Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Spurred on by rave notices (Limelight and Harry) and the forecast of a perfect Friday night, I snapped up some good seats at shortish notice and off we went - idling into town on a perfect (and I mean perfect) balmy Sydney evening to see 'Sydney Opera House - The Opera - The Eighth Wonder' (cast and production details) which used to be, and forever should be, known simply as 'The Eighth Wonder.'

The set-up was brilliant. It is a grand space and surely one of the great public spaces of the world with those monumental Aztec inspired stairs (on which the opera would play out) with the great arcs of the roof like some hypnotic pinnacles entrancing you in. The seating was as good as it gets; the food outlets many and varied and well sorted with tables and chairs and bibs and bobs - we ate with holidaying Dutch; the bathroom facilities immaculately clean and lit and mirrored and carpeted, and the vibe friendly and infused with great expectation for if nothing else, to sit there, just sit there, as the day slipped away and the night brought its own magic would have more than sufficed.

(sea gulls)

There is a great story here and it begins mid last Century. It is a story that I said to the English woman directly in front as we stood at the end, both teary eyed, that is in many respects the story of my life, in that it spans my existence to a very real extent and a story I followed closely in the city I love most dearly. And more importantly it is a story of democracy, and of its imperfections, of its weaknesses, of its great failures, and wherein lie its great strengths: answerable to the people, to the process, to the egos, to the deceits, to the half truths. Mussolini might have got it right. 

And the story is a great and living lesson in the difference in attitude to the Arts between our two major political parties. It didn't set out to give it; it didn't overplay it; but the story is the story and the Libs and Nats are bastards when it comes to much anything other than shortsightedness and profit.

But you know, one is left to wonder that actually and finally we still got more than we deserved - something approaching sacred - and the two names to remember are John Joseph Cahill (I share both of those given names in my three) and Jorn Utzon. 

And what was so moving about the opera is simply that -- it told the story. Each character was finely fleshed out, each circumstance brilliantly defined, each period beautifully evoked, each conflict chillingly enacted, and each triumph gloriously celebrated, and all underpinned with a musical composition that was, how to say, friendly contemporary, never intrusive and always ready to accent and build up emotional reflexes. 

                                                             (utzon in the danish forest)

Now I've left the biggest gushy rave till last. The sound system. The orchestra was in the Playhouse (I believe), the singers close miked, and all was run from the huge control tower with conductor video et al at the rear up against the great sandstone wall.

The mix was brilliant, and in a move of genius, the sound was sent wi-fi to individual head phones connected to round-your-neck receivers which were given out and tested by ever friendly (and always enough of them) young techies. While there were subtitles, and yes I did read them on and off, it wouldn't have mattered that much if there weren't. The clarity was excellent, every word and note coming cleanly and  with timbre intact. If this technology is to be used for the Handa Opera on the Harbour, then that will solve one of the major problems with that set up once and for all.

Well done OA. The whole experience was completely satisfying. 

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