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Barney Zwartz

Barney Zwartz

Barney Zwartz worked for The Age for more than thirty-two years until the end of 2013. His roles included chief sub-editor, letters editor, opinion editor and, for the last twelve years, religion editor. He now works as a media adviser, as a senior fellow for the Centre for Public Christianity and as a freelance journalist, writing especially about music. He is married to author Morag Zwartz.

Barney Zwartz reviews 'Still Standing' by Chrissie Foster, with Paul Kennedy

May 2023, no. 453 24 April 2023
This is a book about rage, as Chrissie Foster says in her opening sentence. It is motivated and driven by rage and, if this is not an oxymoron, it is a panegyric to rage. Few people could have more cause for rage than Foster, two of whose three daughters were raped at primary school in Melbourne by Catholic priest Kevin O’Donnell, a paedophile monster about whom the Catholic Archdiocese of Melb ... (read more)

Barney Zwartz reviews 'In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, homosexuality, hypocrisy' by Frédéric Martel

April 2019, no. 410 22 March 2019
Almost from the day Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope Francis in 2013, he began denouncing fake devotees, whited sepulchres, and hypocrites at the Vatican. His targets, as Frédéric Martel makes clear, are the high-ranking clergy who vehemently condemn homosexuality while themselves often living the most lurid form of it, with rent boys, prostitutes, and sex parties. ‘Behind rigidity,’ F ... (read more)

The Flying Dutchman (Melbourne Opera)

ABR Arts 04 February 2019
It is easy to overlook – this side of The Ring and Tristan und Isolde – quite how radical Wagner’s first distinctly Wagnerian opera, The Flying Dutchman, really was. Written in Paris, where grand opera was utterly dominant, the opera broke with the form, style, and subject matter of grand opera and introduced Wagner’s own concepts. In 1839 Wagner had gone to Paris, the nineteenth-century ... (read more)

Barney Zwartz reviews 'Newman College: A history 1918–2018' by Brenda Niall, Josephine Dunin, and Frances O’Neill

Online Exclusives 30 August 2018
Drive along College Crescent, the circular avenue that forms Melbourne University’s northern order, and you will see the series of sedate, handsome university colleges that line the edge: Newman, Queen’s, Ormond, Trinity, plus the newer women’s colleges of St Mary’s, St Hilda’s, and Janet Clarke Hall. The impression today of quiet élitism and learning may be just, but the weathered ston ... (read more)

Der Rosenkavalier (Melbourne Opera)

ABR Arts 10 August 2018
Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Richard Strauss consciously set out to emulate Mozart in Der Rosenkavalier, and succeeded, creating not only the last great Romantic opera but the most perfect Viennese confection, and Strauss’s most-loved opera. It was an immediate hit from its Dresden première on 26 January 1911. Dresden gave fifty performances within a year, all sold out, and special trains were ru ... (read more)

Tristan and Isolde (Melbourne Opera)

ABR Arts 06 February 2018
Tristan und Isolde, the opera in which Richard Wagner really took art in a new direction, is often described as the most important musical work of the nineteenth century. No lesser authority than Kobbé calls it the most influential opera in all musical history, while the great Wagner conductor Christian Thielemann says it is ‘the peak of operatic art, the opera of operas, the incunabulum, the k ... (read more)

Maria Callas Live: Remastered recordings 1949–1964 (Warner Classics)

ABR Arts 27 September 2017
Some singers – a gifted few – have voices that are so sumptuously individual that even one note instantly identifies them to the listener. In opera, Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti have that status, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in lieder, Elvis Presley and Louis Armstrong in rock and jazz. But none more so than Maria Callas, possibly the most celebrated soprano in history, who lit up the soc ... (read more)

Barney Zwartz reviews 'Cardinal: The rise and fall of George Pell' by Louise Milligan

October 2017, no. 395 22 September 2017
George Pell is the most polarising religious leader Australia has had in recent decades, certainly since Daniel Mannix – perhaps since Samuel Marsden. For most of his career he has been loathed or adored for his sternly inflexible defence of a Catholic orthodoxy predating the second Vatican Council, his robust and sometimes courageous interaction with opponents inside and outside the church, his ... (read more)

Our Man in Havana (Lyric Opera of Melbourne)

ABR Arts 22 September 2016
I hope no one from Australia's various intelligence agencies is reading this, or they may be affronted. But for me, Our Man in Havana, Graham Greene's purported black comedy about an ingenious vacuum cleaner salesman deceiving Britain's MI6, has a marvellous ring of verisimilitude. Indeed Greene, who worked for the spy agency for a while, got the idea from agents in wartime Portugal sending back ... (read more)

Tannhäuser (Melbourne Opera)

ABR Arts 15 August 2016
In 1852 Richard Wagner issued instructions to opera houses planning to stage Tannhäuser. It had closed after only four performances when it opened in Dresden in 1845 – conducted by the composer without most of the scenery, delayed in transport – but was now attracting wide attention. His essay (14,309 words in English translation) was typically didactic and punctilious, and he demanded comple ... (read more)
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