Accessibility Tools

  • Content scaling 100%
  • Font size 100%
  • Line height 100%
  • Letter spacing 100%

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.

Salome (Victorian Opera)

ABR Arts 26 February 2020
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
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
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
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)

Australian World Orchestra – Conducted by Alexander Briger

ABR Arts 29 July 2019
Once in a while (more or less annually), Alexander Briger brings Australia’s orchestral musicians home from Europe, the United States, and other international and national playing fields for a cross between a concert, a jamboree, and a school reunion. It’s irresistible, and if there’s one thing that emerges from every AWO performance, it’s that pervasive sense of release and joy, always un ... (read more)

Michael Shmith reviews 'The Boyds: A family biography' by Brenda Niall

April 2002, no. 240 01 April 2002
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 forwar ... (read more)

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Opera Australia)

ABR Arts 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 its magic. Did this happen on Tuesday? We ... (read more)

Michael Shmith reviews 'The Bootle Boy: An untidy life in news' by Les Hinton

September 2018, no. 404 23 August 2018
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 was necessary for any production journalist who spent long and awkward hours in the composing room, standing a ... (read more)

Stuart Skelton (Melbourne Recital Centre)

ABR Arts 06 August 2018
Stuart Skelton, a fine performer and strong, sensitive singer, is by nature and profession a Heldentenor. He is indeed heroic, not only in voice but in how he carries himself on stage. His Wagnerian heroes – Parsifal, Tristan, Lohengrin and Siegmund in Die Walküre – emerge as strong and supple clarion calls perfectly suited to his strong and noble technique. But I think also of Skelton’s po ... (read more)

William Tell (Victorian Opera)

ABR Arts 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 to attempt a production – and this before any consideratio ... (read more)
Page 3 of 5