Friday, December 3, 2010


An old friend has been visiting for the last couple of days, which has been a good enough excuse for a couple of wonderful treats. Last night we went to see Pinchgut Opera's production of Haydn's 'L'Anima del Filosopho' or Orpheus and Eurydice. Pinchgut Opera began in 2002 in Sydney with the aim of presenting a more immediate and intimate experience of opera for opera-goers. It presents mainly baroque operas from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with just enough emphasis on sets and costume to support the music - though over the last few years the productions have become incrementally more sophisticated.

Last night was so, so good. Haydn's music was delightful - a sparkling 'Queen of the Night' type aria for the soprano, lyrical love duets, dramatic storms and damnation, and heart-wrenching music for death and separation. You were absolutely convinced Orpheus and Eurydice loved and cared for one another. The whole production was held together by choreographed movements by the main singers, the chorus (Cantillation) and actors who physically moved the actors and settings.

The intimate City Recital Hall was perfect for the production. We were sitting about five metres from the orchestra and were surrounded by the music. If you are in Sydney and at all interested in opera there are more performance tomorrow (Sat) evening, Sunday afternoon or Tuesday evening.

Then today we went off to see the Entombed Warriors from Xian in China at the NSW Art Gallery. The Gallery has brought to Sydney seven of the life-size warrior figures and two horses from the vast terracotta army that was buried to protect the tomb of the first Emperor of China, Qin Shihuang (259–210 BCE) in readiness for the afterlife. There are many other impressive artifacts from the tomb, but the warriors and horses are undoubtedly the stars of the show. I marvel afresh every time I see artifacts from China that date from over two millenia. They're so sophisticated; so 'finished'; so perfect. It's very humbling.

The entombed terracotta army was rediscovered only in 1974 and archeological excavations are still continuing. I visited Xian in 1983 when the warriors were not quite the tourist attraction they now are. Then we were allowed to walk along the edges of the trenches that contained the warriors and look down on them directly (I gather you now have to view them from a distance) - so it was wonderful to see them again today and reassure myself that they are just as wonderful in reality as they are in my memory.

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