Music

Charles Osborne, who was born in Brisbane in 1927 and moved to London in 1953, is a prolific writer, broadcaster and opera critic. His latest offering, The Opera Lover’s Companion, sets out to guide its reader through 175 of the world’s most popular operas. Osborne correctly states that ‘the staples of the operatic diet today are the major works of five great composers – Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Puccini, and Strauss’ – and certain works by other luminaries. The operas of sixty-seven composers are included, but that core quintet gives us almost a third of the operas in this volume. Interestingly, in opera’s four hundred-year history, the vast majority of the most frequently performed works fall within the period between Mozart’s first featured opera, Mitridate, rè di Ponto (1770) and Strauss’s last, Capriccio (1942).

As with The New Kobbé’s Opera Book (1997), the list reveals a re-evaluation of many previously neglected operas, in particular some lesser-known works of Handel, Rossini, Donizetti, Massenet, and Strauss, which have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. Doubtless this also reflects the dearth of modern operas and the scarcity of contemporary composers who know what their audiences want. Any opera company ignoring box office appeal does so at its peril, and a book such as this should be mandatory reading.

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Ian Holtham reviews 'Undue Noise' by Andrew Ford

Ian Holtham
Monday, 23 September 2019

In his opening sentence, Andrew Ford explains that, ‘The seventy-something pieces in this volume were written over fifteen years for a range of publications and occasions’. Indeed, in the sixty-eight titles that constitute Undue Noise, forty-four of which began life in the ABC organ 24 Hours, Ford confronts us as critical theorist, copious reviewer of music, text and film, diarist, sleeve note writer, radio commentator and university lecturer.

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When the German social commentator Oscar A.H. Schmitz described England as ‘Das Land ohne Musik’ [The Country without Music], the insult stuck. Its veracity arose not because the English lacked a vibrant musical culture, or a lively intellectual class prepared to engage with what they were hearing. Rather, it was because Schmitz ...

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Of all the tributary footage screened in the days following the death of Bob Hawke, one short sequence jarred. In it, Hawke conducts the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and orchestra in the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from Handel’s Messiah, jerking and twitching in response to ...

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2018 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues

Des Cowley
Monday, 12 November 2018

Now in its twenty-ninth year, the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues continues to deliver programming that is innovative, ambitious, and far-reaching. That a long-running Festival of this scale and significance takes place annually in a regional Victorian city says much about the tenacity and dedication of the Festival’s artistic team ...

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Chopin is the greatest of them all,’ Claude Debussy told his pupil Marguerite Long, ‘for through the piano alone he discovered everything.’ This ‘everything’ had a long shadow, for Long described Debussy as ‘impregnated, almost inhabited, by [Chopin’s] pianism’. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the young Debussy ...

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In Australia’s golden age of piano production, between 1870 and 1930, the piano was, as Michael Atherton notes, ‘as much a coveted possession as a smartphone or an iPad is today’. The First Fleet imported an eclectic assortment of items, including dogs, rabbits, cattle, seedlings ...

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There was a certain predictability to the arguments that flared when Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016. For the most part, they were variations of the arguments that have shadowed him from the beginning of his career, twisted echoes of a million late-night dormitory discussions about whether ...

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Sometime in 1970, an unidentified person – perhaps a disgruntled journalist or aggrieved interviewee – scrawled the words ‘Smash “Hip” Capitalism’ onto an office wall at Rolling Stone magazine. It was an incisive piece of graffiti. Rolling Stone had begun publishing in 1967, in San Francisco, at the epicentre of the ...

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Richard Davis is admirably determined that major Australian musical artists whose careers were attenuated by illness should not fade into oblivion ...

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