Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Carmen - setting fire to the Sydney Skyline

Sultry, sexy, stupendous, and that was just the set.  In reality, was there ever an opera more suited than Carmen to the unparalleled glamour of the backdrop of Sydney Harbour?

Carmen is Handa Opera’s second year of staging an opera on a temporary giant stage, floating on Sydney harbour, Last year it was La Traviata, a performance I was convinced I was born to star in, but sadly the Gods didn’t smile on that ambition -  http://catrionaling.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/it-aint-over-till-fat-lady-sings-opera.html for the full sad story – surely worthy of an operatic plot of its own.

The set and performance had a lot to contend with, for how do you compete with the iconic views of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge glittering away as scene stealers in the falling dusk?  The answer is to put on such a flamboyant, showstopper of an evening that even Australian national treasures are relegated to backdrop status.

On a beautiful dry Autumn evening in Sydney, and note the dry caveat as it has been a couple of weeks of sudden torrential downpours, there was just enough chill in the air last week to make a coat and blanket the favoured accessories for the audience, though there was the odd touch of glitz and glamour floating about under wraps and pashminas in the venue’s tapas bars before the show.

I’m not an opera buff, though I can do a fair hum along to famous tunes, (provided they have appeared in an advert – just to clarify how low brow we are talking here) but I was completely mesmerised by Rinat Shaham as Carmen.  She has the most beautiful, soaring voice and completely threw herself in to the role.  As she sashayed her way across the stage she was the living, breathing embodiment of a woman governed by passion.   There was nothing calm about Carmen, and she was definitely not necessarily a character you would want to be stuck in a lift with given the constant flow of drama going on.  I got the giggles at one point when she suggested to her lover Don Jose, that he throw her across his horse and head for the mountains, as basically I couldn’t imagine anyone less suited to a quiet retiring life amongst the hills.

The set was dominated by giant sign blazing ‘Carmen’ in the style of the old Hollywood blockbusters whilst the enormous red outline of a bull lit up the bullring scenes.  Fireworks gave an extra fizz to the night, whilst the singers arrived on stage in vintage cars and courtesy of a crane   I feel sure that staging the entire performance on a floating stage must give rise to enough health and safety issues to daunt most directors without adding in the cranes and performers lowered into action in moments of high drama, but Gale Edwards, the director managed to make it all look effortlessly and breathlessly inspired.

As the production was set in Franco’s Spain this allowed full, glamorous rein on the costume front.  Flamenco dancing and a fabulous piece of choreography with a female dancer, complete with troupe of men carrying her enormous billowing skirt produced wow moments to compete with the drama of the music.

The only regret at the end of the evening was that this this counts as homage rather than review in that in true operatic style, Carmen’s time is  up, with the last night on Sunday I’m going to miss the regular boom of the fireworks that occurred  every night just after 10 p.m. as the sky lit up in tribute to a spectacular performance.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Multi-tasking Mama, put that egg whisk down

It is a popular myth that all women are fabulous multi-taskers, but I am living proof that to every rule there is an exception.  There are no doubt some feisty and fearsome mothers out there who run the early evening domestic shift with the skill and precision of air traffic controllers, directing dinner, homework and emotional dramas with a smile and glass of mineral water.  I have a nasty suspicion that they are also probably women whose children never get nits, whose dog isn’t a notorious underwear thief and who most damningly, look good in lycra, back and front view, but perhaps that’s just jealousy speaking?

It takes a special woman to multitask and I am sadly coming to the conclusion I am not she.  An early inability to rub my tummy whilst patting my head was an indicator that unless set tasks involve reading and simultaneously eating chocolate, preferably in the bath with a glass of wine, then I am best suited to be a Uni-taskitarian.

Should you have any queries in your mind whether you are in the multi-tasking corner, no doubt whipping up a storm, or at least a soufflé, or whether you are with me in the Uni-taskitarian ranks, then just test yourself with the following obstacle race known as supper at ours.

1. Attempt to supervise offspring cooking dinner, remembering that encourage not shout is the watchword as beaters held upright ensure an interesting type of splash back decorative effect you never hear advertised as desirable in the modern kitchen.

2. In between biting tongue and separating eggs, answer questions on whether the Spanish were a bad or good thing, if moment of mental blankness strikes, try to discover whether context is colonisation, Spanish Royal Family or Euro crisis.

3. Combine calculating ratios with an attempt to iron shirt to wear tomorrow.   Note in this manoeuvre it is essential to get arm sweeping across ironing board in synchronised move with back foot lashing out in a karate style kick to prevent underwear stealing dog from burrowing in washing basket and creating yet another pair of crotch-less knickers. 

4. Deal with phone call from Husband in Europe, sitting down to his deluxe breakfast and wondering plaintively why you don’t want to talk.  Explain in a loving hiss that have just seen off two phone calls from men who appear not only to be on first name terms but also have great deals on mobile phone plans.

5. Fill in overdue school camp form, consult conscience on how vague it is permissible to be on last date of tetanus injection.

6. In a multitasking finale Henry the octopus would be proud of, all eight arms swivelling, place dinner on the table, relax that homework is beaten into submission, ditto dog, reach for a celebratory glass of white wine and swallow large mouthful of egg white decanted into glass earlier on as part of step 2.

7. In great Australian phrase “Spit the Dummy” and in this particular case, the mouthful of egg white, hard to over rate the bizarreness of texture and taste of the unexpected tipple.

Following my egg-white revelatory moment, I am abandoning all attempts at multi-tasking.  From now on one thing at a time, though obviously that doesn’t cover eating breakfast whilst typing, listening to Radio 4 and simultaneously singing the 'Pastille pickin Papa' jingle that UK readers of a certain age will remember from good old fruit pastilles ads, and which inspired the blog post title and is of course now stuck in my head for the day.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Let's stand for the anthem - and hear it for Patricia the best Stripper in town!

I know I am not going to get much sympathy from UK dwellers who seem be existing in a frozen wasteland, but the weather in Sydney over the last few days has been frightful.  The official weather forecast has been for ‘showers’ but all I can say is the people who categorise these things obviously have a very different idea to me on what constitutes a shower –  unless they mean the type of total saturation achieved by standing fully clothed under the jets of a power shower, because to be honest that was the type of rain cascading down on Sydney for most of the week rather than namby pamby type April Showers.

My mood was not improved by the disappearance of my wellies, which are not really normal garb in Sydney.  I have searched all the obvious places, the spare room immediately came to mind as everything else seems to have found a permanent home there, and having drawn a blank there though I did discover a useful stash of hockey sticks, I came to the conclusion that Husband for some reason best known to himself had put my wellies in the poolside swimming box, along with the goggles and flippers – there is I suppose a common rubbery theme.  Given it was tipping down (again) I didn’t feel like a dash to rummage around in the box, let alone the next task which would have been to insert my hands down the boots to check for spiders – have always felt this is a sure fire way to get bitten by something nasty but have been unable to come up with a better way to get round the wellie equivalent of a U bend.

Husband and Drama Queen No.1 are in fact in the UK at the moment and in the only photo I have seen to date, DQ1 resembles nothing so much as Simpkin the cat in The Tailor of Gloucester, peering crossly through the cold.  She claims not to have taken her thermals off since she arrived a week ago. So perhaps instead of moaning about the rain I should be counting my blessings that I live in a climate where thermals and wellies get put in a metaphorical “not required on voyage’ category.

I was discussing Desert Island Discs this morning and in the midst of the deeply intellectual chat, it came up that various mothers in the 60’s/70’s used to stick on very loud music and do the vacuuming with the room, if not the whole house, vibrating to Tannhauser or Rod Stewart, depending on whose mother we are talking about (Note to self, both mothers in question were Kiwis – maybe this is a strange NZ habit?).  Inspired I decided everyone needs a shout out loud anthem in their life, particularly on wet, cold days – and came home and put on Chris De Burgh’s ‘Patricia the Stripper’ full blast and pranced round the house, hips gyrating, and as ever the case with music, was transported back to my first term university, where with mullets to match Chris De Burgh, my new then, but still today, best friends, roared out the chorus. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOys46oZZJI gives you the general idea of the thing.

Instant lift, with the slight proviso that these type of antics probably best done in private and note, I did not pick up the vacuum cleaner, but there was a bit of high end breakfast debris clearance and dishwasher loading done in time to the "Swing of her hips" lyric.  But I have to say, Reader it worked.  The sun came out and the rest of the day has been glorious.  So pick your anthem, download it, crank up the volume, dance round the house and transform the day.