dream.

With the help of some participation from a talented lady chosen from the audience their rendition of Eagle-Eye Cherry’s Save Tonight is one of the funniest songs of the night. The line “So take this wine and drink with me” helped to continue the alcohol infused evening’s theme.

Just as I was beginning to think these nine men from UK are a choir that have added some dialogue and choreography they took out their instruments and played guitar, piano, banjo, trumpet, ukulele, melodica and drums. It’s a more dynamic show than a straight choral performance and features some very talented artists.

THE CHOIR OF MAN, brilliantly directed by Nic Doodson is a fun show and is highly recommended. The audience was clapping and cheering, up on their feet and having a great time. THE CHOIR OF MAN is playing the Studio at The Sydney Opera House until 7th April, 2019.

 

BILL MURRAY, JAN VOGLER AND FRIENDS : NEW WORLDS @ THE HOUSE

Bill Murray and Jan Vogler were both in a relaxed, jovial mood at their media call this morning ahead of their performance tonight and tomorrow night at the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House.

Bill Murray is, of-course, a well known entity. A little bit about Jan Vogler. Vogler’s distinguished career has pushed the boundaries of classical music. He has performed with many of America’s greatest orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra and was the youngest player in history to hold the position of principal cello in the history of the Staatskapelle Dresden.

The show owe its existence to a chance meeting in an airport security line. Murray and Vogler bonded over the unwieldy size of Vogler’s cello and a mutual love of the American greats. The ensemble also features Vogler’s wife, renowned Chinese-American violinist Mira Wang, and Venezuelan-American pianist Vanessa Perez accompanying Murray, as singer and narrator, and Vogler on cello. Continue reading BILL MURRAY, JAN VOGLER AND FRIENDS : NEW WORLDS @ THE HOUSE

COME JULY GET THE BEST YOGA IN THE HOUSE

Following the sell-out success of its Sunrise on the Steps morning yoga classes, the Opera House has launched a new indoor yoga series to help Sydneysiders and tourists beat the winter blues and see the UNESCO World Heritage-listed masterpiece in a new light.

SUNRISE AT THE HOUSE will be held in the architecturally striking surrounds of the Concert Hall Northern Foyer, boasting stunning Sydney Harbour views with every bend and stretch. Yogis can salute the winter sun as it warmly radiates through the glass foyer each Wednesday, Friday and Saturday morning from 4 July to 31 August.

Crawf Weir, founder of Barefoot Yoga will lead the nine-week program of hour-long yoga classes. His instructing style caters to all fitness levels, blending strength and softness to create a challenging and fun environment that brings mindfulness to the morning.

Classes are conveniently located in the CBD with $10 parking available to attendees at the Sydney Opera House Wilson Carpark. Blankets will be provided to keep yogis warm during meditation.

For more information and bookings, visit sydneyoperahouse.com/sunriseatthehouse

 

SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE TO MAKE ITS MARDI GRAS PARADE DEBUT

As part of next month’s 40th anniversary Mardi Gras and for the first time in the parade’s history, an Opera House float will roll up Oxford Street.

Titled Out at the House, the glittering Sydney Opera House float will feature a 10-metre sparkling replica of the famous sails and a 70-strong group of marching ushers, dancers and orchestra members, led by the legendary Dame Joan Sutherland, played by long-time Opera Australia employee Bobby McKenzie.

The float will also feature comedian Gerry Connolly playing Queen Elizabeth II and ‘a Maestro’ from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra ‘conducting’ the marching group.

With just over a week until Mardi Gras, the Opera House today gave a sneak peek of the float design by parade veteran George Savoulis, together with the costumes to be worn by staff and performers on the night, designed by Academy Award-winner Tim Chappel.

http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com

HISTORIC NYE OPENING: RENEWED JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE AT SOH

Images of the renewed Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House: Daniel Boud

The Sydney Opera House has provided a glimpse of the changes that audiences will see when the world-famous Joan Sutherland Theatre (JST) re-opens on New Year’s Eve, after seven months of renewal works. Continue reading HISTORIC NYE OPENING: RENEWED JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE AT SOH