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Jun 30, 2013

Episode 160: The Force of Destiny, opening night Opera Australia a huge success

A brand spanking new production of Verdi's "La forza del destino" was met with open arms by an enthusiastic Sydney opening night audience at the opera house on Saturday evening.

A dark and bloody production, one can almost smell the rotting corpses. Dimly lit, Mark Thompson's costumes, makeup design and sets work beautifully to keep the audience immersed in the story. A well rounded cast of strong singers brought Verdi's intentions to fruition.

First performed in 1682 at the Bolshoi, this work is seldom performed in this part of the world, and though I did manage to see it in Melbourne in the eighties at the Victorian State Opera, this is a far superior account. Director, Tama Matheson, took the risk of making this already dark opera even more macabre, but the whole work was completely watchable and compelling.

The grim tale of manslaughter, love and shame is overseen by roaming fortune teller Preziosilla, coercing the menacing hand of destiny throughout; a stroke of directorial brilliance that tied the story line together and maintained our attention, thanks to the constant care given her character by Rinat Shaham, known so well to the Sydney public for her performances as that other gypsy fortune teller.
Rinat Shaham as Preziosilla
The chorus played a large part in this production and were subtle in the right places and were always in time with the orchestra no matter where they were placed.  The supporting roles were very convincingly played by our local singers.

Giacomo Prestia has a fabulous bass voice, and his dealings with his raucous underling, played by Warwick Fyfe, gave us some light relief. In fact, the artistic intensity of all of the male cast members was quite awe inspiring, allowing the subtlety and austerity of the action to remain true. Sword fighting stripped to its bare bones, deaths and grievous bodily penetrations were completely believable and well staged. 

Riccardo Massi, in his debut as Don Alvaro, was a joy to listen to, his velvety tenor voice filling the house without  strain. He's going to have a fabulous career. 
Jonathan Summers, whom many of us heard in the Traviata on the harbour last year (I caught it in the movie theatre in New York City) gave a performance that demonstrates why he is so well regarded in the profession. Secure and convincing throughout, Summers' acting matched his musicianship.
Jonathan Summers, Rinat Shaham and Riccardo Massi

Summers and Massi: awe inspiring duet

Riccardo Massi triumphed in his debut as Don Alvaro
Singing the gargantuan role of Leonore, and making her first appearance in Australia was Soprano: Svetla Vassileva from Bulgaria. Consistently yelling "brava", the Sydney audience greeted her warmly. It's hard to imagine how such a large voice can be generated in such a small body, but she's singing these vast roles around the world with great panache.
Soprano: Svetla Vassileva in her Australian Debut as Leonora

Later at ECQ Lyndon Terracini, Opera Australia's artistic director, and former lyric baritone, thanked his international cast and artistic team, pointing out that he'd given Tama one of the most difficult operas in the repertoire to direct.
Lyndon Terracini

Mezzo Soprano: Rinat Shaham chats with the public

Bass: Giacomo Prestia at the bar with Maestro Andrea Licata
Details: see Opera Australia's press release

Some background on the production:

I need help: documentary in process (More info here )

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Jun 28, 2013

Episode 159: Sailing Wooden Yachts on Sydney Harbour with the old blokes

One of my uncle's old mates from Tasmania skippers an old wooden racing yacht in Sydney for regular regattas on the harbour, and I'm lucky enough to join them from time to time while I'm here.
Watch these guys go!

Sailing a wooden yacht on Sydney Harbour from New York Video Service on Vimeo.

Documentary needs a helping hand if you could:
I need help: documentary in process (More info here )

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Jun 27, 2013

Episode 158: Australian Youth Orchestra Project : European Tour (intro)

Being a professional classical musician is a very tough, but very rewarding vocation.
I trained and practiced and put games aside so I could be the best string player I could be. I searched the world for the best professors... put heart and soul into youth orchestra performances and chamber music. I crapped my pants playing solo, often under-prepared in masterclasses for famous musicians.

I never managed to fit in a stint with the much acclaimed Australian Youth Orchestra, but managed a few National Music Camps, which were run by the same organization.

I took the music career about as far as I felt I could: a Professorship, recordings, giving masterclasses and touring extensively in a well established French String Quartet, and founding a flute viola harp trio in New York City.

Now I make films.

The music training transferred well into the visual arts, and somehow life has come full circle and I've been engaged to film the orchestra on their tour of Europe. Joshua Bell will be the soloist under the baton of Christoph Eschenbach.

Meeting up with the orchestra in Berlin, I'll be in seven cities with camera and audio gear, interviewing, and capturing the feel of the tour. Webisodes to come in August!
I'll post them on this blog.

Check out the AYO's youtube channel: 

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Jun 26, 2013

Episode 157: Seahorses, Cuttlefish and an Angler fish filmed in Sydney

After about three hours under the water, just off Clifton Gardens in Sydney, there was some good macro footage in the can. 
Seahorses are scarcer where I live, but here, there seems to be a few around. They tell me that there used to be more....
Watch for the angler fish... it has 'legs'.

The documentary is well under way, but we need funds to finish it:
I need help: documentary in process (More info here )

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Jun 20, 2013

Episode 156: Diving in Sydney

Who knew how much life could be found just off the beach in Sydney?
My colleague, Peter Lightowler, acted as guide and fellow videographer last weekend for a winter's day dive in 17 degree (63F) water near the pier in front of Clifton Gardens, a suburb of Sydney.

Wonderful to see so many seahorses. Even a couple of wrecks down there!
Peter shot this nice piece on a Panasonic HVX200 in a Gates housing.

Meanwhile the documentary is coming along, please consider throwing in a couple of bucks and get your name in the credits:
I need help: documentary in process (More info here )

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Jun 7, 2013

Episode 155: A Week at Sea with Mike Ball Dive Expeditions

The thirty-five knot wind howled across the top deck of the 25 year old twin engine catamaran of Mike Ball Dive Expeditions, as the rapidly drying wetsuits and dive gear flapped violently from the temporary clothesline.

We'd been at sea for 7 days, serving passengers from three continents who'd come to see what the Great Barrier Reef had to offer. Instead of paying the $3200+ ticket price, I'd blindly applied for one of the three volunteer positions hoping that there would be enough time for diving and shooting some footage of the reef's famous sea life.
Managing to get in eleven dives in 7 days was one thing, but finding time to keep camera and light batteries charged, video equipment prepped while being a good little bitch for 4 bosses (most of whom were young enough to be my children) proved challenging, and I had to run to keep up.

A sharp knife at 6 am in the galley for fruit platters, fruit salad and cut oranges for our eager passengers. Volunteer number 2: Ben from California, was already suitably jaded after a week of washing pots, but he'd established an amusing, mutually abusive rapport with the surly young cook called Levi, who was churning out 3 meals a day for three weeks without a day off.
Levi confided that "it's painful having to train new volunteers every two weeks, but it's better than doing your own dishes..." (picture of crew)

I thought it was ironic that these kids were all doing it "for the lifestyle" not for the relatively low pay.
Maybe it was their tiredness from the previous week's seas that had been rough enough to toss you right out of your bunk, but they didn't seem like an entirely happy bunch compared to other crews I've been around. Maybe the good lifestyle kicks in when the wind drops....

Most of my volunteered time was spent on the dive deck helping divers on the ladder, putting lines in the water, coiling ropes, and dealing with the endless supply of wet towels. Whenever the deck frenzy abated, the trip director would send me to the kitchen to help Ben from California to fight back the endless supply of dirty pots. Often, on the way to the galley I would get hijacked by the Host to do something else..... The volunteer position I held was called "Dive Swing". Apply for this job at your own peril.

The trip director allowed me the time to do a solo diver course, taught by the video pro on the boat, Julia Sumerling, who also happened to be an old friend of mine who'd photographed my old comedy group back in the eighties:
The Como String Quartet, circa 1988
Julia managed to compose some nice shots while I was doing her solo course.
More shots here: Facebook
Engine problems prevented amateur guitarist Captain Peter from setting a course to Osprey Reef, which was very disappointing for some passengers, but they kept it to themselves mostly.  Of some consolation: the passengers did have a bit of a snorkel with the Minke Whales (I was on lookout duty)
Day seven's gear collection and deck cleanup was easy compared to the duties that would follow during the next morning at the dock.
I'd been warned by several fellow crew members that it would be the toughest day with some pretty nasty jobs. The low point was being sent down the garbage chute to throw juicy black bags to the first mate on deck. At this point, I'd already collected and bleached each of the 18 toilet brushes from the cabins.
I wish I'd been a scuba diver and done this stuff when I was 18 (instead of 10 hours a day of viola!)

Now it's back to reality. Pitching a documentary to the TV stations this month. Grown up stuff....
 I need help: documentary in process (More info here )

 Meantime, here's a look at the Cod Feed (shot on a Spirit of Freedom trip)
More info on Spirit of Freedom

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