Friday, October 22, 2010

Sherlock for the 21st century

Last night I managed to catch the first episode of "Sherlock", the latest iteration of the Sherlock Holmes stories. It is set in present day London in an alternative universe where Conan Doyle didn't write the Sherlock Holmes stories - by which I mean that it presents us with Holmes and Watson without any references to the originals. Holmes is a self-described sociopath and free-lance detective ("The police don't consult amateurs.") and Watson  is an army doctor who has been invalided back to England after having been wounded in Afghanistan - as indeed had the original Watson.

Holmes is played by the splendidly named Benedict Bandersnatch ... Cummerbund ... er, Benedict Cumberbatch, who looks and sounds just right for Holmes; Watson is the wonderful Martin Freeman, late of The Office and The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy; Rupert Graves is DI Lestrade, and Una Stubbs tops off the regulars as a rather perky Mrs Hudson ("I'm your landlady, not your house-keeper.).

One of the things that impressed me about the show was that it addressed something that, to my knowledge, has never been directly addressed in previous versions, viz the fact of two single men sharing a flat and working closely together and the suggestion that the relationship could be more involved. The recent film, Sherlock Holmes, with Robert Downey Jr as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson, in its own campy way suggests that Watson and Holmes are an item; but the whole film is just that - camp.

However the possibility that the pair's relationship could be more than platonic was confronted head on in the café scene where the proprietor, ever grateful to Holmes for getting him off a murder charge, offers to bring a candle to the table the two are seated at, to make it more romantic. "I'm not his date", Watson insists (twice, if I recall); and a little later even Holmes admits to the misunderstanding that Watson is interested in him "like that". This again Watson staunchly denies.

Now, I'm not for a moment suggesting that in this incarnation the two men are romantically involved, just that it's like a breath of fresh air that the possibility is aired and explored.

One other aspect I really liked was the presence of the other great character in the Conan Doyle stories, the city of London. The story, A Study in Pink, centred around a series of suicides where the people involved had all taken the same drug. Lestrade calls for help from Holmes who quickly decides that rather than suicides, these are all murders, and so begins the hunt for the murderer.

The script is snappy and the visuals gloomy, though not in the steam-punk fashion of the Downey/Law film. I look forward to seeing the next episode tonight.

The third episode of Sherlock is being screened on 9 on Sunday.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bach to rehearsals

Last night was my first rehearsal for the next Gloriana concert: Bach's magnificent Mass in B minor. The concert will be on Friday, November 26 at 8pm, at St Mary's Star of the Sea, West Melbourne. It promises to be a wonderful concert and I hope at least one of my readers will come.

It's a long sing, and for the tenors quite high, but last night reminded me of all the wonders contained in this amazing score. I think I'll need all the coming weeks' rehearsals to build up the stamina needed to last the distance.

While I have sung the work a couple of times at St John's Southgate, it has always been broken up into parts and spread over several weeks. The only time I have performed it as a whole was with Ensemble Gombert in 2000 for their weekend of Bach performances, timed to celebrate the 250th anniversary of his death if I recall correctly. The Mass opened the weekend festival on the Friday night, and was performed to a packed St Patrick's Cathedral; it was one of the high points in my choral-singing career.

Labels: ,

Vale Dame Joan Sutherland

It was announced this morning that La Stupenda, Dame Joan Sutherland, has died. She was 83 and hadn't sung for about a decade, but it's a huge loss nonetheless.

The Collaborative Piano Blog has collated links to coverage here.

I saw her perform only a few times, but was lucky enough to see her Lucia, at the Palais of all places. Despite the size of the theatre her pianissimos could be hear at the back of the stalls - she was running around the stage in the mad-scene and producing this  extraordinary sound. A truly amazing tour de force. I have a few of her recordings, though not a lot as it is mostly repertoire I've never been a huge collector of. But today I'm overdosing by listening to ABC FM which is, quite rightly, devoting much of their airtime to reminiscences and recordings.

Picture linked to at Collaborative Piano Blog

Labels: , ,

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Wagner City

Tonight I went with BN and KN to the Victorian Wagner Society meeting at MLC. The speaker was Lyndon Terracini, the new Artistic Director of Opera Australia (OA). He was there mainly to talk about the recently announced Ring cycle to be performed in Melbourne in 2013 but spoke about opera in Australia in general and in Melbourne in particular.

He said there were two main reasons that the cycles will be done in Melbourne: the first is the obvious matter of a suitable theatre; the second (which surprised me) was that Terracini is of the opinion that Wagner fits Melbourne's cultural life better than Sydney's. In fact the plans are to make Melbourne the Wagner centre for the Southern Hemisphere.

The Melbourne Ring (as they are calling it) will be a tri-ennial event from 2013 to 2019 after which it is planned to have a new production. As well OA plans to include at least one other Wagner opera in each year's Spring season in Melbourne in the years between each cycle year. (I hope I'm making it clear.) They hope to form a Wagner orchestra for these performances which will give training to young players and develop a level of experience and performance practice amongst local musicians.

In response to comments from the audience about the 2011 Melbourne opera season being fairly pedestrian he made it clear that he agreed (making it clear that when he took up his position all except the new Bohème were already programmed) and said he was committed to bringing the current Sydney-only productions of Der Rosenkavalier and Peter Grimes to Melbourne in the near future. He went on to declare a commitment that the company would also produce at least one Australian work each year, including newly commissioned operas and revivals (and in some cases reworkings) of such works as Batavia, Mer de Glace and The Eighth Wonder.

In all it was a very interesting night and much more optimistic than I expected.