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Michael Morley

Michael Morley

Michael Morley is Emeritus Professor of Drama at Flinders University. He has written theatre and music reviews and articles for a variety of publications, including Theatre Australia, the National Times, The Australian, the Australian Financial Review, Opera News (New York), the Kurt Weill Newsletter, the Sondheim Review, the Adelaide Review, and Australian Book Review. He has also contributed translations for the English edition of the collected poems of Alfred Brendel.

Samuel Beckett and James Joyce in Adelaide

ABR Arts 04 March 2015
One might be pardoned for assuming, from the preponderance of mono-dramas at this year’s Adelaide Festival, that some mix of budgetary pressures and theatrical taste has meant that drama even the minimal Greek combination of three theatrical presences is not high on the director’s shopping list. Elsewhere, as in Perth during its recent Festival, there are theatre offerings ... (read more)

Michael Morley reviews 'Forbidden Music: The Jewish composers banned by the Nazis' by Michael Haas and 'Hollywood and Hitler' by Thomas Doherty

August 2014, no. 363 01 August 2014
For all their differences of subject matter and approach (not to mention style), both of these studies can be seen as belonging to the category of what might be termed archaeological history. That is, they are concerned with retrieving and bringing to the surface a gallery of characters and set of important stories and connections which have been either suppressed or ignored. In the case of Micha ... (read more)

Michael Morley reviews 'Freedom and the Arts: Essays on Music and Literature' by Charles Rosen

February 2013, no. 348 28 January 2013
In one of the most penetrating essays in this wide-ranging collection, the pianist and scholar Charles Rosen, while addressing the topic of ‘La Fontaine: The Ethical Power of Style’, notes in an aside: ‘What is original in Montaigne is the strange path he takes to arrive at the idea.’ It is an observation that might be equally well applied to the author of the twenty-eight pieces in this v ... (read more)

Michael Morley reviews 'The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Volume II: 1941–1956' edited by George Craig et al.

May 2012, no. 341 23 April 2012
In a 2009 interview linked to his production of Endgame in which he played Clov, the actor–director Simon McBurney observed that ‘nearly all theatre colleagues I meet have a Beckett story’. My own (second-hand) favourite Beckett story, told me by the Brecht scholar and former deputy editor of the Times Literary Supplement John Willett, might seem too drolly apposite to be true: but he assure ... (read more)


April 2012, no. 340 21 March 2012
With its opening montage of colliding images – a knife being drawn across a whetstone, television footage of massed crowds, milling soldiers in combat fatigues, politicians alighting from cars, with linking television intertitles and an underlying soundtrack of pulsating drums – Ralph Fiennes’s and John Logan’s take on Coriolanus immediately establishes its connections to contemporary even ... (read more)

Michael Morley reviews 'Duke Ellington’s America' by Harvey G. Cohen

November 2010, no. 326 01 November 2010
Early in this magisterial and exhaustively researched examination of Duke Ellington’s role in American music and society, the author offers a succinct summary of the musician’s significance as an American artist. It is worth quoting at length, as it encapsulates most of the questions addressed over the book’s 577 pages of text and almost 100 densely packed pages of notes: ... (read more)

Michael Morley reviews 'Richard Strauss: A musical life' by Raymond Holden

July–August 2011, no. 333 29 June 2011
Over the decades, Richard Strauss has been well served by English-language commentators and scholars, ranging from George Bernard Shaw, through Norman del Mar’s magisterial three-volume study (1962–72), to Michael Kennedy’s shorter, though no less illuminating, critical biography (1999). The focus of Raymond Holden’s work is explicitly narrower than theirs, offering as it does a thorough d ... (read more)

Michael Morley reviews 'Talking Theatre: Interviews with Theatre People' by Richard Eyre

February 2011, no. 328 01 February 2011
One of many dangers lying in wait for the writer (and reader) of theatre-insider books is that he or she may slip into an endless series of tired anecdotes linked by preening paragraphs of luvvie-speak – though most readers may find luvvie-speak rather more interesting, and amusing, than the piles of polly-waffle foisted on us by our elected ex-representatives. In his preface to this collection ... (read more)

Michael Morley reviews 'Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954–1981)' by Stephen Sondheim and 'Sondheim on Music: Minor Details and Major Decisions, Second Edition' by Mark Eden Horowitz

May 2011, no. 331 21 April 2011
Given Stephen Sondheim’s well-known fondness for verbal games and puzzles (as a diversion from his day job, he has devised crossword puzzles for the New York Times), it seems appropriate to begin this review with a short quiz based on some of the ‘attendant comments and grudges’ referred to in the subtitle of, and dotted throughout, Finishing the Hat. Match the author’s critical judgements ... (read more)
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