Wednesday, August 10, 2011


There's a few things that jump out at me from the Opera Australia 2012 (that company site takes a fair bit of searching and page turning to work through) launch. Call it getting old, but I no longer have a strong emotional investment in the company. I feel like a seagull, winging around on high, happy to stay a bit remote (that means non subscriber status - I'm just not prepared to part with my money up front anymore) and swoop down for the odd morsel. It's not the way it should be - subscribers are pretty important for keeping the momentum - but it is the way it is.

So, what to make of this :

"The Ring has the right sort of weight for the cultural life of Melbourne, whereas Sydney responds culturally a lot better to opera on the Harbour [where] it's outdoors with lots of fireworks". So says Mr Terracini. Apart from the fact that The Ring is Melbourne's and Melbourne's exclusively has nothing to do with anything except the Wheelans are putting up a few million on the proviso it is just that, Melbourne's, this is the kind of stupid sweeping statement, without basis in fact, ludicrously exaggerating an outsider's myth, that is frankly unbecoming someone getting my tax dollars. But not my subscription.

And then there's arguably the most alarming of all - that what can't be played in the Opera House pit will be played elsewhere and relayed in in 'surround sound'. Like the movies. With Mr Beresford. Wooopeee. Die tote Stadt's required orchestral forces outstrip the capacity of the pit, as for many works, think Verdi, Strauss, Wagner ... Lets think about that - the sound is coming via a mixer, with all the modifications that involves, including dynamics, and then through loudspeakers, with all the distortions and losses that involves. So, at the very least, it is only as good as the speakers, and I'm afraid, as rotten as the sound can be from the pit, that's not good enough. It may at first glance solve some problems, or rather set them aside, but it also sets some worrying precedents.

Frankly, I would rather hear the damn thing live in the concert hall (can't we set up movie screens there?), but that raises the question of would you hear ...mmm.. whoever. Opera in the concert hall has been done before, and done brilliantly. I'm tired of going on about it. And it will be done again. Soon, and sooner rather than later. Actually, Die todt Stadt should be done at the Capitol, but even I understand the problem of booking that place where popular musicals book it out well in advance.

What else. Well, Teddy will sing 34 performances, shirtless no doubt, of South Pacific. On his own. Cheryl gets her husbands head in Melbourne, Wegner in Sydney. Susan Foster sings Turandot in Sydney, the great veteran Elizabeth Connell in Melbourne. Mr La Spina continues as primo spinto rotundo tenore with Radames and Calaf. Just stand still Rosario.


marcellous said...

The article is the usual gush, with a bit of extra buttering up of those thoughtful Melburnians. They have to say it, which doesn't mean Gina McColl needs to write it or that she knows about what she is saying apart from the fact that she was told it.

I'm very dispirited about the whole thing and especially the surround-sound orchestra from another room for the Korngold. My guess is that this is a spinoff from the technology for the harbourside Traviata - a bit like sniffer dogs as a leftover from the Olympics as far as I am concerned - one bad thing leading to another.

It's a naughty world.

Yvonne said...

A "+1" – as they're saying nowadays – for a production of Die tote Stadt in the Capitol. (After all, if they're going to play up Korngold as a film composer, a former hippodrome and picture palace would be the perfect location.)

And having experienced Challender's Tristan und Isolde in the Concert Hall, a +1 there as well.

wanderer said...

And what's more, that (stunning) Tristan was played by the SSO (the opera orchestra kept playing next door).

What worries me a little is that the 'solution', playing in one hall and relaying it into another, might be a 'success'. Certainly leaving the proscenium and singing out in the Opera Theatre (they will cover the pit and extrude the stage for the Korngold) makes a huge improvement in the vocal acoustic, as we found when Kenny and Pushee cracked roof tiles in Julius Caesar.

And the sheer bigness of the orchestral sound is likely to be such a shock as to make quite an impression. The risk is I think that the fact it is 'live' in time but not 'live' in sound quality will be overlooked in the rush for superlatives, or buried or dismissed as a relativity worth tolerating.

Meanwhile, the SSO have assembled a brilliant cast for Queen of Spades in the concert hall.