Wednesday, December 20, 2017


By chance, we went to Muriel's Wedding, The Musical, Sydney Theatre Company, on the night the marriage equality legislation finally passed. A tortuous and disgustingly politicised process had at last come to its proper conclusion. I'd bought the tickets more than a year ago for K's birthday.

Driving through the city in heavy traffic on the way to the theatre, we heard the final moments, and then the cheering, crescendoing into We Are One from the visitor's gallery. it was emotional, but also a strange feeling which I struggle to define. The best I can come up with is perhaps it's like being let out of jail after decades kept in the dark - the light is too bright.

It's a terrific show, and tracks the film very closely. Maggie McKenna (she's Gina Riley's daughter - Kath and Kim, The Games) stands out from a stand out cast, with perhaps Gary Sweet just missing the sleaze needed for the sleaze bag father, he's just, mmm, too sweet. (booom tish). It's a bit too long, and easy to trim, and the ending needs a bit of a rethink maybe, but no matter really. The ghosting presence of ABBA is genius.

And so, in the curtain calls, this fabulous cast took on the spirit of the night. That's Maggie McKenna (Muriel) holding the Vote Yes placard.


It seems to have been a long year. Uppermost in my mind are the three operatic events in the concert hall, two from the Sydney Symphony, and one from Opera Australia.

Charles duToit led a wonderfully hypnotic Pelléas and Mélissande, beautifully realised by a mostly imported cast, and fine musicianship from the orchestra under his elderly but firmly disciplined hand. I sort of tranced out, and thinking about it, so must have the audience who, while not always in the habit of being silent and composed in the euro style, behaved impeccably in what was for many I suspect, and for myself, a first time live encounter with this Debussy and his magic ways.

In an outstanding contribution to opera in the concert hall, Opera Australia's Parsifal was a stunner.

                                          (lousy pic, but shows the rapturous audience on their feet)

Sold very much around Jonas Kaufmann, this was anything but a one man show and everything about excellence on every level, with conductor Pinchas Steinberg at the top of the trickle down. The pacing, shading, textures and balance (for a difficult hall to get right) were wonderful, and the orchestra a pleasant surprise, which reflects a lot more on me than them. How good do they sound! Simone Young went through a phase of 'getting them out of the pit into the open', and we'd be very lucky if there were to be more of this.

Savour the cast:

Conductor       Pinchas Steinberg
Parsifal           Jonas Kaufmann, a beautifully elegant sound of much depth of feeling
Kundry           Michelle deYoung, god she's got the goods, and the presence.
Amfortas        Michael Honeyman, stepping into a big sing and singing big
Klingsor         Warwick Fyfe, perfect histrionic casting hurling out malice
Gurnemanz     Kwangchul Youn, rock solid top drawer
Titurel             David Parkin, interesting casting with a lighter voice adding tragic frailty

with delicious Flowers Maidens, Knights and Esquires (listed in the link).

The very lovely emerging Anna Dowsley was alto solo, and also Genevieve in Pelléas and Mélissande. She was also Lucretia in Sydney Chamber Opera's Rape of, and that I missed that is the one regret of the year.

On top of all that excellence, what was also especially satisfying was the beauty of the production with some small elements of semi-staging, perfect placement of persons and voices, and a fabulous chorus which were actually arranged and lit like a swan at one stage, which brings me to the lighting of the most subtle and sophisticated kind, even and up to finally spilling red, red and then some more red.

And last but not least, the year ended with Sydney Symphony Orchestra's Bluebeards Castle, right up David Robertson's tightly controlled alley. This was another first outing for me, and while I had planned for thrice, I made it twice.

                                    (don hans narrator, david robertson, john relyea, michelle deyoung)

I'm not even sure now that I want to see it fully staged. It is theatre of the mind, and to the extent that they overdid the lighting effects, with the exception of the almost orgasmic brilliance of the fifth door as Michelle DeYoung unleashed a stunning high C into the hall, they actually only emphasised the need to keep this pared back to a gradual parting of the dark shrouds of the imagination. (The earlier special effects in Parsifal are a fair reference point for less is more.)

Together, Michelle DeYoung (six foot one) and John Relyea (at least two inches taller I'd guess) were fabulously paired in an illuminating exploration of fear and love, the great eternal opposites, brilliantly scored by Bartok.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


No, not those doors. These doors ~

Decades ago I was in Melbourne for a Meeting, and on the morning of the first session I rang M, who was staying with J & P, to see if she was going in. M was in the shower, and J kindly chatted to pass some time. 

"What are you up to?" she asked.
"Oh, not much. But we have seen a block of land in the bush, and we're seriously thinking about buying it, and building a house."
"How fabulous. P and I have some land on the peninsula, and we were thinking of building, but have decided against. In fact we've bought the front doors!"
"You've what?"
"Bought the doors. You don't want any doors, do you?"
"Well, you know me. Who knows. Where are they?"
"Oh, here's M. They're in a shop in Albert Park. I'll give M the details"

We found the shop. We bought the doors. We shipped them to Sydney. We built a house around them.

So it happened that on Sunday, on our last night after the Trade Show, we ducked dining with the crowd, and opted for an early night before the drive home, and found ourselves in an Italian Restaurant not too far away from the hotel. In Albert Park. It was lovely, and deliciously traditional with terrific staff and smiles all round.

Full and happy, we walked a little after, along the wide streets, thinking we'd see a taxi. A tram rattled past. The sky was darkening. K was feeling the night air, and took to ordering an Uber. "No wait. I want to cross over, and see what's down there", feeling a vague familiarity. Not more than a few doors along from the intersection, there it was.

Where we'd bought J's doors, her wonderful doors, our happy threshold, unchanged from the day they left the shop. To our horror, not that much later news came that J's life had ended on the concrete of Chapel Street. What little we know. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017


                                                                  (albert park lake)

It's not nearly as bleak as it looks in the pic, although the air feels cold. Melbourne looks more like this these days ~

We are down for a trade show, and there's much to enjoy. The friendliness and helpfulness has caught me by surprise and reversed prior reservations. It seems to me there is a new generation who have an ease and confidence, perhaps from growing up in the 'world's most liveable' city without the defensiveness I used to think was hovering just below the surface.

The hotel is right on the lake, is very comfortable and the lobby is huge with lovely lounge areas, and nooks and crannies to sit and watch, and read. 

There's black swans on the lake, with signets. So cute.

It feels noticeably calmer than Sydney, its edges softer. Maybe I'm getting older. Well, that's a given. But I can say, I'm having a lovely holiday.

Monday, October 2, 2017


It's well time to shine the rainbow spotlight onto the incoming SSO CEO Emma Dunch. Her guidance and honesty and gold dust words in the Marriage Equality debate reveal a confidence and air of a leader whose values are as deep as they are precious.

And there's a sparkling brightness and energy of purpose and joy in the future leaping out which betrays, admittedly to my prejudiced eyes and ears, an Australianness, dare I say even a Sydneyness.


                                                    (emma dunch, right, and elizabeth scott)

In a welcome about-turn, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Board has changed its mind on the pseudo neutral position it had taken in the current Marriage Equality debate. You may recall it supported the right of people to register their 'vote', but in deference to the mix of its stakeholders, found itself unable to take a stand one way or the other. To repeat myself, abstention is the failure to support the Yes, which is default support of the No.

The initial stance was met with outrage, ridicule, disbelief, and withdrawal of box-office support and patronage. It stays a wound which will heal and the extent of the scar is very much in their hands. My personal feelings are of overwhelming relief. I was ashamed and had taken steps to completely withdraw any formal association with the Orchestra to become an incidentalist.

And on the wave of public contempt, a tsunami even, the musicians themselves have made clear their own public support. It has been suggested the musicians were dissociated from the collective thinking by their recent trip to China, itself named as a possible constituent of those not to be disquieted.

But more significantly, for me at least, is the heartfelt and very moving statement by the incoming CEO, Emma Dunch. While her private life had been very much kept under the radar in the announcement and welcoming of her appointment, her beauty of thought and leadership on this issue augers well. We received this news, and these statements, via texts. Reading them out to K, I couldn't make it through Emma Dunch's in one read. Tearing up is one thing. Tearing up in Cross Street Double Bay quite another.

From the Board ~

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra initially decided that it should remain neutral on this question (marriage equality), taking the view that as a matter of principle it would not take a position that might be seen to commit its wide range of stakeholders to one side or the other. 

In doing so, the Board now acknowledges that it misjudged to need for such an organisation - with its long commitment to inclusiveness, equality and fairness - publicly to proclaim its support for the yes vote which plainly advances each of these ideals.

This decision has the overwhelming support of the SSO's musicians and staff.

From the musicians ~

The musicians of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra wish to unequivocally declare that we strongly support Marriage Equality.

We are proud of our history as a rich and diverse arts organisation performing every week to thousands of people who share our passion for the arts.

We believe in an inclusive and fair society fir all.

From the incoming CEO, Emma Dunch ~

As the incoming Chief Executive Officer of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra next January and an out, gay leader, I am proud to express my personal and professional commitment to advancing equality and inclusion for the LGBTQIA community, and to affirm my unflinching support for marriage equality. I believe that same-sex marriage is inevitable in Australia, and that this outcome is right and just.

Over the weekend, I have joined the SSO's musicians, staff and Board members in discussions that have helped clarify the organisation's position of support of marriage equality in Australia. I deeply appreciate the thoughtfulness that has been brought to bear throughout a respectful and nuanced dialogue. I know that there are very diverse views across Australia on this issue, and I respect the Board's commitment to encouraging every Australian to develop his or her own opinion, and to vote.

For me, personally, this is about more than my own identity. I believe that our society and our institutions are made stronger and more vibrant by the diversity of the individuals who people them. And I believe that denying those of us in same-sex relationships the civil rights accorded the married is the antithesis of the Aussie "fair-go" and perpetrates profound inequality. I hope that my home country will soon be one that validates my committed relationship of seventeen years.

Artists and their art have long played an important role in challenging accepted norms. I am committed to leading a Sydney Symphony Orchestra that champions its exceptional musicians, serves Sydneysiders in new ways, and provides value to our city beyond traditional concert-givng. I hope that you will join me and my colleagues on that journey, confident that the Sydney Symphony Orchestra will continue to welcome and support our LGBTQIA community and be an organisation that fosters respectful and meaningful dialogue around complex issues.

After nearly two decades in New York city, I will be returning to Sydney with my life partner Elizabeth  Scott (above left). We have been gratified by the terrifically warm welcome we have received from the SSO's Board, staff, and musicians. We look forward to making new friends when we arrive next year and to proudly counting ourselves among the many Australians who support a fair and inclusive society for all.

#VoteYes #LoveisLove

Saturday, September 30, 2017


More on the SSO's inability to commit to Marriage Equality aka Same Sex Marriage aka Should Marriage be a Right available to all Citizens.

Despite its effusive self praise, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra as I noted has withheld public support for Marriage Equality in Australia which the vast majority of other arts institutions have endorsed - the MSO, TSO, WASO, ACO, Brandenebrg, Orch Victoria, STC, MTC, Malthouse, Belvoir, Australian Ballet, Opera Australia, Syd Phil Choir, Musica Viva, Bangarra Dance ...  ASO and QSO have not made statements.

The orchestra's Current Sponsors make for interesting reading.

One sponsors presumably because of a belief in the product and as a marketing tool - the consumer supports the sponsor who supports the product. Then, there's the reverse.


Australian Government
NSW Government

Credit Suisse


One Circular Quay
Sydney Airport

Official Car Partner

Technological Partner

Allens Linklaters
Symphony Services International
Theme Variations

Austria Arrive And Revive
The Committee for Sydney
Wilson Parking

Media Partners
ABC Classic FM
Fine Music FM

Vanguard Partner
Young Henry's

Regional Tour Partner
Rex Regional Express