May 2010


Colonoscopy needed

The Age has long played fast and loose with the noble colon in its headlines. Today, however, it displayed all its doubts about its use on one page.
First up we had Fake Vietnam vet pretty pathetic: judge.
Underneath this the sub-editors had an each-way bet over a colon’s placement with Brumby: investigate leaks.
And alongside that they capped it all off by indicating their complete confusion with Broadband: lines ‘not ugly’.
The correct use of a colon is to introduce a phrase, comment or self-contained statement related to the words used before the colon. Thus the Brumby headline gets the grammatical tick of approval. This means the first headline should have been reversed to read Judge: fake Vietnam vet pretty pathetic.
As for the third example, the colon leads us into believing that Broadband, like Brumby and the judge, was making a statement; which is simply not the case. It was Senator Conroy who defended broadband’s good looks. The colon was redundant and the headline would have made more sense without it.
Perhaps the Age needs a colonic irrigation.

… and an angel sang

    Angels Over Berlin @ Hamer Hall, May 21

Ute Lemper walked demurely on to the Hamer Hall stage promptly at the scheduled time and did not leave, nor stop performing until two hours later. No interval, no purely rest breaks – simply that incredible voice travelling up and down the octaves in an enthralling interpretation of songs across the genres, across the decades and across the continents. She does not cover the classics; she takes them firmly in hand and makes them her own, adding new meaning and throwing fresh light into the dark corners of works by Brecht, Brel, Piazzola and Hollaender.
Back in Melbourne after a break of seven years, she held the capacity audience from start to finish and had them standing and yelling for more. Her voice is unique: deep, dark and down in the depths one minute and soaring at full pitch into the highest range the next. The pace of her performance was relentless, energy-charged and never put a step wrong. From the wistful opening notes of Falling in Love Again through to the dulcet farewell of Ne Me Quitte Pas she took us on an emotional journey from Berlin to Argentina with detours to Paris and New York, switching in and out of languages and rarely stopping to rest.
We can only hope we don’t have to wait another seven years to see this true diva of song back here in Melbourne.

Belly ache

Seems our defence system has fallen into unusual hands. According to Age arts writer Annie Stevens a bunch of would-be playwrights attending the Emerging Writers’ Festival are trying to cope with naval gazing. Maybe they sit on the shores of Port Phillip Bay seeking inspiration and keeping an eye open for enemy ships.
Meanwhile, up the front of the book, Age reporters tell us of events happening at the tautologous time of ”about 10pm on Wednesday night” and the conflicting ”at about” 4pm. A sub-editorial day off perhaps?

Footy wins again

A standing ovation please for Age columnist Michael Shmith for his column >http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/culture-in-eclipse-at-the-herald-sun-20100514-v4en.html< highlighting disastrous decisions at the Herald Sun. While Shmith, as commentator, and especially critic, can at times be somewhat too cosy with those he is paid to critique, there is no doubt he is right on the money with this commentary. Events at the Hun are yet one more step on the road to impoverishing this country. Sport, trivia and the mundane rule yet again. We are breeding and encouraging a culture that believes talent consists of feeble voices warbling into amplified devices stuck down one’s throat and that fame and fortune is an instant for the superficial and the mediocre. The true arts, where real talent lies, are being totally sidelined.

Wayward Wyatt

After heaping praise on Wyatt, Garry Disher’s latest crackingly good crime novel, it came as a disappointment find a slew of errors that could only have been caused by sloppy editing. It starts getting into strife on page 190 when crooked cop Rigby casts her eyes “around the kitchen” when the scene is set in her bedroom.
On the same page, Le Page plots his escape from Australia by flying to Fiji “and not leave Suva airport”. That will certainly throw them off the scene as Fiji’s airport is in Nadi.
Meanwhile, on page 194, Wyatt is causing havoc by shooting a former sidekick at a courthouse way out in the ‘burbs. He escapes by “dodging cars and a tram”. Eh? A tram? Out there, way beyond East Burwood and Vermont South? We’d like to see that.
Editing is not just about words and punctuation; it includes continuity and facts. But not in Wyatt, it seems.

Brett’s Backflip

All credit to Melbourne Festival artistic dirrector Brett Sheehy for admitting at Thursday’s preview of Festival 2010 that he made a big blunder last year in not providing an after-show meeting place for performers and patrons alike.
And he’s making amends by liaising with Curve Bar to provide such a venue at this year’s 17-day marathon of all things artistic and cultural.
The main impression garnered from the many things he rattled off over champers and nibbles at Comme was that this year’s festival will be broader and more tempting than last year’s lack-lustre affair. One can only hope so, as all too often hyperactive festival directors are excessively pushy about events that later transpire as fairly ho-hum.
Once again Sheehy’s penchant for rock music and all its spin-offs comes through loud and clear. There’ll be plenty of noise – which should at least awaken the wider populace to the presence of a festival in their midst.
In a throwback to the glorious days of past festivals, Sheehy is taking the festival to the streets and making use of St Kilda Road in a way that even the most iPod focussed drongo will be unable to ignore.
We will see a return of Robert Lepage, Patti Smith and similar luminaries will be at the Myer Music Bowl (pray the usual festival rain goes away) and a theatrical highlight is sure to be a Beckett trilogy – three of his lesser known plays in one three-hour performance.
Roll on October.

Tricky Dicky

Thanks to an erudite correspondent who provided the following commentary on the MTC’s latest foray into Shakespeare which, needless to say, had to follow the fashion and be transported into another time and fashion:

A stylish modern performance of Richard III. All stops were out to create a striking event. Tension was maintained throughout at a pitch that had total audience attention for a play which is often taken at a solemn pace. Where action made clear the meaning, Shakespeare’s lines were not always heard word for word. This did not matter. Movement, nod, smile, backward glance, said it all. But in lyrical highpoint speeches, diction and emotion flowed together in the rhythm of familiar iambic pentameters and the audience was moved.
The play did not follow Shakespeare’s script to the letter. I noted cuts and scene alterations but nothing of the drama and point of the play was lost. In fact, both were sharpened. And one could not help noticing similarities in the way political persons unscrupulously plot, scheme, twist, turn and turn their coats today. Lighting was cleverly themed to the emotion or drama of the
scene; sound struck, clashed and soared where necessary to anchor an act or underlie doom or celebration (of which there was little, of course).
The sharpwitted manipulative, narcissistic duke/king who demolished without scruple any he deemed an obstacle to his rise, was excellently played by Ewen Leslie. Alison Whyte as Elizabeth and Deidre Rubenstein as Duchess of York were memorable for strenghth of portrayal, clarity and credibility. Zahra Newman in the small part of Catesby impressed.
The spin of the revolving sets was fittingly symbolic of the course chosen by Richard for his aggrandisement but which ironically wound him into a tight spot. Director Simon Phillips deserves many gold medals.

Sleep Walking

Went to the opera tonight (La Sonnambula) and nothing happened. Action – nil; plot – zero minus. We had the usual Opera Australia problem of insisting on squeezing its massive chorus into the smallest spaces. A couple of leads had obviously undergone an acting bypass and the backdrop looked like a Bunnings version of a discount Sound of Music set, although the tilted revolve did have its moments of usefulness.
But all that can be forgiven. It was a magic night of seamless immaculate music, flowing forward under the baton of bel canto maestro Richard Bonynge. The voice of Emma Matthews will remain long in the memory as she went from strength to strength and finished the night off, literally, on a high note – and another high note, and another and …..
Little wonder that we saw that rare Melbourne phenomenom of a standing ovation for an Opera Australia production.
Plots and action rarely matter in opera, but it does usually help to have the semblance of a story to fill in the gaps between the arias. With La Sonnambula, they count for nothing; this is a simply a musical feast, flowing forward almost without a break from one magic moment to another.
Joshua Bloom (who would be out acted by the wooden horse of Troy) was in superb voice, as were Elizabeth Campbell, Taryn Fiebig and Jorge Lopez-Yanez. And the ever reliable Kanen Breen contributed another of his comic vignettes.
But it was Emma Matthews’ night, yet again. She is fast becoming the brightest star on the local opera scene for many a long year and long may she remain on our national company’s list.
Don’t miss it.