Monday, August 28, 2017

Winter (etching)

It doesn't pay to put your woollies away too early. We are back to winter this week. It was 9C this morning but felt like 0C because of the wind chill factor.

This is an etching I did in Dunedin where the bath was my refuge in winter. I added the colouring more recently.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Imogen Cooper - a win win situation

Imogen Cooper plays
You have to be careful what sort of concert you hear after a five star Parsifal but I think I chose just the thing. I heard pianist Imogen Cooper playing Beethoven and Hayden at the Sydney City Recital Hall.

Cooper is as expert in her field as the Parsifal singers were in theirs and the program she chose was clever as well. Light-hearted Beethoven Bagatelles leading into a serious Hayden then a fun Beethoven Variations (yes, Beethoven can be surprisingly witty) before a sombre-piquant piece by Adès leading into Beethoven's Sonata 31, the final piece.
Cooper played the Bagatelles with impish charm. Actually charm sums up a lot of Cooper. She is humorous and enthusiastic and it shows in her music making. After the concert someone near me complemented her playing and she replied “ Well I enjoy playing for you so it's a win win situation."

After the fun pieces she jumped up off the piano stool to bow with a grin but the final Beethoven sonata was different. Captive to the music, she came back to us with much more difficulty. I find those exposed intimate moments so telling. The feeling was mirrored in her.listeners who clapped her back onto stage again and again - not so common in Sydney audiences.

Music played with aplomb and depth of feeling. Cooper and Parsifal have lots in common.

Two times Parsifal

If you look at blogs about recordings of Wagner's music you find connoisseurs discussing which singer is best on which recording. Each recording has one or two blemishes together with outstanding performers.  It is rather a pity that the Sydney Parsifal was not recorded (at least not to my knowledge) as there were no blemishes at all.

Music is so therapeutic. I was still energy-less after a nasty travel gastro when I booked the Tuesday performance (I had already booked Saturday). I thought the music would help recovery and I was right. The Adelaide Ring Cycle had helped me in similar circumstances, resulting in a book.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Parsifal in Sydney

I was reading Wagner's letters to Mathilda Wesendonk (original version, online for free) on the way to Sydney to see Wagner's opera Parsifal and came across a letter (July 1859) telling Mathilda about Wolfram's book Parsifal. 'There are so many gaps in the story,' writes Wagner, 'if you wrote an opera you'd have to explain too much. It won't be me who writes it! Let someone else do it and Liszt can write the music!” 

He also recommends Mathilde read a book on Buddhism that he had recently discovered. At the time Wagner was immersed in Tristan and Isolde, but his letters show the beginnings of Parsifal even at this early stage.
I thought about Wagner's letter as I listened to bass Kwangchul Youn sing the role of Gurnemanz, the character who does most of the 'explaining' in this over five hour opera. Youl sang his very long part part with firmness and vocal ease setting the stage for a wonderful cast of characters of carry on the story. The wonderful reviews this performance is receiving are well deserved (five and a half stars out of five). 

Purple carpet in the Sydney Opera House
Dinner on the purple steps.
Parsifal is seldom performed in Australia so it was no surprise to find that Wagner fans had flown in from all over the country to hear this concert performance. I overheard guests remarking on the large number of people from Melbourne in the audience and I bumped into a friend from New Zealand who booked tickets to two of the three performances. His mate was going to all three. Well, it's Parsifal, so why wouldn't you if you could? Particularly with the singers Opera Australia lined up for the performance which include star German tenor Jonas Kaufmann, American mezzo soprano Michelle DeYoung and Australian baritone Warwick Fyfe. Not many singers can sing these demanding roles but this cast was, without exception, excellent, even faced with the very ordinary concert hall acoustics.

The sooner Sydney gets an acoustically wonderful opera house the better but how could an opera house anywhere else compete with these views?
View from the Sydney Opera House