Sunday, August 9, 2009


Monica Attard did a great interview with Simone Young a week ago on ABC Radio National. If you missed it on air, as I did, it really is worth a read. She speaks frankly and with an Australian directness.

On a country's musical heritage and audience knowledge:

"The Hamburg audience is very well informed, very interested in particular in contemporary music. [ ] There are areas of the repertoire that they are not so well informed about. [ ] I've done a lot of Messiaen, some Tristan Murail, I've been doing a lot of Benjamin Britten both in the opera and in concerts. I'm doing some Ollie Knussen, I've done quite a lot of Brett Dean's music.

Australia is essentially a very young country with a young culture, therefore the operatic life in this country reflects that."

On performance standards and funding:

"I believe that there are certain levels of staffing of orchestra and chorus that one should never fall below irrespective of the size of the venue because the demands of the work to do justice to the work that is what you need.

I think there definitely should be more government money.    ...... should be funded. That's the orchestra and that's the chorus because there's no way those institutions can generate their own income"

On Lyndon Terracini:

"I think they've made an excellent appointment and congratulate them on it. I really think it's an appointment with vision, it's an appointment with substance, I think Lyndon is a really good man for the job, so that's a great step forward."

On disgruntled singers and not enough work:

"I've been advocating for years, more support of the state opera companies because I fully believe that without good and regular frequent activity at the state level, the national company will not be able to achieve what it wants to achieve and what it should be able to achieve because it's having to tick too many boxes. It's having to tick training boxes as well as performing and that's just too much for one company with very limited resources."

On the importance of the Arts:

"{The Arts} Are important because they engage the creativity of the population and it's the creative thinkers who are able to generate work and therefore income and therefore sustainability of a city because they're the ones that come up with the ideas in industry, in finance, in trading and so on. And without creative input to those minds, they're not going to be maintained as creative thinkers."

On the prospects for OA with separate Artistic and Music Directors:

"I think maybe it will work well for the company. [ ] ...that was the structure that existed under Moffat Oxenbould, with Richard Bonynge."

On her feelings for Australia, her return as a guest conductor, or in another capacity:

It is all here

It was the late Carlo Felice Cillario who observed at the 2003 Gala in his honour that it was likely fortuitous that Simone Young was essentially forced to go to Europe because when she does come back, she will be ready for us, and moreover, we will be ready for her.

So here's the plan - Simone returns as Music Director commencing with a new Ring Cycle to open the refurbished Sydney Opera House in 2015. What to do about the toads in Toad Hall is the pressing problem.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link. It's an interesting interview. I still am not entirely convinced by those self-serving statements about how the arts are good for the economy and of course, Simone is no particular expert on that.

I couldn't exactly understand the toads in toad hall reference, and obviously it's not for want of familiarity with The W in the W. Care to elucidate?

WANDERER said...

The Toads reference is a bit 'in house' here but i was obliquely saying the problem with the SOH refurbishment is essentially lack of political will and I think there are more than a few reasons for that.

The dilution of Arts as a ministry (my link was to point out that Arts is combined with a Environment, Water and Heritage and then listed last) is the most glaring example of the level of importance placed on Arts nationally. Garrett has Environment, Heritage and Arts. Sport alone has its own minister.

Other reasons are the ones trotted out all the time - the general philistine state of those running the country (Keating was an exception), number crunchers all, and the votes are just not there. I've rabbittted on before about the blindness that stops them seeing that it was an Arts project, the SOH, that alone put this backwater on the world map and the income it has generated is beyond calculation, let alone the artisic benefits to which SY alludes, and while some seem a bit of a stretch, I think she makes a reasonable point.

The point she (SY) didn't make is what Arts do for the national spirit (can't find the right word ATM), tapping into the soul, documenting our real history (that Hewitt play said more about the culture wars than any lousy political debate), and that frightens the bejesus out of the pollies, esp the likes of little jonny, they have so little control over it.

Strangely, the Adelaide Ring (no 2) was a uniquely antipodean thing in that while it said nothing directly about our 'culcha' it said a lot about how we do things and how we see (the same) things differently to the rest of the world. That as a document alone, now all but lost I'm afraid, made it, for example, worth every dollar.

Justin Murphy said...

I reckon your comments on state funding and the importance of the arts ring very much true, I read recently in a university economic study (U.C.D, Ireland)that any money spent funding the arts on a local level benefits the local economy by a multiple of 10. On top of that, there has to be more to life than just numbers, how depressing is the alternative?

I am writing a blog for Wexford Festival Opera's '09 season; as the Asst. Company Manager I think I can give an incite into "the behind the scenes" of an opera company. Anything that will demystify the art form cant be a bad thing, right? Also, why not promote the hard work and talent at large?

I would be very grateful if you would provide a link to my blog and I could do the same for yours.(I will regardless as I find it so informative and well written)

All the best,

Justin Murphy
Asst. Company Manager
Wexford Festival Opera

wanderer said...

Done Justin, with pleasure. Good luck. If I ever get across the sea to Ireland, and I'm ashamed I haven't yet, then It will be in October for sure.