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 […]

“…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 […]

Brunnhilde’s Immolation Scene

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Continuing my series of program notes: Richard Wagner (1813-1883) Götterdämmerung: ‘Starke scheite…’ (Brünnhilde’s Immolation Scene) ‘Let great logs be brought to the bank and heaped in a mighty pile. Let the flames…consume the noble corpse of this first of all men.’ So sings Brünnhilde in the spectacular end not only to Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, but his […]

Wagner, music or drama?

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Dramatizing the world's music, Music articles, My blog, Opera articles, The power of the libretto

In the music there is a shimmering and swelling, which finally blazes forth in a proud, even harsh, assertion of triumphal power. At the end of Wagner’s Das Rheingold, the Gods are finally, after a great deal of travail, crossing the rainbow bridge into their citadel Valhalla. Anyone sitting in a concert hall listening to […]

‘The working out of a curse…’ – Verdi’s Rigoletto

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‘The working out of a curse…’: Verdi’s Rigoletto  Gordon Kalton Williams Rigoletto is one of the three or four operas everyone should see before they die. The endless flow of instinctively apt melody and faultless pacing qualifies it as a perfect score. But it is also great drama. Rigoletto, the jester, aids and abets his […]

Lyrical lessons from ‘Rosenkavalier’

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Sometimes I despair of the endless recitativo of modern opera, this fallacious idea that the music should underscore the words. These passages remind me of Kenneth Hince’s phrase: ‘acres and acres of interminable mudflat’, which he applied unfairly to Brahms, but which describes contemporary opera better. I think this ‘unending recitative’ (which is not what […]

Desert Cantata – The Spirit of Things

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More on Journey to Horseshoe Bend: Rachael Kohn: I was struck by how much you conveyed in such a short space of time, because it’s about an hour…. How did you select that from the story Journey to Horseshoe Bend, written by Ted Strehlow; what were you consciously looking for? from the ABC’s Spirit of […]