Monday, October 31, 2011

Culture Vultures again

Last Thursday, P. and I went to the Potter Gallery, Melbourne Uni., for the last (for this year) of the alumni lectures. This time it was on their new exhibition of antiquities from Melbourne's private collections, mostly vases from Greece and southern Italy. As usual, it was an engaging talk by the curator, followed by a viewing of the show and wine and cheese. We then headed for Lygon Street and Tiamo II, which had a special vitello tonnato which was delicious. We overdid it by following up with tiramisu. The place of very long standing is on a winning formula.

We had normal shopping on Saturday followed by an excellent brunch at Madame Sou Sou's in Brunswick Street, then on Sunday the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra did a great concert, full of energy. It started with Respighi's slightly retro Ancient Airs and Dances, suite 3 and followed by Graeme Koehne's very energetic Shaker Dances, which the band obviously enjoyed playing. Then there was a spirited rendition of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, with four different soloists. They were joined by the experienced Ann Morgan on harpsichord, which the acoustics of the Recital Centre allowed us to hear clearly.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I've been working on a new 'non-fiction' and a collection of stories. The large, impossible manuscript has been put aside pending inspiration, which I doubt will come. You never know.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Local opera for local people

It's a rare treat to have an opera performance just around the corner, but on Sunday, the Opera Studio students put on a double bill at Rosina at the Convent, where it is reputed that Kiri Te Kanawa once put on a performance for the 'wayward girls' back in the convent days. First up was Rossini's L'occasione fa il ladro, excellently translated as Love's Luggage Lost by Amanda Holden, one of the editors of the Viking Opera Guide. It was a very even performance, well-staged and dressed and was simply a delight throughout. Pianist Rhodri Clarke did a sterling job, playing for over two hours straight for the two operas.

Less successful was The Juniper Tree with music by Philip Glass and Robert Moran. Based on a grisly Grimm's fairy tale, it didn't make much sense, nor did the production which tried valiantly but didn't rise, musically or dramatically, much beyond an old-fashioned melodrama. It was however well sung and performed and it is good to see a 'modern' work (1985 is getting a little long in the tooth) for which there is not much of an airing.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dickins and Staples

Two Melbourne Festival offerings proved rewarding this week. On Thursday, P. and I went to Whiteley's Incredible hallucination by Barry Dickins at Forty-Five Downstairs. We had a splendid dinner at the long-forgotten Il Solito Posto first, splendid service and good food. The play was well-served by its team, Julian Meyrick (director), Neil Pigot in a very energetic performance as Whiteley and the Calvert George Fine trio providing the music and sound. And of course, the author. It was an engrossing theatre experience, quite unfairly reviewed by The Age.

On Saturday, Lorraine, P. and I fought our way through the drizzle and Diwali Festival in Federation Square to Chocolate Buddha for a tasty meal, then headed to the Myer Music Bowl for Hard Road, a musical performance starring Ricky Lee Jones, Mavis Staples and Archie Roach and lots of others. It was a bit of a chill night and we were annoyed to find that our expensive seats were wet and not under cover as we had assumed, wrongly. However, the rain held off and, after we'd dried our seats, we had a very enjoyable evening. All the performers and the band were good (though the sound was a bit bass heavy, according to P.) It was a longish show, so we cabbed home at the end, well satisfied, though a little grumpy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

King Parrots

King Parrots outside our B & B at Buxton, Silverstream
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River at Buxton

Pic: Peter
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Baby Curlew

Curlews with chick at the Healesville Sanctuary (pic: Peter)
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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Over the Black Spur

P. and I are back from a weekend away, staying in Buxton, just opposite the trout farm at Silverstream Cottages. They are set in a beautiful garden with the Little Steavenson River running through it. Just down the road is the meeting of the three rivers, the Acheron, Steavenson and Little Steavenson which is not Niagara Falls but is very pleasant nonetheless. The cottage was comfortable and cosy with a cooked breakfast delivered each morning.

On the way up, on Friday, we went to the Healesville Sanctuary which was good as usual. I hadn't counted on the number of school parties, which were noisy in the night animals enclosure and needed to be shooshed. There were far more children than in the weekends. The birds of prey display has been tarted up a bit, with more birds on display and a performing cockatoo. I preferred the old, more ornithological approach.

We had a pub dinner on Friday night, and got supplies from the Healesville takeway (beef burgundy which just needed reheating) for Saturday night. On Saturday, we revisited our old friend the Cathedral Ranges, which was 72% burned during the bushfires, but is recovering well. The creeks were beautiful, shimmering rocky streams with ferns.

Before leaving on Sunday, we bought trout for dinner, fresh from the farm, straight from the water. I thought they were delicious. On the way home we stopped for the new exhibition at Tarrawarra: a retrospective of William Delafield Cook. The gallery is perfect for these large landscape works which give a very peaceful aura. There was also a small but interesting collection of photos by Jacqueline Mitelman, who does very flattering portraits of all but Christina Stead, who looks intimidating. As the weather was worsening, we headed home after a very pleasant weekend.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Dinners out and in

It was a fairly quiet week, though last Sunday, P., Frank and I went to the Royal Philharmonic's performance of Elgar's Dream of Gerontius. It's a mammoth work with large choir and orchestra, though by the end, even though it was an excellent performance, I wondered whether it was all worth it. We had a tasty dinner beforehand at Petalang Street (in Swanston Street).

Also this week had excellent dinners chez Frank and Noel T., and tonight are returning the favour to Frank with P. producing cheese-filled meatballs. I can't wait. Mango and ice cream to follow.

The massive manuscript still proves elusive, though I have a few clues now.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Pecan Summer

Last night, P., Frank and I went to Deborah Cheetham's Pecan Summer, in the company of the Governor of Victoria. She wrote the music and libretto and directed and starred in the piece, but it was very much a large ensemble piece with lots of choral and group segments. Though brisk in its storytelling, the show never palled and told a story which needed to be retold. A very talented cast included Rosamund Illing, who sang the pants off everyone, but didn't overshadow anyone else. The whole cast (almost) was excellent and Cheetham did a sterling job. Let's hope this piece doesn't just disappear from the repertoire, although its large forces will be hard to duplicate. It will be touring Australia next year, so look out for it.

Beforehand, we had a good dinner at Petalang Street, in Swanston Street, which is like a quick visit to SE Asia. The fish is excellent, as are the Singapore Noodles.