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Michael Shmith

Michael Shmith

Michael Shmith is a Melbourne-based writer and editor. His latest book, Merlyn (Hardie Grant, 2021) is a biography of the widow of Sidney Myer.

'Siegfried: Another triumph from Melbourne Opera' by Michael Shmith

ABR Arts 26 September 2022
The past few weeks in Melbourne have seen a series of extraordinary musical events that collectively represent the ultimate triumph of the creative spirit over the forces of pestilence – something that applies equally to audiences as to performers. There is certainly, hanging in the air, a palpable spirit of communion and fulfilled expectations from our re-emergence from the stygian isolation of ... (read more)

‘Elektra: A tutti blaze of good old C major’ by Michael Shmith

ABR Arts 19 September 2022
There are not too many parallels to be drawn between the House of Atreus and the House of Windsor, especially in these mournful times. But I could not help noticing one (admittedly tenuous) connection of memory and circumstance triggered by Victorian Opera’s powerful, almost magisterial one-off performance of Elektra and, later on at home, watching the procession of the Queen’s coffin down the ... (read more)

Michael Shmith reviews 'I Will Be Cleopatra: An actress’s journey' by Zoë Caldwell

November 2001, no. 236 16 September 2022
‘I knew I was bright, but not special’, writes Zoë Caldwell early on in her pithy, telling memoir. Still earlier (indeed, in the first paragraph), she says that she knew, even from an early age, she was destined to perform: ‘ … to stand in front of people, keeping them awake and in their seats, by telling other people’s stories and using other people’s words. I knew this because it wa ... (read more)

‘Australian World Orchestra: A combination of telepathy, instinct, and love’ by Michael Shmith

ABR Arts 05 September 2022
To place the Australian World Orchestra (AWO) in a truly global context, and before I deal with last Wednesday night’s triumphant concert in Hamer Hall, I must briefly expand my terms of reference. Only a week or so ago, before this concert, the orchestra and its conductor, the great Zubin Mehta, were in Britain. On 19 August, they played at the Edinburgh Festival with a challenging program: We ... (read more)

‘A Winter’s Journey: An overwhelming version of Schubert’s great song cycle’ by Michael Shmith

ABR Arts 18 July 2022
Forty-four years ago, Andrew Porter, that peerless and prolific music reviewer of The New Yorker magazine, cast a prophecy: I trust I am wrong, but sometimes it seems to me that when Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Elisabeth Söderström, Peter Pears and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau retire, lieder singing will become a lost art. There is no one in the younger generation who commands as they do the understan ... (read more)

‘Die Walküre’: A triumphant performance from Melbourne Opera

ABR Arts 11 February 2022
Richard Wagner’s famous pronouncement, ‘Kinder, schafft Neues!’ (‘Children, create something new!’), has often been the inspiration to take daring creative risks, particularly (but not exclusively) with productions of his works. Using The Ring as a starting point, directorial licence has been extended in all sorts of intriguing ways that have, over the years, seen Valkyries roaring aroun ... (read more)

Michael Shmith reviews 'Right Here on Our Stage Tonight!: Ed Sullivan’s America' by Gerald Nachman

February 2010, no. 318 01 February 2010
In the mid twentieth century, American television was dominated by two talking horses called Mr Ed. The first, the equine hero of a sitcom also called Mr Ed (catchier than his real name, Bamboo Harvester), twisted his mouth more or less in sync with a dubbed basso profondo voice. He had lots to say, mostly preceded by an often disdainful reference to his hapless owner, Wilbur, the only person Mr E ... (read more)

Michael Shmith reviews 'Wagner and the Art of the Theatre' by Patrick Carnegy

April 2007, no. 290 01 April 2007
In the myths that inspired Wagner to write Der Ring des Nibelungen, the World Ash-Tree (Die WeltEsche) is the symbol of Wotan’s power and enlightenment and eventual downfall. As a young god, he cut a branch off the tree to fashion into his spear. In The Ring, it is not until the Prologue to Götterdämmerung, as the three Norns are weaving their rope of fate, that we are told the World Ash-Tree ... (read more)

Michael Shmith reviews 'Trio' by William Boyd

October 2020, no. 425 24 September 2020
The first three chapters of William Boyd’s beguiling new novel, Trio, are devoted to the waking habits of three people: a novelist called Elfrida Wing, stirred from slumber by the brightening morning sun; a film producer called Talbot Kydd, jolted into a new day by an erotic dream taking place on a beach; and an American actress called Anny Viklund, who, it seems, hasn’t had the time to consid ... (read more)

Michael Shmith reviews 'Self-Portrait of Percy Grainger' edited by Malcolm Gillies, David Pear, and Mark Carroll and 'Facing Percy Grainger' edited by David Pear

October 2006, no. 285 01 October 2006
To paraphrase Winston Churchill’s description of Russia as a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, Percy Grainger is a minstrel wrapped in a harlequin inside a jack-in-the-box. His personality, obsessions, and general eccentricities still cause one to gasp and stretch one’s eyes even almost half a century after his own hypnotic eyes closed forever. His music, too, remains quicksilver; ... (read more)
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