Wednesday, March 9, 2011


This will amount to not much more than a list, just for the record.

I managed to make it, black tie and all, to our 40th Alumni Reunion dinner in the Great Hall on a steamy hot night at the end of February. Do the sums if you must, but remember things happened earlier way back then. I had my 17th birthday in first year University. It was way too young, for most things, let alone a career choice. That said, forty years later there were few regrets among the large number still alive and still interested, although quite a few had retired, and they mostly 'proceduralists'.

There is a strange commonality at play. A large group initially derived from school academic achievement and adolescent, or parental, ambitions, becomes subdivided alphabetically for practical, in both senses, reasons, only to be reorganised again for student allocation to institutions, then dispersed in postgraduate allocation to an even wider array of institutions, and finally let loose on an unsuspecting public. Yes, I'm talking Medicine. And what happened next was the subject of the night.

It turned out that Turns, despite much goodwill in the audience, really failed to hit the spot. A shame really. Everyone wanted it to work. As K noted, Reg is best with someone else's material and with much stronger direction that his protege could deliver. Nancye Hayes was saddled with a increasingly unfunny costume, loads of dialogue, not her strong point, and not that much to sing. And the mother-and-son routine is pretty old hat.

Our first encounter with the Sydney Symphony for the year was a very satisfying Peer Gynt. This was fine ensemble playing, with some gleaming icy brightness from the violins, and terrific solo work, especially Jacqueline Porter's lovely Solveig and Simon Halligan's ardent Peer, all held together with lucid narration by John de Lancie. Stage direction was considerably better than the last effort, a clumsyish Midsummers Night Dream, and this time the amplification was excellent. Not inappropriately either.

Earlier on the same day, in the same concert hall, there had been a memorial for Bruce Jackson, Sydney's export to the world of big sound. He had a huge career in the USA, front of house for the Greats, (Elvis gave him a plane for his birthday, Streisand would have no other) and though you may not have known at the time, he was the man behind the sound of the Sydney Olympic Opening Ceremony. He had crashed to his death in Death Valley, on the Californian Nevada border. Bruce and K had grown up together, neighbours, family friends, had entered the world of electronics together, stayed in contact, and worked together again during the recording of the Sydney Olympic music.

Lilli Tomlin was a must see. It was the night before Mardi Gras, and Enmore was buzzing. So was Lilli, kind of. Despite local references, there was a sense of Friday-must-be-X, and although the seriously gay and lesbian crowd loved her, they failed to deliver her that extra feedback I suspect she needed to really raise it up a bar or two. The interesting point she did make, and confirm the next night on the Mardi Gras telecast (where the commentary was between embarrassing and atrocious) was that she was not in agreement with gay marriage, seeing it as aping heterosexuals.

We even managed Nixon in China from the Met, with Adams' score sounding particularly Glassish, with Wagner interludes. The libretto mostly escaped me. It was of a depth and meaning that made it all but impossible to appreciate except by slow reading the text. For me, the women stole the show, except for the exceptional Cho En-lai of Russell Braun. I still find the camera work too close, too often. Peter Sellars alone was worth it.

The SSO Mahler 6 was very good, fast driven, muscular, exciting. They're getting good solid sound happening, which augurs well for the 7, anyday soon.

And last but not least, Orchestra Romantique gave a great concert last Sunday afternoon, all within walking distance, a glass of wine, a happy happy crowd. Harriet has the story. We sat close and the Berlioz was particularly vivid and visceral. I loved it.

Enough already.

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