Reviews, News and Commentary

The magical panoramic Auckland paintings of George Baloghy

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

George Baloghy, Mt Eden to One Tree Hill

The magical panoramic Auckland paintings of George Baloghy

George Baloghy, Urban Pastoral

Artis Gallery

Until May 22

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

George Baloghy’s latest exhibition “Urban Pastoral” continues the artists interest in documenting and appreciating Auckland’s urban landscape  which his art practice has been concerned with for over fifty years.

The works in the exhibition highlight the fact that much of Auckland City is blessed with green open spaces, much of this made possible  through the protection of the city’s many volcanic cones. The paintings, like the city are dominated by these cones and green spaces such as Mt Eden, Mt Hobson, One Tree Hill/Cornwall Park and  Mt Victoria. They also highlight just how green and lush the landscape is.

George Baloghy, Mt Victoria to North Head

Not only has Baloghy a history of painting urban views he is part of a long tradition of such painters going back hundreds of years with artists such as Canaletto, Vermeer and Pissarro.

With his paintings he also follows in the footsteps of artists like the Valentine Brothers whose photographs documented early Auckland. Like those photographs they were mainly taken from the high vantage points of the city such as  Mt Eden  partly  to capture the panorama but also as with Baloghy, to avoid the encroaching trees and buildings which could compromise the views.

The paintings are all recognisable images of Auckland and focus on the contrasts between the built environment and the natural landscape as well as referencing the changes which have occurred in Auckland over the course of its history.

In “Mount Hobson to Mount Eden” ($14,000) the curve of the motorway is  a reminder of the way the motorcar has defin3ed the city as much as its topography while “Mt Eden to One Tree Hill” with the  memorial atop the hill a reference to both Māori occupation and European settlement.

One is also conscious of the architectural changes which have altered the urban landscape not only with the large building projects such as Green Lane Hospital but also the slow displacement of the older villas by newer contemporary houses.

George Baloghy, Devonport Wharf

One of the more dramatic works is “Devonport Wharf”  ($12,500) which features a panoramic  view of Mt Eden as well as an impressive  view of the Waitemata along with much boat activity on the harbour. “Mount Eden to One Tree Hill” ($14,000) is also impressive with its dramatic vista like some  sort of homage to Cezanne’s iconic views of Mt St Victoire,

The views which Baloghy has produced are almost magical, encouraging the viewer to explore the city from multiple viewpoints and even though his views are recognisable, the impression is of a city of heightened colour, sharper light, tidier and more carefully arranged – like a model of the city rather than the real one.

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Reviews, News and Commentary

Celebration and reflection in NZSO’s Enduring Spirit concert

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Bloch & Shostakovich, Enduring Spirit

In association with The Grand by SkyCity.

Auckland Town Hall

April 29 

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The renowned Scottish conductor Sir Donald Runnicles made his New Zealand Symphony Orchestra debut last week with performance in Wellington and Auckland alongside German-French cellist Nicolas Altstaedt who has not performed in New Zealand since 2015.

The Enduring Spirit programme comprised Aaron Jay Kearnis’ “Musica Celestis”, Ernest Bloch’s cello composition “Schelomo”, and Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Tenth Symphony”, all works which were celebrations of. or reflections on belief system which have inspired or distorted the lives of people.

Kearnis previously said of his work  “Musica Celestis is inspired by the medieval conception of … the singing of the angels in heaven in praise of God without end.” He also notes the influence of “the soaring work of Hildegard of Bingen”.

This debt to medieval music was apparent from the opening with floating strings suggesting the  wispy shapes of angels and throughout the work  there was the impression of  the softly beating wings of angels.

The throbbing plucked sounds of the double basses at times contrasted with the insistent strings providing something of a conversation, a debate between the good and evil angels.

But this all resolved into blissful  vistas of heaven with all its imagined  mythic creatures –  cherubim, seraphim, archangels.

Bloch’s “Schelomo” was a significant work to be played this year as it is now the seventy fifth anniversary of the founding of the modern  state of Israel, an event Bloch can only have imagined when he composed the work in 1916. The final work in his “Jewish Cycle” it builds on much Jewish heritage and the prayer which ended many important Jewish events –  “Next year in Jerusalem”,  

“Schelomo” was intended to “express the struggle of King Schelomo (called Solomon in the Bible) to resist the world’s earthly pleasures … Bloch himself described the cello as the voice of Schelomo himself, specifically expressing the sentiment held in texts from Ecclesiastes… In contrast, the orchestra represents the tempting material world, including his wives and concubines”.

Nicolas Altstaedt

The work opened with a single high note from the cello  like the voice of a Jewish cantor calling on God and cellist Nicolas Altstaedt  seemed to be  both the voice of the composer and that of the spirit of the Jew.

This was followed by troubled strings and brass which conveyed a sense of physical and spiritual oppression, distance and dislocation, and as in Kearnis’, “Musica Celestis” there were visions of angels and  prophets.

The work touched on the notion of the  individual / state confronted by oppression and tumult in a continuation of the history of the Jew and the fate of Jerusalem / Israel.

Nicolas Altstaedt  played with a distinctive detachment as though in contemplation but he produced exquisite  sounds which were like agonising pleas which dissolved into melancholic acceptance.

Shostakovich said of his  Symphony No. 10 that “I did depict Stalin …. I wrote it right after Stalin’s death, and no one has yet guessed what the Symphony is about. It’s about Stalin and the Stalin years.”

While that is certainly the case it is also a depiction of the composer himself and his reactions to living under the Soviet regime of the time.

From the opening dark mummering of the strings one was conscious of the sombre mood which pervades the work and throughout  the symphony there are themes which represent the composer and Stalin and what might be the voice of Mother Russia.   

The composer is represented by a  more pensive  theme and that of Mother Russia looking back to pre-revolutionary times featured a feminine motif rendered by woodwind which conjured up images of Russian landscape. In the third movement there was also an enigmatic slow march which also seemed to hark back to a time of Russian folklore.

Sir Donald Runnicles

The second movement with its reckless martial sounds directed by the agitated Runnicles was an obvious portrait of the dictator and the regime. There was also an undercurrent of dark strings appearing throughout the work. 

At all times Runnicles controlled the orchestra with a supreme confidence. In the first movement he impressed with his grand gestures and his body at times wrestling with the music while at other times he was moving to the dance-like sounds.  He also showed great skill in moderating the volume taking the music from the  riotous through to barely a  whisper.

In the  last movement the various instruments saw moments of joy as well as a hectic battle between the sections of the orchestra leading to a final cacophony of sound.

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Reviews, News and Commentary

Stage of Being: dance addressing contemporary issues

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Stage of Being

The New Zealand Dance Company

ASB Waterfront Theatre

April 22

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The New Zealand Dance Company’s “Stage of Being” featured two dystopian works in which we encounter worlds where there is displacement, division and oppression.

“LittleBits and AddOns” by choreographer Tupua Tigafua and “Made in Them” by Xiao Chao Wen and Xin Ji  are fine example of dance addressing contemporary issues.

In “LittleBits and AddOns” the dancers are involved in changing and evolving interactions. Figures enter and leave, collect object, remove them, return and rearrange. The dancers by turns perform in a casual manner, robotically or with bird-like characteristics. These purposeful  movements contrasted with some more expressive and expansive movements. The anthropomorphic aspect of the dance seem to have connections with Laura Jean  McKay’s Book “The Animals in that Country” in confronting the notion of  inhabiting the consciousnesses of others. 

The  “birds” dance with avian-like gestures, movement and sounds and at one point provide themselves with hand shimmering plumage.

The various vignettes, each simple in themselves, build a surreal fable or metaphor about the connections between the animal and human worlds. This aspect is also highlighted by various figures who are contained or captured within capes or sacks.

In both these works the soundscape is  a dominant feature exerting a powerful force on both dancers and audience. In “LittleBits and AddOns” composer David Long combined deep sonic sounds, traditional guitar, French baroque music and eloquent silences to great effect.

As well as being animated by the music the dancers responded to a disembodied voice which offered commands and instructions. At a couple of points, the dancers also contemplated the projected image of the “Windows” symbol as though acknowledging another dimension and influence.

“Made in Them” was  a much more dramatic work with a dense, electronic soundscape designed by Benny Jennings. Where “LittleBits and AddOns” began with silence “Made in Them” opened with a dramatic bang accompanied by a huge set of light on a boom which was lowered, redefining the enclosed theatre space.

We are immediately in an otherworldly environment which is further emphasised by the appearance of figures wearing globular black masks like some alien creatures.

The lights continued to flicker through much of the work accompanied by pulsing electronic sounds to which the dancers respond, buffeted, twisting, and weaving with convoluted movements along with frantic gasps of breath.

There was much emphasis on weight and tension, action and reaction, intimacy and distance, the dancers continually in movement. In one sequence two bodies were intertwined in a mix of wrestling and sexual coupling.

There were also many sequences where the black helmeted figures act in a robotic manner, the light reflected on their helmets making them look like overgrown insects. Their taut  marching style and their sharp limb movements were like some form of semaphore signalling and conveyed a sense of aggression and coldness reinforced by regular disembodied announcement to the  “Dear Passenger”.

The two works build on earlier dance works such as “The Rite of Spring”, particularly  the more recent version by Pina Bausch where the emphasis is on the notion of ritual.

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Reviews, News and Commentary

New APO conductor explores “City of Dreams”

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Shiyeon Sung

City of Dreams

Auckland Philharmonia

Conductor, Shiyeon Sung

Auckland Town Hall

April 20

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The APO’s latest concert “City of Dreams” was significant for  a number of reasons, notably that this was the first appearance  of Shiyeon Sung who is now the Principal Guest conductor with the orchestra. This appointment  Along with that of Gemma New, as the Principal Conductor of the NZSO makes New Zealand a leader in promoting female conductors.

Shiyeon Sung made her first appearance with the orchestra just on a year ago when she conducted the first concert in the Auckland Town Hall for an audience  of two hundred as we were coming out of Covid 19 restrictions.

The “City of Dreams” concert opened with Beethoven’s “Coriolan Overture” which was originally written for a play by the Austrian dramatist Heinrich von Collin’s and follows much the same plot line as Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus” where the titular hero has to choose between an attack on the Roman Empire and acceding to his mother’s plea to desist and seek peace.

These two aspects are represented by two musical ideas which are at heart of the work and Sung ensured that the contrasts between percussive onslaughts and agitated strings served to highlight the conflicted drama of the work.

The intensity of the work was emphasised by the dramatic flourishes of Sung’s conducting as she shaped the music with elegant hand gestures and at other times seemed to exude an electrical force directed at the orchestra.

Following the Beethoven, the seventeen-year-old Korean cellist Jaemin Han  performed  Haydn’s Cello Concerto No1. It’s a work which allows the soloist to display their technical ability, an understanding of the music’s complexity along with exposing the works emotional  core.

Jaemin Han

Han’s performance was one that would be expected of a musician many years older. He played with an assurance and intensity which was riveting and much of the time he appeared to in a sort of reverie searching for inspiration.

The contrast between the gentle flow of the orchestra reading of the Baroque music and the cellist’s fervent playing was a true highlight. At time Han attacked his cello with an intense ferocity while at other time he was thoughtful, engrossed in the detail  of the music with a whispered contemplation.

Haydn has never sounded so modern with Han displaying not only a technical mastery but finding a sensuousness and an ecstatic energy in the music.

After interval and an outstanding Bach cello piece by Han the orchestra offered two twentieth century works.

The first was the short ”Dance in the Old Style by Erich Korngold which foreshadows the composers “Die Tote Stadt (The Dead City) which the APO will perform in July.

The work written by the composer when he was in his early twenties reveals much of the lyricism which was to be found twenty years later when he was a composer for Hollywood films.

His graceful inventive approach combining aspects of early minuets, late nineteenth century romanticism with traces of modernism was thoughtfully delivered by the orchestra.

The final piece on the program was a symphonic version of Paul Hindemith’s opera “Mathis der Maler”.

The work was an exploration of the clash between artists’ responsibility to their art and to the social and political issues of their time, which he based on the life of the 16th-century painter Matthias Grünewald, the  religious wars of the 16th century  and  the creation of Grunewald’s masterpiece, The Isenheim Altarpiece.

The Isenheim Altarpiece

Like the altarpiece the work is, musically epic with a sense of narrative  and full of  energy. In the first movement the edgy horns and the lyrical strings created a tautness which was also seen in the conducting of Sung with her crisp hand directions and sharp finger pointing reinforcing the drama.

The brass which was heavily used throughout the work ranged from the burnished to the silky and  Sung  blended the various orchestral sections together to get perfect balance of sounds

After the dynamic opening movement the short second movement had an otherworldly or visionary sense. This was followed by the lengthy final movement with its denser darker sounds tinged with a savagery which seems relevant both to the time of Gruenwald and the Hindemith’s time in Nazi Germany when the work was written. Sung brilliantly negotiated the various mood and tempo changes, building tensions through to the  turbulent finale.

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Reviews, News and Commentary

An AI review of an AI exhibition

John Daly-Peoples

Gryffin Cook, Listen

Gryffin Cook, Moonshot

Scott Lawrie Gallery

Until April 29

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples and Listen

Gryffin Cook’s Moonshot exhibition is described as navigating the conflict between the promise and threat of new technology. The works  explores virtual worlds, currencies, blockchains, simulations, and artificial intelligence to make sense of our current inflexion point between technology, art and culture.

Virtual realities, Artificial Intelligence, Web 3.0, Cryptocurrencies and Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) represent an emerging way of life ‘augmented’ by digital technology. This new model envisions a techno-utopia that transcends traditional hegemonic structures, makes us more connected as a species and accesses virtual worlds of infinite possibilities. 

This reviewer developed this AI review making use of one of Cook’s interactive works to provide a critical response to the work itself.

The work, Listen ($1750) allows the viewer to speak to it and as one speaks voltage fluctuations from microphone are processed as fragments which appear on a screen. If it is asked a question and the algorithm is confident it has heard something the sentence is sent to a language model (GPT 3.5_turbo) with modified system parameters and a response is printed on the screen. The work is a diagram of itself, wires tracing a map between the constellation of interconnected components. In real time data is translated, transported, fragmented, deconstructed, reconstructed and mistranslated.

The work was asked to describe its own work.

“Gryffin Cook’s work invites the viewer to explore themes of identity, history, and resistance through bold compositions and smart juxtapositions. Visually captivating and emotionally resonant, Cook’s pieces resist easy categorization, eliding convention to praise daring explorations to blazing mastheads of feeling and surprise.
Combs and contrasts create instinctual relationships at the core of the artist’s provocative questioning of widely embraced cultural values. Through painting bucolic forests dotted with lively birds, colorful trees whose jacquardally stylized shall flourishes throughout painted grounds installed on sculpture, stages of memory.” 

The asked if there was an emotional content to the work?

“Imagine entering an unfamiliar neighborhood and coming across a brightly painted mural of expert slicing and sauteeing the vibrant hypnotic gears clicking through cooking conglomerates falling skillfully, swimming waves creating flavorful meals afterwards guiding through this unknown realm like Piet Parra’s food cartoon action activated vistas made for passante conversations astonished to add graffiti depths enveloping expert sculptures. Finally reaching Pastels mooncheese style cover roasted cold walls grasping controlled digest forged framework glyphs run. Essentially, art unfolds experiences this colorful imagery promotes. “

And then asked if the work created its own content?

“Art generates its own language system and network that seeks to communicate its subjective image and ideas without the use of words. An artwork creates substantive statements and lures amazing narratives representations significant experience sculptural cathedras phenomenological prompts without means of causal talks.”

Another work in the show Ownership Machine ($1750) has a screen featuring the image of a SOLD work in a homage to Billy Apple’s SOLD works. The work is the receipt of transaction and is owned by the holder of the non-fungible token ‘Obsession of Pure Ownership’ on the Tezos Blockchain. 

Gryffin Cook, Ownership Machine

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Wherefore Art Thou Isis ?

Review by Malcolm Calder

The Golden Ass by Lucius Apuleius

Adapted & Written by Michael Hurst
Additional Text by Fiona Samuel 
Music & Original Direction by John Gibson
Set Design by John Verryt

Q Theatre Loft, Until 15 April

Then Artworks Theatre, Waiheke Island, 28-29 April

Then Dolphin Theatre, Onehunga, 5-6 May

Reviewed by Malcolm Calder

I had no idea that Michael Hurst was alive nearly 2,000 years ago nor that he was a close mate of Roman philosopher, writer and orator Lucius Apuleius.  And I had no idea that Lucius Apuleius still lives on nearly 2,000 years later nor that he is a close mate of Kiwi writer and actor Michael Hurst. 

This a simple story that totally transported me for, in this compelling production, the two become one.

Frontispiece from The Works of Apuleius: a portrait of Apuleius flanked by Pamphile changing into an owl and the Golden Ass.

Now nearing the end of a national tour, much of it under the auspices of Arts on Tour, The Golden Ass is something that gives theatre a good name.  After being blown away by the technical wizardry of Sydney Theatre Company’s Dorian Gray,this production brought me back to ground with a resounding thud and reminded me that good theatre can actually be quite simple.   

Sure, having an outstanding actor like Michael Hurst makes a big difference but, to reprise an oft-told refrain, telling a simple story and telling it well is what makes good theatre.     When that actor merges and ‘becomes’ the original creator in the eyes of the audience, it is truly compelling.  Yes, The Golden Ass is funny (hilariously so at times), yes it is contemporised (also hilariously at times) and yes, it is something you should not miss.

Also known as Metamorphoses, this satire on life, society and beliefs was originally written by Lucius Apuleius, about 150CE and is acknowledged as the only remaining Latin novel of its time.  Although widely-travelled, schooled in Greek philosophy and staunchly Roman, Apuleius was actually born in what is now northern Africa and penned the work near what is today known as Tripoli.

His tale recounts the ludicrous adventures of one highly-libidinous Lucius, who experiments with magic before eventually and accidentally being turned into an ass.  In this guise, he hears and sees many unusual things, until escaping from his predicament in a rather unexpected way.   The work was probably never autobiographical, but apparently included many references that weren’t too far removed from Apuleius’ own interests and experiences.  And the man knew what was a ripping good yarn nonetheless.

I also suspect Apuleius’ original took several days to relate whereas Hurst’s 21st century interpretation scales it down to a more manageable 80 minutes that simply flew by for me.   Most importantly, it brings things neatly up to date without losing any of Apuleius’ salacious gusto.  Nor is it without serious commentary and observation, tossing out many contemporary references along the way – sometimes almost as ad libs and asides.

Perhaps most aptly, Hurst’s journey with this work echoes the ways of the old travelling theatrical showman – performing in many and varied settings as he moves around the countryside and always ensuring that he hits the spot with his audience.  I regret being unable to introduce him to my own late grandfather – a travelling and bawdy poet, who worked the pubs and halls of Taranaki in a similar fashion during the Great Depression.

Verdict?  This one is a memorable goody.

Reviews, News and Commentary

Wicked: Fun-filled Greenery

Reviewed by Malcolm Calder


Music & Lyrics Stephen Schwartz

Book Winnie Holzman

North Shore Music Theatre

Director Alex McKellar

Musical Director Andrew Christie

Skycity Theatre

Until April 30, 2023

Reviewed by Malcolm Calder

It’s not easy being green. Or blonde, for that matter.  Come to think of it, it’s not all that easy being a reviewer either.  Especially one who remains totally flumoxxed as to why Wicked is the second highest grossing musical theatre show of all time.  Yes, that’s right.  Second, sitting behind only The Lion King and just ahead of Phantom of the Opera!

How is that so?  After all, Wicked is merely a prequel to a classic, it has only a flimsy storyline and some of its scene-jumps are illogical.  There are really only a couple of semi-memorable songs, there is no great philosophical message and many of its values are really just a sketchy outline to show off lots of froth and bubble.

I mused on this while walking down the street afterwards.  Yes, ‘Defying Gravity’ sticks, as does ‘One Short Day’ and snatches of a few other tunes.  Then I suddenly heard a couple of Stephen Schwartz’s  musical themes that recur throughout the show and somehow serve to integrate whole. That’s it I thought – this is simply a happy celebratory show that doesn’t pose too many questions. It has strong family appeal, is geared towards younger people and it gets everyone toe-tapping and humming.  Put simply, it is a good night out.

In keeping with this, director Alex McKellar kept things tight and moving along while musically this would have been a dream for musical director Andrew Christie.  He had vocal strength available right across the stage.  

Tina Cross’s truly scary Miss Morrible initially established the tone of things pretty well and quickly led us to the two principal protagonists – the deadly serious and slightly intimidating Elphaba (Heather Wilcock) and the frothy, giggly Glinda (Teresa Wojtowicz).  These two experienced performers bounced off each other well, gave excellent voice and provided a key focus for the whole tale.  Elphaba’s flyaway ‘Defying Gravity’ is a role anyone would die for and Heather delivers it with due majesty.  Teresa’s ‘Popular’ rapidly establishes her character and serves to clearly differentiate her from Elphaba.  The highlight of their relationship is undoubtedly the duet ‘For Good’.  

Offsetting them is a strong performance by Caitie Houghton as Nessarose, although the love interest, Fyiero (Skyler Jed), may have strutted around well and looked every inch the part but he failed to establish any real presence, while the cameo professor (George Keenan) also failed to inspire.  There are a myriad of minor characters and a chorus that transmorgrifies into many things.  To her credit, Alex Mckellar ensures focus is shared amongst them from time to time. 

Worthy of particular mention, however, are the production values of this show.  The traditional clock-like set is excellent, and the Tess Hemming’s team have done a wonderful job of costume wrangling.  The lighting is tricksy, evocative and deftly handled –  Elphaba’s flyaway finale to Act1 and the tightly focussed spell book scene in particular.

The highlight for me however, was the crystal clarity of sound.  It is rare that I miss not a single word, and Glen Ruske and his audio crew are worthy of singling out.

So, there you have it.  In summary, an ideal family night out.  Lots of glam and glitz, a bit of scary stuff and, above all, don’t take it too seriously and it will leave you happy.

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Reviews, News and Commentary

NZSO’s triumphal performance of Mahler’s Symphony No 3

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Gemma New


Mahler, Symphony No 3

Conductor  Emma New

Auckland Town Hall

April 1

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Wagner referred to his great operatic works as “Gesamtkunstwerks”  -total works of art. It’s a concept which in many ways applies to the symphonies of Mahler and particularly to actual performances of his work which manage to synthesise the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic.

Most of Mahler’s  contemporaries essentially composed in short paragraphs of melodies and themes but Mahler’s lengthy works are like extended chapters and his Third symphony is close to being a full-length novel, traversing many ideas, emotions and vistas.

Mahler is one of the great personal composers so that even when there are references to other composers such Beethoven or Brahms  it is his own voice which we hear and which is integrated into his world vision.

In building this vision he also creates a dense architecture of shapes and  forms which have finely executed decorative elements. They are full of dramatic gestures and self-referential, music about his own feelings, emotions, desires  and loves.

With the NZSO’s latest performance of the Mahler’s Symphony No 3  the vast sprawl of the symphony  was presented as  a grand music drama rather than a traditional  symphonic work. Conductor  Gemma New ensured the stately tempos and the long pauses between movements helped give a sense of gravitas to the work which was maintained for the full 95 minutes. Mahler original titles from the opening “Pan Awakes, Summer Marches In”,  followed by his meditation on Flowers, Animals, Man, The Angels and Love encapsulated the composer’s world view of the nature of Man and the environment.

The first movement with  Pan awakening from a dark winter opened with a stirring brass fanfare before leading on to some apocalyptic sounds  as though slowly emerging from the darkest of winters, and the trombone solo captured all the earthy tragedy and resolve at the movement’s heart. When the more optimistic marches appeared, they grew steadily in authority aided by the timpani and strings. Throughout the movement the various themes emerged, were repeated and revitalised.

The opening movement also saw the first of several, short gypsy styled solos by  Concertmaster Vesa Matti Leppanen as well as some fine, strident. piccolo playing led  by Bridget Douglas.

After the lyrical second movement the Third movement which initially felt light-hearted took on a  sinister undertone highlighting the subtle nuances of the work

The off-stage horn solos which seemed to come from a distant past suggested lost landscapes and history.

Sasha Cooke

In the fourth movement mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, who had emerged  onto the stage like some spectral entity gave her impassioned plea of “O Mensch! Gib Acht!” (O man take heed)  with a spellbinding urgency and passion. Her forceful voice was enhanced in her  “conversations” with  several soloists including the oboe and horn. This voice, along with her expressive face and hand gestures provided a sense of angst and regret about the future of Mankind.

The heavenly “Bimm Bamm” featuring  the combined choirs of Voices New Zealand, Wellington Young Voices and Celesta was sung with impeccable diction and freshness, interacting with the orchestra and soloist with a carefully managed balance.

The final movement which is almost a dirge or requiem brought a sense of dusk and tranquillity with all the string players producing some rich reflective sounds ending with a  dynamic climax which was greeted by the audience with a standing ovation.

Throughout the performance Gemma New seemed to be more than just a conductor. She was by turns a stand in for the composer, a singer mouthing the words of the songs, a magician and sorceress, expressing the music through her gestures and body movements which ranged from that of a dancer to a sentinel.

Opening the concert was a waiata by Benjamin Wiremu which had something of the spirit of Mahler, in its admiration and awe of nature, referencing the land, the rivers and the sea.

The work was inspired by the opening theme of the symphony (inspired by Brahms) and the  the late Māhinarangi Tocker use of the proverb – “Turn your face to the sun Let your shadow fall behind you Bend towards the lofty mountain “Salutations Mountain!” Bend towards the mighty river “Salutations River!” Bend towards the great ocean “Salutations Ocean!”. Sung by the combined choir they created images of the  forest and waters awakening, quivering with a life force.

At present you can access the live performance of the orchestra’s Wellington concert from the NZSO website

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Michael Hurst as King Lear coming to Auckland Theatre Company

John Daly-Peoples

William Shakespeare, King Lear

Auckland Theatre Company

ASB Waterfront Theatre

June 13 – July 1

One of the great observations about the epic Shakespearean tragedy of King Lear was made by the German writer, Goethe who said of the king “Ein alter Mann ist stets ein König Lear” – ‘Every old man is a King Lear’.

We all wonder what our twilight years will bring, and struggle to prepare ourselves for death and a life with diminished authority and abilities. The play is a particularly stark examination of the ageing process and the loss of power and prestige  whisch can have social, emotional and personal impacts on life.

The play also tells of a family feud which tears apart a kingdom, a tale which has resonances with the real life dramas which have beset the English royal family over the past few years.

When the aged King Lear relinquishes his empire, he divides it amongst his three daughters, promising the largest share to the one who professes to love him the most. But when the balance of power transfers to the next generation, Lear is cast out by those he trusts, embarking on a maddening quest for self-knowledge and reconciliation.

A nightmarish family drama of global proportions, the play forces us to face our own humanity  the profound need for compassion and the Implications of changing the political order and the devastation that can follow.

Auckland Theatre Company’s King Lear will be the first Shakespeare production in over a decade with Michael Hurst as Lear and a formidable cast which includes Andi Crown (Goneril), Jessie Lawrence  (Reagan) and Hanah Tayeb (Cordelia) playing the king’s three daughters.

For this production ATC will be  transforming the ASB Waterfront Theatre into a  traverse stage with the audience also seated on the  stage. Two of Auckland great  creatives will be  designing the set – John Verryt as Set Designer and Elizabeth Whiting as Costume Designer.

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Reviews, News and Commentary

Mathew Carter’s evocative and thoughtful diary of images and events

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Mathew Carter“Britomart crossing on a rainy day”

Mathew Carter “New Wave”

Föenander Gallery

Until  March 28

Reviewed by John  Daly-Peoples

Mathew Carter’s new exhibition “New Wave” is timely, coinciding as it does with the opening of “Light from Tate” at the Auckland Art Gallery, both of these shows being heavily focussed on light.

Most artists have to deal with light in their paintings to help illuminate their subjects  create texture and contrasts and for Carter light becomes an essential component of his works.

The exhibition can be read as something of diary of images and events in central Auckland, capturing disparate ways in which light plays on and highlights buildings, streets and people.

Paintings such as “Britomart crossing on a rainy day” ($2200) refer back to the work of Pierre Bonnard having many of the  features of the Post Impressionist period such as capturing a scene with seemingly, quickly applied brush strokes, distorting forms for expressive effect, the use of unnatural colour and an emphasis on strong light.

There is also a strong cinematic feel to many of the works deriving from both American “noir” and French New Wave” film. The catalogue to the exhibition notes that the title could refer to “The Wave” a previous work  of Carters. This exhibition includes a similar work titled “New Wave” ($1650) with a gesturing figure which could be a still  from a Godard film or that of a candid photo shot.

Mathew Carter “Victoria St West”

In many of his paintings  we also see an emphasis on the geometry of buildings, streets and shadows with off centre angles and views as well as strong contrasts between light, building shapes, objects and people.

In some of the paintings the artists approach seems casual as in “Victoria St West” ($2150) where the emphasis  is on the road sign and its shadow which dominates the painting. This emphasis on the common everyday fragments of life mirrors much of the  literature of the French New Wave writing of Alain Robbe-Grillet.

Mathew Carter “The Old Post Shop”

With the empty space of “The Old Post Shop” ($2200) the artist is focused on the play of light and shape in the disused space while with “Ventilator Shaft AUT – study” ($500) the concern appears to be in contrasting an architectural shape with the shadow of another architectural shape.

In others there is a quiet drama such as the ”Figures on Great North Road” ($5500) which has a strong cinematic quality and a sense of narrative  emphasised by the dramatic contrast of light, shape and colour.

In these portraits of places and figures he captured scenes of everyday events but they possess an energy which elevates them to evocative and thoughtful ruminations on the beauty and significance of the commonplace.

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