Ralph in Melbourne

melbourne sceneEnjoying life in Australia’s cultural heart

By Ralph McAllister in Melbourne

Who said that Melbourne was the cultural centre of Australia? On the evidence of last weekend any dispute would be futile!

The Victorian Opera Company presented Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods  in the arts complex on the river. I suspect I could sing every word of the score, having seen the show, and loved it, on Broadway over 20 years ago.

I will not try to prove my claim in public!

Sondheim’s wonderful entertainment

into the woodsThis mixture of fairy stories is where Cinderella and Rapunzel get the wrong princes, much to everyone’s agony,and Jack’s cow dies after Jack has killed the giant, while the baker’s wife pursues her own goals in order to have a child,and the wicked witch has a heart of gold as she asks her daughter to stay with her.

And in a very dark second half, most of the characters are crushed underfoot by a vengeful giant’s wife.

Confused? You needn’t be as Sondheim weaves the stories together with a talent that is second to none in the musical theatre. The production was just as seamless, the only pity being that there were only 6 performances.

The surprisingly many children in the audience joined us in  cheering at the end, after we had all shed many tears, when we were reminded that no one is alone.

Mahler with the Victoriam Symphony Orchestra

andrew davis and vict symphony orechMove to the Hamer next door,  and the Victorian  Symphony Orchestra gave us a quite electrifying rendition of Mahler’s  great 1st Symphony.

It was conducted by Sir Andrew Davis who looked about 40, but must surely be in his 60’s as he conducted Kiri in her first recording of the Four Last Songs of Strauss, many years ago.

This symphony heralded a career for Mahler, as he went on to write 9 other wonderful symphonic works. I doubt if I will ever hear a better live performance of this work. Again we cheered and cheered.

Next day a semi staged performance of that miracle of American musicals Guys and Dolls.

Semi staged it may have been,but certainly not semi committed.Excellent professional casting,a wonderful, brassy orchestra towering over the actors,a packed afternoon audience, made for a great end to the weekend.

Having directed the same show many years ago I kept being reminded of how sharp, satirical and pertinent the script is. More and more …. you guessed it…. cheering.

One big disappointment

The big disappointment was the limited number of Sidney Nolan’s panels being displayed at the renovated Hamer. Well over a thousand of the Paradise pieces are in storage. This was a gift to the nation and, as such, should be treated with much greater respect than has been shown so far.

To end on a positive note, each of the shows we saw offered free programmes, and not casual bits of paper, but fully researched and beautifully presented works of quality.

Take note, arts practitioners in  New Zealand.

 Back to jerseys

Personal preparations for the return to Wellington have been completed.

Jerseys came out, sturdy shoes donned, woolen hats capped in Melbourne, then all put away again as I walk in the glorious winter 25 degrees in Brisbane before sneaking back to Paekakariki.

Stay warm

Ralph