Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Our several visits to the Opera House over the last few weeks have been dominated by the most significant - the Jorn Utzon State Memorial on the 25th March.

Before that we had joined a half-full Concert Hall for Opera Australia's Radiance Concert. Sir Richard Armstrong and the Opera and Ballet Orchestra were out of the pit and on full display in a Programme conceived by the late Richard Hickox. It proved to be just another night spent missing his finesse. The Britten Sea Pictures were coarse. Cheryl Barker's struggle against untamed and untempered orchestral forces in Strauss' Four Last Songs was nearly hurtful to witness. The Rossini Stabat Mater was the most successful. What it lacked in subtlety it made up for in volume and some fine singing, particularly John Wegner, Rosamund Illing's arching soprano and Domenica Matthews gorgeous mezzo full of colour and bloom, and more fine choral work from the chorus. I dreamt of a Norma, with a different tenor.

The SSO's second concert in our Series was an absolute joy. The young debut conductor Douglas Boyd tells all you need to know with his hands, a marked contrast to the clenched fist air punching of the knight from the same realm. Paul Lewis made the Beethoven 1st a delight, playing what always seems to me the impossibly difficult with such certain playfulness, or playful certainty. The Hayden was a revelation in beauty and novelty, and the Bartok I loved, huge string forces like giant elastic galaxies, countered with cosmic outbursts from the celesta, xylophone and percussion, and harp. It was exhilarating. This was terrific programming.

The Utzon Memorial is hard to talk about without resorting to emotion and excess. It was a perfect and timely reconciliation, an extremely beautiful, moving, tearful and exemplary display of our gratitude for his gift. We weren't the only ones red eyed and wet cheeked by a long way. I suppose it has been detailed elsewhere, I'm not sure, and maybe later there'll be time to tell the full story. However, Premier Nathan Rees, with words of remarkable insight, gave a particularly fine speech on how a building so few actually enter has entered the hearts of so many and David Malouf's 'An Angel at Bennelong Point' merits nothing less than full reproduction. At the end a heartbroken full house stood to acknowledge the Utzons, Jan wiping away tears, after Lin Utzon's moving reading of the poem "Do not stand at my grave and weep", a poem my niece had read at my mother's funeral the day before.

1 comment:

Jarrett said...

Thank you. I missed the event, but now can imagine I was there.