What’s to love?’- Alban Berg’s Wozzeck and the latent lyricism of the Second Viennese School

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‘ Even now, so many decades after the composers of the Second Viennese School were active, the music of Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) and his pupils Alban Berg (1885-1935), the creator of Wozzeck, and Anton von Webern (1883-1945) is difficult for many audiences to understand and not strikingly popular. The Twelve-Tone Technique which Schoenberg invented in […]

Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel”

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When it seemed that Wagner’s music-dramas were un-toppable, his one-time assistant Engelbert Humperdinck showed that the way forward lay in going back to folk-tunes and fairytales, a world delightfully captured in Richard Sparks’ new English translation of Adelheid Wette’s libretto. But for World War I, he might have ended up in Australia. These were among […]

Beautiful…sad: Puccini’s La bohème

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Loretta: That was so awful. Ronny: Awful? Loretta: Beautiful… sad. She died! John Patrick Shanley Moonstruck (dir. Norman Jewison, 1987) In the 1987 film, Moonstruck, Ronny Cammareri (Nicholas Cage) woos Loretta Castorini (Cher) by taking her to La bohème at ‘the Met’. In the Third Act, as the two principals on stage touch hands through […]

Squeezed full of life – Prokofiev’s ‘ceaseless chain of contrasted incidents’

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In Act III of Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges, the Prince has found his true-love, the last of three fantastic oranges, Princess Ninetta, and saved her with a refreshing drink. ‘At last, a real fairytale with tunes that we can hum’ sing the commentators, the ‘Lyrics’, in Tom Stoppard’s translation of Prokofiev’s libretto. Except that […]

Parsifal’s Act Two

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Richard Wagner (1813-1883) Parsifal, Act II: Prelude… ‘Parsifal! – Weile!’… (Parsifal, stay!) Parsifal, first performed in 1882, was Wagner’s last opera, or music drama, as he called his stage works. There is evidence to suggest he knew it would be his last statement on themes that had obsessed him throughout his life – the conflicts […]

“…profound score…convoluted plot” – Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra”

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Simon Boccanegra contains some of Verdi’s finest music from any period of his career. It’s undoubtedly a masterpiece. But it has problems – ‘…profound score but convoluted plot’, said Anthony Tommasini in an April 2016 New York Times review of a production at the Met. We can’t ignore those problems really; a theatre audience is […]

Should it be an opera? (or should a biography be a film?)

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Australian culture, Journey to Horseshoe Bend, Music and film, My blog, Opera articles, Strehlow, The power of the libretto, Uncategorized, Words

Should it be an opera? (or should a biography be a film?) – transcript of a talk given to the Strehlow conference ‘Where do we go from here’?’ Sep 24, 2014 Should it be an opera? – dramatising the Strehlow story The details of T.G.H. Strehlow’s life provide immense opportunities for dramatically illuminating Aboriginal/European relations […]