Friday, January 23, 2009

OA the future 2

Well it didn't take long. Not content with no longer having Richard Hickox on whom to vent spleen, the outcry over Opera Australia's artistic future continues in today's Crikey which publishes a letter, thanks to "Phantom of the Opera" (leaks to Crikey of opera discontent are always pseudonymous) under the heading

Singer Fiona Janes addresses Opera Australia issues in a letter to Chairman Ziggy Zwitkowski."

What it lacks in veracity, it certainly makes up for in titillation. And it looks like Fantom Fiona will settle for information from the Sydney Morning Herald in preference to the source.


(Heading correct; this is media, arts and sport)

Opera Australia: new panel is "cosmetic"
Phantom of the opera writes:

Barry Kosky hoed into Opera Australia this week, calling it a "disaster" and "a juggernaut out of control", a view with which may (sic) opera lovers would concur.

Fiona Janes is the singer running the campaign against the current management. While she has a personal axe to grind and might reasonably be described as disaffected, she makes much sense. And she’s spot on about the construction of OA chairman Ziggy’s Zwitkowski’s committee to appoint a panel to choose a new musical director.

This is the letter:

Dear Ziggy,

(Dear Ziggy?)

A very interesting piece in today's SMH regarding the panel that will decide the future of Opera Australia. Might I point out just a couple of glaring problems!

Firstly there is no representative from what you call the side of the "dissidents" or the "democratic" opera side yet six (there are five) from yours or Adrians.

Secondly, Yvonne Kenny was one of the singers responsible for getting rid of Simone and personally brought Hickox in with a few others. While I have the greatest respect for her as an artist it is true that she has a lot at stake right now -- career wise and very much in with Adrian therefore will do anything to accommodate.

Neil Armfeld -- Adrian's favourite director isn't going to rock the boat.

David Malouf has proved quite openly that he will do anything to tow the line and support the bad decision making of Adrian and the board.

Trevor Green was a Hickox friend and outspoken against the "democrats".

Jonathon Summers -- fine artist but again a fence sitter and pal of Adrian's.

As Sarah Billinghurst was part of the last decision making I do not have great faith their (sic) either -- also an Adrian pal and pal of various favourite singers.

The only reasonable choice is Richard Mills.

So in all I'd say the Board has played it very safe for their side and probably got the majority of names from Adrian and his cronies.

I am very aware that senior members of Arts organisation have spoken with you and some have said you must start all over again. The growing distrust for Adrian now is extraordinary so any recommendations he has made will simply be self-serving whereas Kirsti and I expect nothing.

This is a frosted coated panel that will simply do whatever the Board and Adrian want. How widely they canvas and absorb disparate opinion is another thing altogether. I only hope they are able to listen to all sides and all those patrons, sponsors, subscribers, artists and senior members within the artistic community who have been rallying behind the scenes for an honest and fair change.

Frankly I do not believe this to be a true and fair representation of the operatic community. Is Adrian to still rule the roost when the company has failed so miserably artistically and financially (never let facts get in the way of a good rant) under his poor leadership? The question of Adrian not being part of the structure somehow in the background is pure fantasy. How is this improving OA and it's general public image when he is the problem? You will simply get more of the same. I guess Rowena is still having her way -- more the pity.

I was under the impression from you that there maybe some hope for better things -- sadly this panel seems purely cosmetic.

Best wishes,


Why does Crikey publish this tosh?

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Opera Australia has announced, and the Sydney Morning Herald reports, details of its search for artistic leadership for the company which presents 200 mainstage performances a year, employs around 1000, and operates a budget of the order of $70M.

Recently appointed Chairman of the Board, Dr (PhD nuclear physics) Ziggy Switkowski and CEO Adrian Collete have outlined the possibilities for artistic leadership based on 1 of 3 models:

First option is a full time Artistic Director, overseeing artistic, operatic and casting decisions, with or without a chief or principal conductor. Think Moffat Oxenbould.

Second possibility is a Music Director as Artistic Director, someone resident for up to six months of the year, responsible for artistic, operatic and casting decisions. Think Simone Young.

Thirdly, and they use the word 'triumvirate', is the possibility of power sharing, some combination of Music Director, Director of Productions, General Manager. Think Spoilt Broth. Well, that's what I first thought. Listening to Anthony Legge describe the vitality and success of an arrangement like this between Mark Elder, David Pountney and Peter Jonas at English National Opera is reassuring.

The getting down to specific names is the other matter and while reading the documents it appears to be a sequential process (define the model and then select the appointee). I can't see how these are not somehow interdependent. Model influences names; names influence model.

All this will be overseen by a 5 member Selection Committee, made up of 4 Board members:

Dr Switkowski,
David Malouf AO,
Anson Austin OAM,
the really useful Tim McFarlane, and
Adrian Collette.

This committee will proceed in 2 stages to pull it all together. The first is a wide consultation process, internal and external, embracing down to and including 'qualified professionals'. Members of the selection panel will consult with:

1. A select panel of esteemed professionals, including:

Neil Armfield AO (opera and theatre director),
Richard Mills AM (composer, conductor, and music director)
Jonathan Summers and Yvonne Kenny AM (opera singers),
Sarah Billinghurst (Assistant Manager, Artistic, at The Metropolitan Opera),
Trevor Green (Managing Director of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra).

You may remember (New Zealand born) Sarah Billinghurst being interviewed in one of the Met Opera HD Broadcasts interval chatty chats, talking about casting.

2. Other major opera companies looking at leadership structures in similar sized overseas companies.

3. Significant performance partners: e.g Orchestra Victoria, The Australian Ballet, The Sydney Opera House and The Arts Centre, Melbourne.

4. In addition, the Selection Committee will take account of any submissions and suggestions already made in the context of earlier and ongoing Board consultations with stakeholder groups. It will also welcome any additional submissions made in the consultation period from suitably qualified professionals.

5. The Selection Committee will consult internally with:

Senior Artistic Management of OA:

Assistant Music Director, Tony Legge (recenlty appointed, previously Head of Music at English National Opera, and Head of Opera at RAM),
Artistic Adminstrator, Ian McCahon,
Chorus Master, Michael Black,
General Manager of the AOBO, Ed Hossack,
Concert Master of the AOBO, Aubrey Murphy,
Technical Director, Chris Yates.

6. and with representatives of the major artistic departments of the company:

the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra,
the Opera Australia Chorus,
Principal singers – permanent ensemble and free lance,
Opera Australia’s music staff,
Opera Australia’s resident directors, technical personnel including workshop, wardrobe and stage management.

Anyone left out?

Following these consultations, an announcement will be made on the artistic structure that will be put in place. That is, after an expected 4 - 6 weeks consultation period, the plan is to develop a job description and advertise and follow normal due process over another 3 months. They are being refreshingly transparent and are blessed with formidable forces and talent, which, well harnessed, will hopefully find and deliver us structural stability, some world class edgy music theatre, and all the bums-on-seats the cash register needs.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


The day after the aerial bombardment of Gaza kicked off the current spike in Middle East slaughter, when many in the world were still celebrating the birth of the Jewish teacher often called the Prince of Peace, I slipped in an oblique call to continue the 'Christmas Spirit', as cliched as that may be. It is not the cliche that is the problem, it is the loss of the message. It was to Benjamin Britten that I turned to springboard, through his Ceremony of Carols, to a brief reflection on passivity and peace. Britten's War Requiem, together with his opera-for-television, Owen Wingrave, are as strong as any anti-war statements can get.

The link is above. The gist of the thread is that in 1942 Britten, the pacifist, wrote his Ceremony of Carols as he crossed the Atlantic returning to a Britain at War and the tribunal for conscientious objectors. His stance was accepted and he went on to compose his War Requiem for the opening of the new Coventry Cathedral, and further define, and personalise, these beliefs in Owen Wingrave.

His War Requiem (not that long ago given a powerful performance here on the day the city was agog when the two sisters met in Sydney Harbour) is the sort of thing we should hear every Anzac Day.

Feb 24 2008, we were in the white building between the boats

Anyway, today, 3 weeks before elections in Israel and 3 days before the folding of the Bush umbrella, or rather before it is blown inside out into black tattered shreds with its weak spindly spines buckled by the winds of good, there is news of a cease-fire. And it was today that I came across two things which moved me to pass them on.

In the Royal Opera House Youtubes, there is a telling documentary (11:14) on Britten and his War Requiem:

More locally, Alison Croggon's Theatre Notes hosts an essay from David Lloyd, Professor of English at the University of Southern California and a member of the US collective Teachers Against Occupation, which is about the olive trees of Palestine and the destruction of culture.

"The catastrophic sound of falling, ancient trees, the spectral rustle of burning leaves, echoes out to the world. The call is clear: “It is time for this to stop.”

Saturday, January 17, 2009

BUTTERFLY performance

Driven by being the only one left in the known universe, or at least visible universe (includes Pittsburgh and Montreal), not to have seen Moffat Oxenbould's 10 year old production of Madame Butterfly, not to mention Cheryl Barker's take on the 15 year old geisha, I was there with M (K is still away dealing with a plunging aussie dollar) on Wednesday with all the other tourists. I felt like a tourist, gawking at the bats overhead in the balmy evening, in awe of the Opera House as usual, well the outside at least.

Already wised up to Cheryl having cancelled the last two performances, it was not a complete surprise to hear she wouldn't sing for us either. Some in the audience hissed when the announcement was made. They had probably forked out Australian dollars as well.

This production has been widely acclaimed as a stylish and arresting blend of Noh Theatre and traditional opera story telling. It was, in the end, much more traditional than I had expected, but no less attractive, with a deceptively simple boxed set of walls of vertical shojis and ceiling panels. Butterfly's drama played out on a wooden platform surrounded by water, isolated from, but connected by bridges to, the outside world, from which she was to increasingly withdraw, and ultimately exit. The action was aided by koken, stage attendants, here looking a bit like escaped mummies, masked to avoid getting Cheryl's cold, except she wasn't singing. But Antoinette Halloran was.

She was good. She projected well, in fact they all did, and perhaps the set, and especially the ceiling, sent the sound our way. There should be more consideration given generally to 'getting the sound out' from production designers, especially in bad theatres like ours, where the best place to hear things is probably up in the lighting. The orchestra sounded particularly good, led by the Taiwanese Mr Lu. He had it beautifully fine tuned, excitedly hurried tempos, beautifully arcing love melodies, all contained in a refined Oriental elegance, in a score which well favours the singers, well, the singer, for if nothing else, this is a one woman show. Even Puccini is said to have added the final tenor aria to ensure that a tenor would turn up, let alone stay till the last Act.

Halloren's Butterfly was particularly dark voiced. If she lacked anything, and it wasn't the notes or the power, it was the ability to lighten the voice to give us a girl-child risking everything for the love of, of all people, an American sailor and then evolve and absorb the complexities of isolation, motherhood and terminal rejection. Not surprisingly her first Act was her best dramatically. She did well, if not very subtly, with her big number "Un bel di" which I confess has never moved me (and this was no exception). The crowd loved it.

Julian Gavin's Pinkerton was more foolish and boyish than scheming and culturally selfish, though he too seemed stuck in his initial characterisation and unconvincing as the returned bigamist. But he was a good looking and good note ringing Pinkerton, despite one moment early on of a spreading tone under pressure which he kept well controlled after that.

Catherine Carby's lovely mezzo suited Suzuki well. You get the feeling she is a very grounded down to earth performer.

Graeme Macfarlane's Goro was very solid, the sort of strong performance I would have liked from Barry Ryan as Sharpless, who looked, and sounded, as if caught in the headlights. The confrontation between he and Butterfly in Act 2 has the potential to be gripping, but here the cultures didn't meet, let alone clash.

Yamadori, Luke Gabberty, was something else, tall long-haired and a more sexual suitor than the usual Mr Money you often get. I couldn't stop thinking he looked like Paul Capsis on stilts, except Paul Capsis is no baritone.

All this was dressed in beautiful colours, kilos of petals, all peach and pink, a universe of stars, candles and a few kilometres of silk. The Hollywood dream sequence dance was fun, if not completely successful; where's Robert Helpmann now we need him.

My only serious criticism is the ending. As everyone in the known universe already knows, here Trouble is carried off stage, hand outstretched to Mummy, before the nasty business in done. The usual prescribed ending of the child onstage, blindfolded, a silent non-witness to the death with honour, gives so much more emotion to the climax, as should Pinkerton's final appearance. Never mind, it remained good theatre and good opera, and most of the audience voted with their feet again.

Still, thinking back, for all that, it was somehow strangely unsatisfying, like a big carbohydrate meal, which gives a happy full contentment, but doesn't last. Perhaps there was too much prettiness, too many strong colours, too many screens moving too quickly too often, or more likely, I needed what she got.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Aquila audax ( bold eagle) Wedge-tailed Eagle.

Much of yesterday was spent sitting on the new lawn steps. They're new, for one thing, and having somewhere in the open to sit was what a lot of the fuss and bother was all about. So here we sat, dogs and I, for the endless fly-past of helicopters going on overhead. But that's wasn't all.

Late in the day a wedge-tailed eagle, the largest bird of prey in Australia, swept overhead. With a wing span of up to 2.5m, it can soar up to 2000m for hours, riding the winds and thermals, helped by its keen eyesight with frequencies extending into infrared and ultraviolet. We often see them around here, singly or in pairs (they are monogamous), lording it over their territory, arcing across the sky in vast circles. Probably unjustly victimised in the past for supposedly killing lambs, they are now protected. Their diet is mainly rabbits, smaller roos, wallabies, reptiles and road kill. If they do take to live-stock, it is thought to be in small numbers, and then animals in poor health or dead anyway.

This one was flying solo, but not for long. From seemingly out of nowhere, in flew another smaller bird, at the same altitude, and sometimes even higher. It flew in close, came alongside, took to some sudden near misses, or is that near hits, looped-the-loop a few times, tossed off a few aerial smart-arse tricks, and then was on its way. Distance made it hard to see the smaller bird's detail. Zooming in on the shots, I suspect it may have even been a young wedgie. Anyway, I'll have what it's having. It was a fantastic and daring display, and these are just a few of the shots taken with a zoom, then again zoomed in with i-photo:


Idling through my bird bible, the Readers Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds, I find that intruder is most likely the feared Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), the pigeon hawk, the peregrine.

The silhouette is classic.

The look is scary.

It is one of the world's best known raptors, the fastest bird known, a symbol of speed and audacity whose appearance sparks panic in likely prey, any small to medium sized bird flying in the open. When it dives (stoops) for a victim, it can reach speeds up to 300 km/hr, braking by pulling its body up and grabbing the prey with its talons. It is known to harass larger birds, flying more slowly than when attacking, with all the look of playing. That's what is going on in those pictures above.


The fire has now burnt approximately 1200 ha of forest in the Moreton National Park, around eight kilometres east in Wingello.

Firefighters have been using infrared equipment to identify pockets of fire, which are then attacked by ground crews and waterbombing aircraft.
Crews have also been blacking out along the perimeter of the fire, to help strengthen containment lines in case conditions deteriorate.
While no property is under threat, residents in surrounding areas should ensure their homes are fully prepared, in the event that severe weather causes the fire to break containment lines.
12.01.09 20:51

That is last night's bulletin on the fire which has preoccupied us for the last nine days.

The fire was started in the National Park, in very inaccessible terrain, late on Sunday the 3rd, by an evening thunderstorm that brought black clouds, ten drops of rain, and sparked the tinder. 48 hours later it was scheduled Section 44, whereby the Commissioner of the Rural Fire Service takes charge and the full resources of the State kick in.

Since then, and perhaps aided by it being the only current serious NSW fire, the response has been relentless. The day skies are full of aircraft, fixed wing, large and smaller helicopters, both surveillance and water carriers.

(photos Rural Fire Service)

There would be perhaps one every 10 to 15 minutes, and that is just over here; they are striking at this from several water sources. A trip to town means seeing one or two control vehicles on the roads, the local newsagent has an update in the window, with maps and photos, the Rural Fire Service website is updated, clearly and succinctly, at least twice a day. During the worst of it, those four days last week when it was scorching and things looked pretty grim, there were bulletins dropped at each front gate each evening.

We are a few kilometres north of this fire which has steadily burnt east, not unexpectedly as it is the westerlies which are the real nasties, coming off the hot inland and bringing higher temperatures and lower humidity. Incongruously, the last few days have been cool and we even had a thunder storm two nights ago with a sudden drop of 16 mm rain. This, I gather, was not widespread and was patchy over the fire.

Today things sound better, and it is the sound that's the clue. The skies have throbbed till dusk for the last week. This morning there were a few helicopters flying over, and I only saw one water-bomber.

(yesterday evening overhead RFS helicopter)

It has been quiet for the last few hours.

I've been through all this before, but now it looks like I will make it to Butterfly after all. If you need to know when there'll be a fire around here, just check my diary under Opera / Sydney.

Friday, January 9, 2009


Deborah Riedel died yesteday, January 8, in Sydney, from cancer which had been diagnosed 10 years ago. She was 50.

Within a year of joining The Australian Opera chorus in 1983 as a mezzo, she was recognised by Richard Bonynge, promoted to principal, and soon her soprano and coloratura potential was unleashed. It was her wide range, rich middle voice, upper extension and flexibility that saw her go on to a world career in an enormously wide range of roles including Puccini, Verdi, Mozart, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Offenbach, yes the four Hoffman heroines, Strauss, Britten and Wagner, as well as an wide concert repertoire, working with conductors of the standing of Mackerras, Elder, and Colin Davis. She recorded for Melba Records with Richard Bonynge.

Not interested in being a new someone-else-already-famous, she simply wanted to be the first Deborah Riedel.

I can't think about Deborah Riedel without thinking about the 2004 Adelaide Ring, and I can't think about the Adelaide Ring without thinking of Deborah Riedel's Sieglinde. It was one of those nights. Gesamtkunstwerk they were exclaiming in the foyers. But it was even more; it was that unlikely combination of the unexpected and the overwhelming. I have just played Act 1 and for all the passion and power, and there's no lack of it, there is a disarming sense of the intensely personal between the Walsung lovers, brother and sister. The diction is so clear, and the emotion so real, and the singing so beautiful, it actually sounds like we are eavesdropping, intruding, into a relationship beyond our understanding and of which we can only surmise the depth by the intensity of this realisation.

Deborah Riedel was married to tenor Paul Ferris, with two step children. The world is lesser again for the loss of another great artist, the girl from Carlingford. She was somehow always there, and now she's not.

addit : January 13, The Australian, Obituary:

"OBITUARY: Deborah Riedel, soprano. Born Sydney, July 31, 1958. Died Sydney, January 8, aged 50.

DEBORAH Riedel's death has come as a shock and source of great sadness for the international opera community. Few knew of her decade-long struggle with cancer, as there was no significant break or diminution in her career until her health began declining in September.

Riedel reached the highest international operatic echelons yet remained firmly grounded and committed to the Australian audiences and companies that helped foster her career. Vocally agile and comfortable with diverse repertoire, she had an extensive natural range, a rich, elegantly rounded tone, outstanding expressive capacity and great power, sensitively applied.

Dramatically, she demonstrated genuine emotional connection in her characterisations and developed an increasingly compelling stage presence with economy of gesture. Best known for roles in which her lirico-spinto characteristics were given expression, Riedel also had an impressive coloratura facility. More recently, she had taken more dramatic, heavier soprano roles.

Riedel grew up in north-west Sydney in a hard-working, musical household. Her mother was a pianist and Riedel took lessons from an early age. It was only in her final high school term that she began formal vocal study. Admitted to the Sydney Conservatorium with piano as her main instrument, Riedel completed her Diploma of Music Education with diligence and distinction.

Riedel subsequently taught music at Riverstone High School in western Sydney for three years while developing as a mezzo soprano. She auditioned for what was then the Australian Opera chorus and, in Christmas 1982 was hired as a casual. Immediately enamoured, she accepted a full-time chorus position in 1983.

Conductor Richard Bonynge was impressed. Hearing the effortless high E in her range, he immediately questioned Riedel's mezzo classification, as did distinguished agent and former soprano Jenifer Eddy, who took on Riedel's management. Together they guided Riedel towards the soprano repertoire, cleverly managing the transition between 1986 and 1988 with a gradual progression from low soprano roles to lyric roles splashed with coloratura passages.

It was, however, as a mezzo, that Riedel won the Australian regional finals of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions, the Dame Sister Mary Leo Scholarship, Dame Mabel Brookes Fellowship and 1986 Sydney Sun Aria. Riedel used her prizemoney to study in London with leading pedagogues Audrey Langford and Paul Hamburger, the former describing Riedel as "the perfect pupil". In Australia, she impressed in her Victoria State Opera debut as Enrichetta in I Puritani and the mezzo title role in West Australian Opera's production of Hansel and Gretel.

In the late 1980s she added roles such as Leila in Pearlfishers, Mimi (La boheme) Countess Maritza and Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) to her repertoire, which helped showcase Riedel's diverse soprano credentials to a national audience.

In 1989 Riedel undertook a demanding audition tour of Europe and America. In a two-week period she completed 11 important auditions and caused a sensation. The Covent Garden panel described Riedel's voice as one of the best they had heard.

In the '90s Riedel debuted with leading houses and companies, including Royal Opera House Covent Garden, The Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Rome Opera, Vienna State Opera, Paris Opera. Her US debut as Amina in San Diego Opera's 1994 production of La Sonnambula courageously demonstrated her lyric coloratura capacity in a role associated with such greats as Tetrazzini, Callas, Scotto and Sutherland. Notoriously harsh Los Angeles Times critic Martin Bernheimer wrote: "a flamboyant yet poignant talent. Deborah Riedel. Remember the name!"

Riedel won respect within the opera community for her dignified professional conduct, unflappable positive demeanour, down-to-earth nature, and gentle, self-effacing warmth. She was renowned for her meticulous preparation, reliability, commitment and adaptability; traits which saw companies keen to re-employ her and that brought many requests for last-minute roles following the indisposition of often high-profile artists.

A woman of principle, Riedel turned down work with The Metropolitan Opera in 1994 because of existing commitments with the VSO. She counted the words of one of her mentors, Tony Legge, as her best early career advice: "Don't sit in the green room and gossip." By all accounts, she was successful.

In the past decade Riedel came to own the role of Tosca, while a stunning performance as Sieglinde in State Opera of South Australia's 2004 Ring cycle earned her a Helpmann Award and demonstrated Wagnerian soprano potential. She also debuted in the roles of Norma and Turandot for Opera Australia. Riedel longed to sing Aida and felt she had reached her best singing years.

Her passion saw Riedel continue to perform through illness, minor and major, and many close colleagues believe performance remained a source of strength and comfort until the end.

She is survived by her husband, Paul Ferris, and her two step-children."

This is an indicative, if not necessarily complete, list of her repertoire, from the Deborah Riedel Homepage, and it surely speaks for itself.

Opera Australia

* Pamina (Die Zauberflöte)
* Micaela (Carmen)
* Zerlina (Don Giovanni)
* Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni)
* Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro)
* Julliette (Roméo et Julliette)
* Violetta ( La Traviatta)
* Marguerite ( Faust)
* Floria Tosca (Tosca)
* Four Heroines (Les Contes d'Hoffmann)
* Maria Stuarda (Maria Stuarda)
* Leonora (Il Trovatore)
* Elettra (Idomeneo)
* Princess (The Gipsy Princess)

* Mimi (La Bohème) ; West Australian Opera
* Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) ; Lyric Opera of Queensland
* Marguerite (Faust) ; Victorian State Opera
* Marguerite (Faust) ; Lyric Opera of Queensland
* Siegline (die Walküre) ; South Australian Opera
* Leila (Les pêcheurs de perles) ; Victorian State Opera
* Micaela (Carmen) ; Victorian State Opera

Other Companies

* Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) ; San Fransisco
* Freia (Das Rheingold); Royal Opera Covent Garden London
* Teresa (Benvenuto Cellini) ; Geneva Opera
* Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) ; Bordeaux
* Teresa (Benvenuto Cellini) ; Rome Opera
* Leonore (Fidelio) ; Tours
* Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) ; Royal Opera Covent Garden London
* Mimi (La Bohème) ; Royal Opera Covent Garden London
* Amina (La Sonnabula) ; San Diego
* First Countess (Le Nozze di Figaro ) ; Opéra de Montpellier
* Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) ; Munich
* Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) ; Vienna
* Marguerite (Faust) ; Geneva Opera
* Mimi (La Bohème) ; Israel
* Violetta (La Traviatta) ; San Diego
* Adina (L'Elisir d'amore) ; San Diego
* Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) ; Metropolitan Opera New York
* Violetta (La Traviatta) ; The Netherlands Opera
* Alice Ford (Falstaff) ; San Diego
* Ellen Orford (Peter Grimes) ; San Fransisco
* Marschallin (Der Rosenkavalier) ; Welsh National Opera
* Floria Tosca (Tosca) ; Welsh National Opera
* Teresa (Benvenuto Cellini) ; Opéra National de Paris


Deborah Riedel has performed with all the Australian symphony orchestras, aswell:

* The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
* Orchestre Philharmonique de Montpellier
* The Proms in London's Royal Albert Hall
* Spoleto
* Melbourne Festival
* Aix-en-provence festivals
* New York Philharminic
* Bach's B-minor Mass
* Shubert's Lazarus
* Britten's War Requiem
* Tippett's A Child of Our Time
* Beethoven's Missa Solemnis
* Mahler's Eighth Symphony
* Dvorak's Stabat Mater
* Chant's d'Auvergne for the Australian Chamber Orchestra
* beethoven's "Oh perfido!"
* Messiaen's Poéme pour Mi
* Tobias's Jonah's Mission
* Handel's Athalia

Thursday, January 1, 2009

01 01 09

... and a Happy New Year.

This year it was McMahons Point, or rather Blues Point, the tip of the peninsular that projects into the harbour much further than you realise until you actually go there. Blues Point was granted in 1817 to Billy Blue (I don't think I'm making this up), a convict turned harbour man. From Blues Point, the Bridge is seen virtually side-on, from as close as is possible with dry feet.

We had been invited to a friend's super-view-spot at the top of the dreaded Blue's Point Towers. K was reluctantly mid-Pacific on the way to Californ-i-ay, and would arrive before I would be back home. Getting there was easy, certainly compared to getting out. It was a pleasant good-natured walk from North Sydney station down Blues Point Road, all bustling with excitement, a charming mix of residential and retail, stalls selling jazzy New Year things, police everywhere, and even a bag search at the lower end. The atmosphere was good, not unlike the 2000 Olympic days, with the acceptance that some serious social order was needed or the whole thing would teeter into chaos.

The view looking south to the city is spectacular, the old wharves fingering out to you. And yes, right in front, was a fireworks launch barge, fully loaded, as they say. This was going to be very close up and personal.

The great unwashed were a long way down,

the bridge just there for the touching,

and the city slipped into night in all its end-of-the-day end-of-the-year glory.

And it was very impressive, close, noisy, unnervingly physical, one of those rare occassions when people just cry out, in unison, the crowd crescendoing as the show went bigger and bigger, great roars from below heard through the explosions at ear level. It is beyond criticism I think. An essential bread and circus affair, pleasure, excitement, thrill, the city brought to face itself and its citizens, the infrastructure tested, routines maintained, huge commercial benefit (job creation, people spending spending, food, clothes, fashion, presents, travel, international fame) and lots of fun. No time for wowsers.

..and then it was over, up in smoke, the huge flotilla of little boats, big boats, carnival boats, bobbing green starboard lights, all heading home under the big orange sunrise of the New Year

By the time K was in San Franscisco, I had just made it home, 3 am. Down-hill was now up-hill, what had taken a day to assemble was dismantling itself in hours, but tempers stayed cool, queues were orderly, staff were friendly, trains were crowded, frequent but slow. A pimply face youth with his very pretty girlfriend asleep on his shouler announced to the stuffed carriage, over mobiles, ipods, chatter and laughter, as the train lurched haltingly through the Wynyard tunnel, that every jerk was a bit closer to home. There's hope for us yet.

As I finally rounded the street corner, home at last, a woman's voice in the dark called out "Here's someone!" The new Californian next door neighbours were sitting on their front-step, swilling huge Martinis, just back from being blown-away, in all senses, from Circular Quay. "Get him a drink!" I begged passage, mumbling something about driving to the country soon, and breathalysers. "Well suck on a mint" she slurred as I slid past. "Well suck on something" was the last thing I heard just as I got my key in the door.

Happy New Year everyone. Go Obama.