Classical music, opera, musicals etc



We went to the ballet last night, La Bayardère (The Temple Dancer). It's set in India and is a story of thwarted lovers who are united in death. The original choreography was by Marius Petipa, the music is by Minkus, and this was a new production created by Stanton Welch for the Australian Ballet, but retaining some of the original.
Basically, it started slowly but got better. The main parts are the warrior Solor, the princess Gamzatti and the temple dancer Nikiya. The first act was introductory and really quite dull. The second act featured a pas de deux by Solor and Gamzatti where Solor struggled a bit: at one point the two did what I now know is called a bicycle lift, because the man holds his arm vertically above his head with the woman sitting on his hand like a bicycle seat. I have seen it before and thought of it as a crotch lift, because that's what it is. I hate it, because the poor girl has to sit up there looking regal and pretending she hasn't noticed that she's got a man's hand between her legs. Apparently it originated in Russia and could only be used in public if the dancers were a married couple. Anyway, it's incredibly difficult, and Solor struggled to lift her up there and nearly dropped her on the way down.
The best part was the opening scene of the final act, which is long and known as The Kingdom of the Shades. I maybe wrong, but to me this scene looked like a lot of Petipa and little or no Welch. It opens with a long parade of 24 ballerinas entering slowly one by one, followed by three more who dance as a trio. They are all in the classic white tutu and they looked fantastic. Then there's a long pas de deux by Solor and Nikiya which was well danced, and the scene ends with more ensemble dancing. That scene alone was worth the price of admission.
It's been a pretty good ballet season but I think it's now finished.

The Nutcracker. Saw it last week and was very good. Agree it's been a good season. As does next year. Looking forward to seeing The Upper Room again. David McAllister is doing a great job. Pity Daniel didn't do the same...


Ummed and ahhed more than I can remember but I did renew my MTC subscription. Really struggled to pick 7 and my better half was ready to pull the pin but we'll give them the benefit of the doubt and hope to be pleasantly surprised. The Pinter with the wonderful Alison Bell and Beckett's Endgame were the clinchers and I‘m interested to see what they do with “Death of a maiden”. As for the rest, time will tell. Not sure about the targeted demographic but I don‘t think it‘s me. Plays about rock stars and by rock stars don‘t really thrill me but I‘m regularly wrong. I‘m giving Steve Vizard‘s play a miss. Paul Grabowsky won a AO and is a great composer who I look forward to seeing at Wangaratta Jazz festival in 3 weeks but even he's not enough to get me to watch a musical about a wily old digger. It will probably be a stunner.




Seeing it in a few weeks, any good?


Give it an 8/10

Unrequited love does sadden me, but it’s also real life.

Excellent singing and music and a tight storyline.

Princess Theatre is special but seats in the stalls are tight and low.


Give it an 8/10
Unrequited love does sadden me, but it's also real life.
Excellent singing and music and a tight storyline.
Princess Theatre is special but seats in the stalls are tight and low.

In the UK production you're able to go onto the stage pre-theatre and buy a drink from the bar while the cast are jamming on stage. Brilliant experience. 



Give it an 8/10
Unrequited love does sadden me, but it's also real life.
Excellent singing and music and a tight storyline.
Princess Theatre is special but seats in the stalls are tight and low.

In the UK production you're able to go onto the stage pre-theatre and buy a drink from the bar while the cast are jamming on stage. Brilliant experience. 


ha - they did that last night too.  Agree it's a fun thing to do.


Ronan Keating about to join the UK cast too


won two tickets to the MSO's Appalachian Spring concert! yay! :)

one of the pieces is Shostakovich, and I'm not a fan, but the other three sound great, so am really looking forward to it!


Saw Book of Mormon last week in London (after a few failed attempts trying to see it in New York).


Absolutely sensational. I love Mat and Trey so I was always going to dig it, but my partner who is a bit more conservative in her comedy tastes also loved it, as did two of our companions who are both practicing Christians.


If it ever comes out to Australia, don't even think about it, get the best tickets you can.


I thought I’d resurrect this thread because I’ve been to a few things lately.

First up was Les Mis at Her Majesty’s. I’d never seen it before, so my impressions are purely based on what I saw on that occasion. OK, but underwhelmed. It was all a bit non-stop, which is good in a way, but I could have done with some changes of pace and mood. One of the sopranos was a bit off on her big top note, and the male love interest had a very strange voice. I’m glad I saw it, but I won’t be rushing to see it again.

Melbourne Chamber Orchestra Appalachian Spring concert at the recital hall. They began with a Schubert quartet that had been arranged for a whole string orchestra; I had been looking forward to it, but it was very dull. Then a Shostakovich concerto for piano and trumpet, which I had not been looking forward to but was sensational. Two Melbourne soloists, Daniel de Borah on piano and David Elton on trumpet, and they were both sublime. The piano part is incredibly difficult, but de Borah handled it with aplomb, and the good thing was that the spectacular parts weren’t only good for showing off, they sounded great as well. The trumpet part didn’t sound as difficult, not that I would really have any idea, but it was exquisitely beautiful, especially in the Adagio, and faultlessly played. They got a huge reception from the audience.

Then some Transylvanian dances by Veress and the Appalachian Spring by Copland. Both pretty good, but the Shostakovich was the standout.

Finally Mahler’s 2nd from the MSO on Friday. The symphony goes for 90 minutes non-stop, and there’s a lot of gold in it, along with some dross. There’s a full choir and two solo singers, soprano (Erin Wall) and mezzo (Catherine Wyn-Rogers). I don’t think Erin Wall’s voice is quite strong enough for this sort of thing; the mezzo had a beautiful solo which she sang beautifully. Sir Andrew Davis is doing the full Mahler cycle. He’s an incredibly energetic conductor and it’s obvious that the orchestra loves him. I thought they played pretty well, but the trumpets were just a little ragged a couple of times.


La cage aux folles in 30 min.


went to Les Misérables during the week.  Sensational.  Cast, singing, set - all amazing.  Only a couple of minor issues with the plot.  And the girl playing Cosette - her top notes were a little thin and screechy.  But overall - want to go again.  And again.


Saw that the other week, it was pretty great (but Les Mis pretty much always is - I've seen it heaps of times in various productions). 


Only issue I had with it is the cast would randomly speak/act rather than sing some of the big anthemic numbers - the actor playing Valjean did this all through the first half and was really annoying me, but tossed it aside for Bring Him Home and really nailed it.  Conversely, Javert was awesome all through - but then chose to semi-speak the Soliloquy!  Argh!


Eponine, really good.  Valjean - great once he was actually singing, though I wish he'd been played by someone taller!  Marius was suitably wussy but grew up a bit in time for Empty Chairs.  Good stuff.


More than a touch disturbed at the battering Classic FM is taking in the ABC cuts and Mark Scott's announcement that they will be cutting the number of live recordings and broadcasts as "an efficiency measure". Classic FM outrates News Radio and broadcasts 17 hours of live music a week plus delayed broadcasts of concerts and events, what other station can boast that sort of commitment to live music and local musicians. We should be championing their example, not knifing them in the back. Even if I'm not always listening, I'm comforted at the idea that a national broadcaster is fostering our musical heritage and future. And Classic FM provides access to events for people who otherwise wouldn't be able to travel to events, and music needs to be interpreted, not just fixed and nailed to a playlist. If it becomes merely a player of CDs they might as well shut it down and we can all be dictated to by the tastes of sites like Spotify. And all those musicians can take their instruments to cash converters and join the dole queues. Sad news.


La cage aux folles in 30 min.

While I'd score it a 6.5/10 I'll give it 7 /10because it had a tough act to beat by being compared to The Birdcage. It's hard not to think of The Birdcage when seeing it, that was such a fabulous movie.  The play was based on the play version and not the movie but they are similar.


 Todd McKenney played Albin the oh so camp stage performer.  While Simon Burke played George his more controlled partner (the Robin Williams role).


The play is good fun - hey, who doesn't like watching guys getting all frocked up to the nines?  EXACTLY.


It also has moments of challenging the notion of what is a couple and a family.


Acting and singing was good to very good. Having seen the movie you knew what to expect so there were no surprises. And therein lay the problem. You need to be dazzled to make it entertaining. And there were too many flat spots to say it was great. The dinner scene in the second act, which is a highlight in the movie, was really flat. Too rushed and nothing funny. Fortunately it had some wonderful moments - end of the first act and the finale to finish the play was excellent and left you clapping and smiling. Which is what it's all about.


Credit that they made it relevant and topical to Melbourne with some nice gags (Simon Burke plays to the audience as part of his spiel hosting the nightclub acts) about the audience thinking this is that other French play (i.e. Les Misérables). It was a good line.


It was preview night so they may still have to hit their strides. We liked it without being blown away.



Footnote: one certain football club chairman with a penchant for writing open letters was in the audience. 


I saw La Cage aux Folles in about 1980 at the Palais.  It was the original version with Keith Michell in the "straight" part.  We went with my wife's very proper English mother, and when the curtain went up on the chorus line of gorgeous girls who began to sing in strong bass voices she nearly fell out of her seat.  She absolutely loved it, as did we all.  The whole thing was completely new and completely sensational, and I have never had any desire to see it again.  


We went yesterday evening to the MSO’s Eroica concert. The conductor was a Finn called Osmo Vänskä, so we had two Finnish pieces on the program. First up was the Australian premiere of a piece called Minea by a contemporary composer named Kalevui Aho and frankly it was terrible. It was a full-scale orchestral piece, heavy on percussion (4 percussionists!) but light on melody. Basically it got loud and excited at some points and less loud and less excited at others, but never went anywhere and never had any discernible structure. I was glad when it was over, and judging from the very unenthusiastic applause, so was the rest of the audience.

Then we had a violin concerto by another Finnish composer, Sibelius. I can’t say I enjoyed that one much either. The slow second movement was quite nice, but that’s about all. The violinist was Frank Peter Zimmermann, who according to the program seems to be the fourth most famous Finnish violinist. He was pretty good. For an encore he played part of a Bach Partita that I’ve heard a million times and should know the name of but don’t. It was sensational, the highlight of the night, and it brought the house down.

After the interval it was Beethoven’s Eroica. It’s a great symphony and so well known there’s little to say about it. Unfortunately I thought the performance was a little lacklustre. You can tell when an orchestra, or any musical group for that matter, is really playing well, and this was not one of those occasions. A pity, really, as I had been looking forward to this.


As an expat I was looking forward to seeing the MSO at the Proms this year at the Albert Hall. Having seen them almost weekly for 5 years while I was an usher at Hamer Hall I thought too that they were a little off. Still they were a lot better than a lot of European orchestras I’ve seen this year so I was able to be rightly proud.

Go Bombers


My lady and I went to see Don Carlos on Friday. This is an opera by Joe Green, written in Italy in the late 19th century and set in Spain some centuries earlier. It’s 3.75 hours long, including one 30 minute interval. A frwiend of mine had seen it and thought it was great, and my brother had seen the first half before having to leave at interval and being glad to be able to go. I was not looking forward to it with much pleasure.

The story is basically that Don Carlos is the Crown Prince of Spain, and his father is King Philip. King Philip has just married the French princess, Elizabeth of Vallois. There’s a slight complication at this point, because, as it happens, Don Carlos and Elizabeth of Vallois have been lovers and betrothed to be married themselves. So the scene is set for a substantial domestic drama.

As well as the domestic stuff, there’s a whole lot of political stuff going on. Spain at that time had conquered Holland and Philip was ruling Holland with a cruel and oppressive hand. Don Carlos and his friend Rodrigo, the Duke of Posa, take the side of the Dutch people and want Philip to rule more fairly and justly. They sing about liberty a lot.

Don Carlos is the romantic hero. Some suspension of disbelief is required, because the tenor who plays the role is very short and morbidly obese; even with sword drawn, he is not an impressive sight. Elizabeth of Vallois is a whole head taller than him. There’s also another lady in the piece whose name I can’t quite remember; she hears Don Carlos lamenting about how he’s in love and cannot declare his love, and leaps to the conclusion that she’s the one he’s in love with, when of course he was really talking about Elizabeth. When she finds out, she betrays Elizabeth to the King …

The Church also gets involved, in the person of the Grand Inquisitor. And then there’s the ghost of the dead King François, the father of Philip.

Somewhat to our surprise, we both rather enjoyed it. It is very grand opera; someone told me that it’s the biggest production Opera Australia has put on since the Ring Cycle. The production was designed by Elijah Moshinsky, and the sets were huge and elaborate. They were all a bit dark, which was a little disappointing, but spectacular nonetheless. Despite its length, things never dragged. I had fortified myself for the ordeal with several wines before the start, and I had another one at interval, which helped me maintain a healthy perspective. I don’t know how much longer it’s on for, but if you’ve been tempted, then go.