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.

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

ABR Arts 18 July 2022
‘A Winter’s Journey: An overwhelming version of Schubert’s great song cycle’ by Michael Shmith
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
‘Die Walküre’: A triumphant performance from Melbourne Opera
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
Michael Shmith reviews 'Right Here on Our Stage Tonight!: Ed Sullivan’s America' by Gerald Nachman
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
Michael Shmith reviews 'Wagner and the Art of the Theatre' by Patrick Carnegy
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
Michael Shmith reviews 'Trio' by William Boyd
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
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
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)

Salome (Victorian Opera)

ABR Arts 26 February 2020
Salome (Victorian Opera)
For all its intense brevity, Salome is notoriously difficult to stage and perform. Richard Strauss might have adroitly described his opera (first performed in 1905) as ‘a scherzo with a fatal conclusion’, but his great admirer Gustav Mahler was closer to the mark when he said ‘deeply at work in it … is a live volcano, a subterranean fire’. Both points of view were more than justified by ... (read more)

Michael Shmith reviews 'The Europeans: Three lives and the making of a cosmopolitan culture' by Orlando Figes

January–February 2020, no. 418 16 December 2019
Michael Shmith reviews 'The Europeans: Three lives and the making of a cosmopolitan culture' by Orlando Figes
It was what Lawrence Durrell described as ‘the flickering of steel rails over the arterial systems of Europe’s body’ that steadily transformed nineteenth-century Europe into a cultural and social unity that would last until the outbreak of World War I. Not everyone was happy about this. Rossini, who was terrified of trains, stuck to coach travel, while others, including the German poet Heinr ... (read more)

'Musician of the world: A tribute to Andrew Davis' by Michael Shmith

ABR Arts 09 December 2019
'Musician of the world: A tribute to Andrew Davis' by Michael Shmith
One day, whilst I was in King’s College, Cambridge, a friend of mine asked if I would conduct a small group for a performance of a Haydn divertimento. From then on I knew that conducting was the career in music that I would follow. Andrew Davis, 2002   The trouble with musical longevity as it affects conductors, especially ones we see often, is they are always the age we expect them ... (read more)

Hansel and Gretel (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra)

ABR Arts 29 November 2019
Hansel and Gretel (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra)
This charming, persuasive, and glowing concert performance of Hansel and Gretel, part of Andrew Davis’s final Melbourne Symphony Orchestra season before he steps down as chief conductor, more than proved (if proof is required) what an outstanding opera conductor he is. Maybe, in future seasons, when Davis returns as the orchestra’s conductor laureate, there will be more: perhaps Berg’s Lulu, ... (read more)
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