The Shape of Home is a show about the life and works of Al Purdy currently being presented by the Festival Players in the Studio Theatre at the Streetcar Crowsnest. Actually I think it’s about a lot more than Al Purdy. It does tell his story and use his poems as song material but in the creative process something a bit magical happened. It was created during lockdown using Zoom with the creator/participants messaging back and forth with ideas, snippets of songs and (mostly dark) thoughts. The creative process must have been gruelling and at times disheartening but the final result is a show of high energy, and humour. But above all it’s life and art affirming. Performed in the tiny Studio Theatre it’s also very intimate. For the first time since the theatres reopened I felt I had got my old life back.
Last night the main stage of the Four Seasons Centre was the setting for celebrating the award of the twelth Glenn Gould prize to the great Jessye Norman. There were speeches, of course, celebrating Ms. Norman’s life as a singer rising to the top of the profession from unpromising origins as well as her lifetime of educational and philanthropic endeavours. They were decently short and to the point allowing us to get onto to the music, though not before we had heard Ms. Norman’s heartfelt and very touching acceptance speech.
Both Viktor Ullmann and Alexander Zemlinsky were among the group of composers persecuted by the Nazi regime. Ullman would die in Auschwitz, Zemlinsky in exile and obscurity. This 2008 recording from Los Angeles Opera’s “Recovered Voices” series brings together two one act operas; Ullman’s Der zerbrochene Krug and Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg. in productions directed by Darko Tresnjak and conducted by James Conlon.
The DVD of Opera Australia’s production of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw is a train wreck. I’m not sure how much of the problem is due to the stage production and how much to the treatment for DVD but the end result is horrible. It’s almost impossible to comment on Neil Armfield’s production because one can’t tell when one is seeing it and when it’s being overlaid or perhaps even replaced by some conceit of the video director. The overall effect is completely incoherent. The barely TV quality picture doesn’t help things.
Musically it’s not good either. The singing is, at best, patchy. The children (Lanneke Jones as Flora and Patrick Littlemore as Miles) do fine and the ghostly pair; Anson Austin and Wendy Dixon, are adequate without being terribly otherworldly. The real problem lies with the Governess of Eilene Hannan and the Mrs. Grose of Margaret Haggart. Both are squally when loud and tending to drop into speech when quieter. Their duets are really hard on the ears. David Stanhope conducts the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. It’s not pretty. This score is hugely rhythmically inventive and the rhythm should drive the thing along. This reading is rhythmic mush. Again, nobody is helped by the recording. The quality of the Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is poor. It’s unfocussed and muddy adding to the overall lack of definition.
If you’ve got this far you probably won’t care that there are no subtitles and the only documentation is a chapter listing. There isn’t even a cast list.