Wednesday, December 20, 2017


By chance, we went to Muriel's Wedding, The Musical, Sydney Theatre Company, on the night the marriage equality legislation finally passed. A tortuous and disgustingly politicised process had at last come to its proper conclusion. I'd bought the tickets more than a year ago for K's birthday.

Driving through the city in heavy traffic on the way to the theatre, we heard the final moments, and then the cheering, crescendoing into We Are One from the visitor's gallery. it was emotional, but also a strange feeling which I struggle to define. The best I can come up with is perhaps it's like being let out of jail after decades kept in the dark - the light is too bright.

It's a terrific show, and tracks the film very closely. Maggie McKenna (she's Gina Riley's daughter - Kath and Kim, The Games) stands out from a stand out cast, with perhaps Gary Sweet just missing the sleaze needed for the sleaze bag father, he's just, mmm, too sweet. (booom tish). It's a bit too long, and easy to trim, and the ending needs a bit of a rethink maybe, but no matter really. The ghosting presence of ABBA is genius.

And so, in the curtain calls, this fabulous cast took on the spirit of the night. That's Maggie McKenna (Muriel) holding the Vote Yes placard.


It seems to have been a long year. Uppermost in my mind are the three operatic events in the concert hall, two from the Sydney Symphony, and one from Opera Australia.

1. Charles duToit led a wonderfully hypnotic Pelléas and Mélissande, beautifully realised by a mostly imported cast, and fine musicianship from the orchestra under his elderly but firmly disciplined hand. I sort of tranced out, and thinking about it, so must have the audience who, while not always in the habit of being silent and composed in the euro style, behaved impeccably in what was for many I suspect, and for myself, a first time live encounter with this Debussy and his magic ways.

2. In an outstanding contribution to opera in the concert hall, Opera Australia's Parsifal was a stunner.

                                          (lousy pic, but shows the rapturous audience on their feet)

Sold very much around Jonas Kaufmann, this was anything but a one man show and everything about excellence on every level, with conductor Pinchas Steinberg at the top of the trickle down. The pacing, shading, textures and balance (for a difficult hall to get right) were wonderful, and the orchestra a pleasant surprise, which reflects a lot more on me than them. How good do they sound! Simone Young went through a phase of 'getting them out of the pit into the open', and we'd be very lucky if there were to be more of this.

Savour the cast:

Conductor       Pinchas Steinberg
Parsifal           Jonas Kaufmann, a beautifully elegant sound of much depth of feeling
Kundry           Michelle deYoung, god she's got the goods, and the presence.
Amfortas        Michael Honeyman, stepping into a big sing and singing big
Klingsor         Warwick Fyfe, perfect histrionic casting hurling out malice
Gurnemanz     Kwangchul Youn, rock solid top drawer
Titurel             David Parkin, interesting casting with a lighter voice adding tragic frailty

with delicious Flowers Maidens, Knights and Esquires (listed in the link).

The very lovely emerging Anna Dowsley was alto solo, and also Genevieve in Pelléas and Mélissande. She was also Lucretia in Sydney Chamber Opera's Rape of, and that I missed that is the one regret of the year.

On top of all that excellence, what was also especially satisfying was the beauty of the production with some small elements of semi-staging, perfect placement of persons and voices, and a fabulous chorus which were actually arranged and lit like a swan at one stage, which brings me to the lighting of the most subtle and sophisticated kind, even and up to finally spilling red, red and then some more red.

3. And last but not least, the year ended with Sydney Symphony Orchestra's Bluebeards Castle, right up David Robertson's tightly controlled alley. This was another first outing for me, and while I had planned for thrice, I made it twice.

                                    (don hans narrator, david robertson, john relyea, michelle deyoung)

I'm not even sure now that I want to see it fully staged. It is theatre of the mind, and to the extent that they overdid the lighting effects, with the exception of the almost orgasmic brilliance of the fifth door as Michelle DeYoung unleashed a stunning high C into the hall, they actually only emphasised the need to keep this pared back to a gradual parting of the dark shrouds of the imagination. (The earlier special effects in Parsifal are a fair reference point for less is more.)

Together, Michelle DeYoung (six foot one) and John Relyea (at least two inches taller I'd guess) were fabulously paired in an illuminating exploration of fear and love, the great eternal opposites, brilliantly scored by Bartok.