Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Rigoletto with Opera Australia and Orchestra Victoria

We are coming to the end of the Autumn Opera Australia season in Melbourne, with a two month fun of four operas:-

Verdi - Rigoletto conducted by Renato Palumbo

Tchaikovsky - Eugene Onegin. I was covering this show so didnt get the chance to play it, which is a shame as its beautiful

Rossini - A Turk in Italy, not his best but typical Opera Buffa, lots for fun on stage

Bizet - Carmen, where every number is on the greatest hits album, a real show stopper for the audience. We have two casts and one Carmen is very much better with the castanets than the other! Its a fab production but the highlight for the audience is when the horse bows with chorus in the curtain calls. Half the band scarper to the audience side of the pit wall once the gig is over, to get the best view

I was principal for Rigoletto, which gave me the chance to play the solo....which is acually a duetto for cello and bass, but we tend to think of it as a bass solo. Its the longest solo line in the repertoire. It comes at a part of the show when Rigoletto is negotiating with an assassin in a dark alleyway. Verdi had a clear concept of what a lyrical bass solo meant - something really bad is going to happen. His other notable example is Act 4 of Otello, when the bass section play a lyrical line just before the King kills his wife Desdemona.

Riggers was fun to play.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Julia Lezhneva

We perform with many artists but its rare that one completely takes your breath away. Julia Lezhneva is 24 and if she is not a global superstar already she will be acknowledged thus very soon. She is quite remarkable.

She performed baroque and classical show pieces in a concert that was part of the Hobart Baroque festival. It will live long in the memory.

This concert was a fitting end to my latest spell with the TSO. A lot of fun and great music...

...and now its time to return to Melbourne for the opera season. First up is Rigoletto and as principal all bass players will understand what that means! Part way thro the first act is one of the longest bass solos in the whole repertoire - actually its a duetto with the cello, but we like to think of it as a bass solo.

The rest of the year is starting to take shape. I will be in Melbourne for April and May doing the opera season, then the ballet will take up June, all with Orchestra Victoria.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Christopher Seaman and Tan Dun

Orchestras work with a wide range of conductors. In the database attached to this website I have listed the conductors I have worked with over the year - its not complete, just the ones I could remember and those worthy of mention. And that list now stands at 134. I have been lucky enough to work with some great musicians, including:-

Yan PascalTortelier

Recently I worked with two great musicians on this list. Once more I had the pleasure of playing in the orchestra for the Symphony Services Australia conductor training program, directed remarkable Christopher Seaman. I have done these sessions for a few years now, with several bands, but I never tire of them. Christopher is sharp, witty and insightful. His handling of the conductors and the orchestra is amazing. I learn so much each session I do.

And a completely different musician for whom I have equal respect is Tan Dun. I did a week with MSO directed by TD, doing some of his own music, some more chinese influenced stuff and some western hits such as the Mendlessohn fiddle concerto and five movements from Romeo and Juliet. I love his much - the Pipa concerto is tricky, challenging but hugely rewarding to play. It includes sections where the strings had to scream "Yao" randomly! And another piece required us to sing a tricky melody whilst playing another line!! Tan is due to write a bass concerto this year, commissioned by five orchestras who will perform it in 2015, including the Liverpool Phil and Tasmanian Symphony, where the soloist will be principal bass Stuart Thomson. I cant wait - its wonderful to have such a high profile conductor writing a bass concerto. Itll be fun.

Monday, January 20, 2014

2014 - a break then off we go again

2013 was a huge year for me and the basses. After the Ring I had the luxury of a week off before working with the Auzzie Pops Orchestra for the first time which was a lot of fun. We shot up to Sydney for two gigs in the opera house on 27 and 28 Dec before returning to Melbourne for two New Years Eve gigs in Hamer Hall. Soloists James Morrison and Marina Prior were fantastic. Marina reckons she is pushing 50 with 5 kids - I just dont believe it, as she looks and sounds way too good. And James Morrison is quite incredible. I have been lucky enough to work with him a few times, and heard his trumpet and trombone playing, but in this gig he played double and triple stops on the bone as well as performing solos on the alto sax and piano. Is there anything this man cannot do?

I am currently enjoying two weeks off before it all starts again in mid Jan, very early, with TSO. But I am not complaining as I am lucky to spend 11 weeks with TSO again, just as I did last year.

Later in the year a spell with OV beckons, plus some interesting dates with MSO. Its going to be busy once again.

Pension is in Sydney right now, having a new extension fitted by Neil Brawley.

Photo - the bass section having just played Gotterdamerung Act I (all 2 hours of it) for the last time. Only 5 hours of show to go! From L to R moi, Hugo Kluger, Nic Synot, Emma Sullivan, Lowri Morgan, Kylie Davies and Davin Holt.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Wagner's Ring - Generals over, cycle 1 starts very soon

The rehearsals are over, now its time for the show. Its been quite a slog - real hard work, and I am not in the whole program, being rostered off Seigfried. Its not the notes thats the problem - its very wll written for the bass, with far greater challenges for the fiddles, celli and horns. It the concentration that is the real test. Gotterdamerung runs for just over 7 hours in this version, with two main intervals of 1:30 and 35 mins, so thats 5 hours of music. Most operas run less than 3 hours, with one or maybe 2 intervals so no more than 2:40 with a break. Rheingold is 2:40 with no break, and althought thats the "short" opera, its still a challenge to keep focus at the end. But Gotterdamerung is altogether a different kettle of fish. The last act as 1:30 and we start it 5:30 after the start of the gig. Its a marathon...

...but amazing satisfying. It keep moving, never gets stuck. The music is remarkable. Such a range of emotions, fantastic scoring, much of it quiet and intimate.

The ring is a huge finish to a huge year. I have performed 42 programs with 835 hours of playing time. No wonder I am a bit knackered!

Photo - Curtains calls after the Gotterdamerung general on 16th Nov. Yes, the full orchestra are on stage. I am in the front row, just inside the LH "house" front column as you look, just behind some of the Rhinemaidens and their wonderfully ridiculous headwear!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Wagners Ring


We are a month in to the Ring project - the first time it has been performed by Opera Australia. Its been done in Australia before, but never by the flagship company.

The orchestra is called rather grandly the Melbourne Ring Orchestra. Its basically Orchestra Victoria with a large number of augmenting players, many of whom are world best musicians. Its given the band a real lift, and its sounding just wonderful.

I am one of the principals, which means I am rostered off Siegfried. Its a shame I will not do the whole cycle, but ergonomically its good news as the schedule is crippling.

Pietari Inkenin is wonderful - we are very lucky to have him stand in as conductor are short notice.

The orchestral readings are over, and we have met the singers - what a cast, including:-
Brunhilde - Susan Bullock
Siegfried - Stefan Vinke
Wotan - Terte Stensvold
Siegmund - Stuart Skelton, and many more

Photo - the bass section for Rheingold in rehearsal at OV in Albert Park. We are in a long line across the back, which is how its done in Bayreuth, and other notable bands such at the Vienna Phil. But am not sure I like it - we are a long way from the celli and its difficult to get a section sound stretched out in a long line - the player at either end are a long way from one another, and more worrying from the principal bass. But seems to be working - the orchestra and the basses in particular are sounding awesome. Thats me with the Lott 2nd from Right. The section is Matthew Thorne, moi, Davin Holt, Dennis Vaughan, Emma Sullivan, Hugh Kluger and out of shot Miranda Fitzgerald and Nic Synot. And the other players not on this photo are Kylie Davies and Lowri Morgan, who were on thier way from the UK when this shot was taken.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ouch, that hurts....

My data was a small part of an Australian study into musicians and injuries:-

Strad article on musos in pain

The results don't surprise me one bit - in fact I think they are conservative. One major issue that is not addressed in the article is that many musos will not admit to injuries for loss of a job or work. Take the case of a muso about to finish a trial for a job - they have just practiced their arse off to win the audition, then have been thro a prolonged period of pretty high stress and pressure on a trial, doing more practice than their counterparts who are not on trial.....all of which adds to the strain on the body. Are they going to admit to back twinge? Not on your life - that could well jeopardise them getting thro the trial and getting a job.

Its the same with free lancers - if you have a chronic condition I would like to think orchestras would still book you, and pay you if you had to take sick leave. But in this world of budget cuts I fear there is pressure to overlook injured players for younger, fitter musos who can get thro the work.

Its a tough world out there....but there is some help to hand, again from the Strad:-

The Strad - injury prevention