Time for a quick glance over my shoulder at the passing year. Culturally it was busy enough but with little that was truly memorable. There was, however, a vintage week in early August in Sydney when the Opera company opened a really excellent new production of The Marriage of Figaro; two nights later at the Sydney Theatre Company Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh opened in The Present by Chekhov and Andrew Upton. That was indeed a memorable week. Some other vivid memories are Hugo Weaving in Endgame, Robin Nevin in a brilliant production of Suddenly Last Summer and the Australian Chambre Orchestra playing Mendelsshon.
The best news of the year was the announcement of Jonathan Church as the new Artistic Director of the STC. His ten year tenure as Director of the Chichester Festival Theatre has been a huge success. Writing here in August before the announcement, I said that the right person for that position ‘needs to be charismatic, imaginative and open minded’; Jonathan Church is all three; also he loves musicals so he’ll probably give the opera company a run for its money in that area. They might need to focus on opera!
Thinking about the holiday month of January, there is much to anticipate. In the visual arts there are continuing exhibitions: at the Art Gallery of NSW The Greats, in Canberra at the National Gallery of Australia Tom Roberts, an important review show, while at the National Gallery of Victoria the compare and contrast show of Andy Warhol/ Ai Weiwei. Of these three, I have so far only seen The Greats in Sydney. Selected from the National Galleries of Scotland, this is a really splendid show: marvelous paintings, beautifully displayed. Not just because of my Scottish heritage, I suggest you should celebrate the new year by seeing this exhibition. The artists on show are entirely worthy of the collective title The Greats. My favourites in the show include John Singer Sargent’s ravishing portrait Lady Agnew of Lochnaw (1892), Joshua Reynolds’ lush triple portrait The Ladies Waldegrave (1781) and Henry Raeburn’s brilliant, yet whimsical, portrait Reverend Robert Walker skating on Doddington Loch (c1795). This is a cracker of a show; fascinating, charming and utterly beautiful.
On January 14, the STC at The Wharf will open The Golden Age by Louis Nowra. Having premiered in Melbourne in 1985 with a production in Sydney in the following year, this new production will offer a welcome opportunity to revisit the work of Louis Nowra who was so much a part of the early years of the STC in the 1980s. Based on the true story of a lost ‘tribe’ of Europeans, the descendants of escaped convicts, who were discovered in Tasmania in 1939, it will be directed by Kip Williams of Suddenly Last Summer fame.
Speaking of playwrights, Michael Gow will be turning his hand to opera in January in the House, directing a new production, designed by Robert Kemp, of Bizet’s The Pearlfishers, enduringly popular in Australia but hardly anywhere else. Aussies do so love the men’s duet.
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