Ian Dickson

Ian Dickson

Ian Dickson has degrees in drama from Yale and the University of New South Wales, and is the co-author of the musical Better Known As Bee.

The Ring Cycle (Washington National Opera / San Francisco Opera)

ABR Arts 27 May 2016
The Ring Cycle (Washington National Opera / San Francisco Opera)
At any time, Washington, DC would be an apposite place in which to stage Wagner's vast cautionary saga about the devastating effects of greed and lust for power on the human and natural world, but it is excruciatingly so at this moment. On Pennsylvania Avenue, roughly halfway between the White House and the Capitol, is a vast sign which reads COMING 2016: TRUMP. It is, however, not an election pos ... (read more)

Ian Dickson reviews 'On Sondheim: An Opinionated guide' by Ethan Mordden

May 2016, no. 381 27 April 2016
Ian Dickson reviews 'On Sondheim: An Opinionated guide' by Ethan Mordden
Do we really need another slim volume on the great Stephen Sondheim? Along with innumerable reviews, essays, and articles, we have Craig Zadan's account of Sondheim's early career, Sondheim & Co (1974), Meryle Secrest's Stephen Sondheim: A Life (1998), and the promise of a definitive biography from the critic David Benedict. If that were not enough, we also have Sondheim's conclusive reflectio ... (read more)

Marguerite and Florence Foster Jenkins

ABR Arts 20 April 2016
Marguerite and Florence Foster Jenkins
As with London buses, one waits for ages for a film based on the life of that vocal phenomenon Florence Foster Jenkins (1868–1944), and then two arrive simultaneously. Add to the mix Maggie Smith's Miss Shepherd in The Lady in the Van and it seems to be open season on eccentric ladies of a certain age with thwarted musical ambitions. Florence Foster Jenkins, who favoured Mme Jenkins or even som ... (read more)

King Charles III (Sydney Theatre Company)

ABR Arts 05 April 2016
King Charles III (Sydney Theatre Company)
Gentles, perchance you'll wonder at this showThat comes to us with fanfare from abroad.Mike Bartlett's many earlier plays, like Cock,Gave us no indication he would writeA drama in blank verse about a kingThat's yet to be. It could perhaps have beenA heavy-handed satire like MacbirdThe sixties Barbara Garson play in whichMad LBJ dispatches JFK,Or else a sprightly Spitting Image sketch.But author Ba ... (read more)

Voyage to the Moon (Musica Viva/Victorian Opera)

ABR Arts 25 February 2016
Voyage to the Moon (Musica Viva/Victorian Opera)
In this era of the jukebox musical, it is not surprising that the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century equivalent, the pasticcio opera, should be undergoing a revival. A couple of seasons ago, New York's Metropolitan Opera created a version, The Enchanted Island, which received a mainly positive response. Now Musica Viva and Victorian Opera have combined to produce their own version, Voyage to the ... (read more)

Ian Dickson reviews 'James Merrill' by Langdon Hammer

March 2016, no. 379 25 February 2016
Ian Dickson reviews 'James Merrill' by Langdon Hammer
To his critics, James Merrill was at best a petit maître, a composer of exquisitely manufactured lyrics that reflected his privileged life and over-refined sensibilities. When he won Yale's Bollingen Prize for Poetry, the editorial writer for The New York Times wearily deplored the judges' preference for 'literary' poets. This prompted a sharp response from the critic Helen Vendler, one of Merril ... (read more)

The Golden Age (Sydney Theatre Company)

ABR Arts 25 January 2016
The Golden Age (Sydney Theatre Company)
The reappraisal of Australian plays from that great explosion of theatrical creativity in the 1970s and 1980s which has been in train for the last few years continues with the Sydney Theatre Company's production of Louis Nowra's mighty The Golden Age. The play was first performed in 1985, when Australians were still fairly new to the experience of seeing their world on stages which up until then h ... (read more)

Ian Dickson reviews 'Orlando' (Sydney Theatre Company)

ABR Arts 17 November 2015
Virginia Woolf's early impression of the aristocratic, free-loving woman of letters Vita Sackville-West was not exactly complimentary: 'Not much to my severer taste – florid, moustached, parakeet coloured, with all the supple ease of the aristocracy, but not the wit of the artist.' Her opinion soon changed, however, and she found herself falling in love with the patrician dynamo who had already ... (read more)

Letter from Milan

ABR Arts 21 October 2015
Spurred on by Expo Milan, La Scala is having a busy couple of months. Entitled Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, the Expo is supposed to stimulate ideas for sustainable nutrition in a world with a rapidly expanding population and an equally rapidly diminishing arable area. However, the report from those who have braved the enormous crowds and endless queues is that the pavilions seem to be more ... (read more)

Ian Dickson reviews 'Master Class' (Left Bauer Productions)

ABR Arts 13 August 2015
Cunningly promoted by her recording company, EMI, the Callas myth took off after her death on 16 September 1977 and continues to resonate to this day. Undeterred by Franco Zeffirelli’s excruciating screen homage to the diva, Callas Forever (2002), Callas projects starring Meryl Streep and Noomi Rapace have been announced. Like most myths, this one does not really survive close scrutiny. We are ... (read more)