Michael Shmith

Biography can be difficult to achieve. There is the balance between too much detail, where one can’t see the wood for the family trees, or not enough, which can be disappointing all round. One also bears in mind possible antipathy: Sigmund Freud, who famously began burning his personal papers at twenty-nine, was dismissive of future chroniclers: ‘As for biographers, I am already looking forward to seeing them go astray.’

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Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Opera Australia) ★★★★

Michael Shmith
Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Let it be said – indeed proclaimed – that Opera Australia’s new production of Wagner’s paean to life and art and love is musically as close to a triumph as it could have been. If, by the end, you feel the outside world is a better place than the one you temporarily abandoned six hours earlier, then Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg has surely wrought ...

One day not that far away, I suspect, hot-metal memoirs will grow cold on the slab. Thus the triumph of technology over the nostalgia of those days when journalistic skills included not only being up to shorthand speed but being able to read upside down and back to front. The latter skill ...

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William Tell (Victorian Opera) ★★★1/2

Michael Shmith
Monday, 16 July 2018
It has to be said straight away that William Tell is a colossal challenge, almost as much for its audiences as its performers. People talk of Wagner’s Curse (what can go wrong, usually does, in spades), but Rossini’s operatic swansong is not far behind. What makes it especially daunting for any opera company brave or foolhardy enough ... ... (read more)

Opera: Passion, Power and Politics (Victoria and Albert Museum)

Michael Shmith
Monday, 27 November 2017

Opera is not a small artform. It is labyrinthine, multi-faceted, fraught with things that can go disastrously wrong (Wagner, especially), and it can be dreadfully expensive, formidably divisive, and astonishingly complicated. At the same time, opera is so necessarily crucial to culture as a reflection of history, thought, and ...

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Recently, the chief classical music critic of The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini, adroitly summarised the nebulous perils of his job: ‘Music, especially purely instrumental music, resists being described in language. It’s very hard to convey sounds through words. Perhaps that’s what we most love about music: that ...

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Tony Garnett, one of the most respected figures in British television drama, is also one of its most reclusive. Most people these days have almost certainly never heard of him, or, if they have, probably think he is a distant relation of Alf Garnett, of Till Death Us Do Part fame.

Even though the cantankerous Alf was a fictional character (played by ...

Books of the Year 2016

Sheila Fitzpatrick et al.
Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Originally published in German, Albrecht Dümling’s The Vanished Musicians: Jewish refugees in Australia (Peter Lang), a fascinating compendium of Jewish musicians who found refuge in Australia in the 1930s and 1940s, is now available in Australian Diana K. Weekes’s excellent translation ...

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Green Room: Michael Shmith interviews Brett Dean

Michael Shmith
Monday, 22 August 2016

Brett Dean, perhaps Australia's pre-eminent composer and certainly one of its most productive, is personable, witty, and engaging. He talks with heartfelt eloquence about ...

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Why an A-Z of Brendel? Well, this is what the man himself has to say in the preface to his slim volume, A Pianist's A-Z: A piano lover's reader (2013): 'This book distils what, at my advanced age, I feel able to say about music, musicians, and matters of my pianistic profession ...

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