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Photo Of The Day
16th June 2000
Our company has bought rights to a VIP box at the local amphitheatre. There are 8 seats at every event for us. So the Vice-Presidents get first choice at any event. Any seats left are available to the staff through a random drawing. I've put my name down for a few events, and my name came up for the Allman Brothers Band concert.
Doug and I went to the concert. Part of the package was VIP parking which means really good parking and no lining up with the hoi-polloi for a park. Leaving is even better. No struggling to get out with the rest of the people. I like this VIP stuff.
We sat in the VIP box and had a waitress come along and attend to our needs. She brought us beer and food all night long. I really like this VIP stuff.
The amphitheatre is a huge one and it's really close to where we live but I've never seen it or heard it before. The developers left a big stand of the native forest that used to be here. They carved a curve into it. The stage fit in there. And they built up the amphitheatre in front of the stage. It's a grassy knoll. :-) They built a huge roof over the stage and the first part of the amphitheatre. Right in front of the stage is a series of chairs for those who want to pay extra. Getting into that area means showing your ticket every time you move in or out, all night long. This is heavily controlled. After those chairs, there is a large walkway about 30 feet wide. Then comes the VIP boxes. Concrete floor, tubing as separators, plastic chairs and tables, and it's still undercover. Straight after the VIP boxes are a series of chairs for those who want to pay to sit down, but not as much as way down the front. And they are still undercover but damp if it's windy. Then comes the big area of cheap seating where people sit on the grassy knoll and watch the TV screens above the stage.
What appalled me is how much movement there was, all night long. Most people in the expensive seats were there to be there and be seen, and meet their buddies and have a drink and a chat and have a party. The music was in the background to them, like turning on the radio or hiring a DJ. They walked in and out all night long, even at the most emotional moments of the Allman Brothers performance. They do the same thing in films, in opera, in concerts. There is never a moment in any show I have been to where the audience is still and just watching. At any given time, an eighth of the audience is walking around and another eighth is talking and another eighth is asleep. That's opera. The rock concerts are worse.
First up was a band from Richmond. Four guitarists, couple of percussionists, keyboards. They had a very lush 70s sound, and at times it sounded like those old Isle of Wight Festivals lps. Bands that came on stage with cheesy equipment, got stoned and droned on and on producing fun music. They were interesting and fun. Then came Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Blues boy, supposed to be the next Stevie Ray Vaughan. Not quite. Stevie Ray Vaughan did blues guitar and sang. Kenny Wayne plays guitar and has a Michael Hutchence lookalike doing the singing. He was pretty good, but not up where Stevie Ray Vaughan was. Eventually they did Voodoo Chile. I thought that Stevie Ray Vaughan actually improved on Hendrix's version. Kenny Wayne was worse than both Vaughan and Hendrix. He had the start and end bits down pat, but he couldn't sustain the middle bits so he chucked in heavy metal riffs. That really jarred. He got a standing ovation, mostly from people not old enough to have heard better.
Then the Allman Brothers Band appeared. From the wrinkly faces and white beards, it appeared that 3 of the original band are still there. They did their old hits, their favourites. Big screen behind them, psychedelic swirls, mushrooms swirling and morphing into the band's logo. Lots of colour. Big screen overheard focussing on individual band members. Three drummers. A young lead guitarist who was very good and was very content to stay on the sidelines and perform really well and not try to upstage the old band members. As Doug said "He respected the music and he respected the band". He was very, very good. The two other drummers supported the old drummer. The first song was about 20 minutes. All the songs went for about 20 to 30 minutes. They did Whipping Post, but no vocaals. I was a little disappointed. But I shouldn't have been. They did one encore and repeated Whipping Post with vocals. I think I understand. The singer wouldn't have been able to sing anything else after Whipping Post. It buggered his voice, so singing it was left till last.
They were great. It was a wonderful wash of blues and psychedelia. I might have been wallowing in the past but it didn't sound corny or bad or silly. It was a long set of music that I was familiar with and it was just great.
23rd May 2000
Free tickets to see Weird Al Yankovich. That was fun. We had to travel a fair way to see him. It was at Willett Hall in Portsmouth. Long drive, but Anne does the driving so I can't complain. Willett Hall is a small community theatre, and it's new and it's nice. Parking was easy and close by.
We were sitting in a strip of seats that had obviously been given away as prizes. We were the only ones in the row. Gave us plenty of room.
The evening started with a comedian. I was a bit cold to him at first, but then he started to get funnier. Or maybe I adapted to the humour. Anne didn't seem very taken with him. A quick interval and then Weird Al came on. We put our earplugs in. Probably not necessary, but it made the evening a bit better.
It was a multimedia show. Screen in the middle of the stage, showing all sorts of strange stuff. In between songs, he and sometimes the band would duck off stage and change costume. While this was happening, the screen would be showing weird health films from the 40s and 50s, interviews by Weird Al, episodes from films and comics that referred to him. There was always soemthing going on to keep us interested. He started by doing a lot of songs that I hadn't heard before. I must have stopped listening to his parodies about 5 or 6 years ago. I didn't even recognise the songs he was parodying, so I must have stopped listening to popular music about the same time. Luckily, as the evening went on, he did more and more of the older items that I recognised. There was some new stuff that was fun like the Jurassic Park take-off of Macarthur Park, and he finished with the latest parody of American Pie to do with Star Wars Episode 1.
Despite missing the significance of about a quarter of the stuff, being unfamiliar with the music completely, I had a lot of fun. It was a really good show, slick, fast moving, funny, good times fun.
He doesn't look like the Weird Al in the video clips. He doesn't have the moustache any more. He is short, small, very very limber and flexible and he certainly uses the suppleness in the songs. He still has the same wiry hair. He looks dorkish and looks silly, but it fits the work he does.
All in all, a good night. Lots of fun. And then we had a long pleasant drive home to talk about it.
29th April 2000
We had a really busy day this day. In the afternoon we had another of the Aussie barbecues. After the barbecue, it was time to shower and change and sober up and head to the Comedy Store. This time it was Karen's birthday and she wanted to go to the Comedy Store. We had good directions to get there. It was a pity that the store had moved from that location 2 years earlier. Even a service station two doors from the original location did not know that they had moved. We found the new location after 3/4 of an hour searching. Have I mentioned that there's no point relying on street numbers here? Finding shops is impossible. The only way to find where to go is to ask someone who's been there before. They give you landmarks and times and distances. Reminds me of Clavell's novel Shogun and how the pilots found their way around the oceans.
We eventually found the new (2 years old) location of the Comedy Store, and had a good night. Two comedians and all the cigarette smoke you could care to breathe. When we came out at the end, I coughed my guts up and still felt sick. The first comedian was barely adequate. He would giggle after each punch line, an annoying little giggle, and he would sometimes make South Park remarks in weird voices. I saw an episode of South Park and managed to avoid the rest. The first comedian was weak. The second one was pretty good. He was big and burly, but acted and spoke and gestured like the little poof from Rowan Atkinson's Thin Blue Line. He was entertaining and quite funny. Sadly, much of his humour was in repeating the stupidity of the local polliticians. It's really funny, but it's really sad to think that people said this shit for real. The recent mayor of Washington DC said that the crime rate in Washington DC was pretty good if you didn't count the murders. Highest murder rate in America.
While at the Comedy Store, Karen won two tickets to see Weird Al Yankovich later this month. The others weren't interested, so I put my hand up and Karen gave them to me. So we're off to see Weird Al next month. I like Weird Al. His song parodies are deliciously wicked most of the time.
19th March 2000
I haven't seen a live production of Turandot before, just some of the BBC recordings of the opera. Most of the filmed productions have huge sets, and are quite visually striking. However, I haven't liked the story very much. I've felt that the prince was pretty cold and stupid to go ahead and marry a princess who was quite happy to torture to death a female servant. He was actually responsible for the torture of the servant, and showed no concern at all. So Turandot hasn't been one of my favourite operas.
However, we had the chance to see a live production so we went to the Harrison Opera House. The stage is a very small one at the Harrison Opera House, so it was a small production of Turandot. They had one set that was used for the entire opera. I think the smallness of it gave a more intimate feel to the opera. This one had the emotions out front, instead of being obscured by giant sets. Seeing this small version softened my stance against Turandot. Everyone was made a little more human, and I felt more kindly disposed towards the characters.
It wasn't a bad production, for a provincial show. The main singers were okay. The father of the prince had a marvelous bass voice. Ping had a pretty good voice, and prince Calaf had a lovely tenor voice. He had no porblems all through the opera until Nessun Dorma. Leading up to that high note, his voice cracked for a fraction and then he did the big voice thing and did it perfectly. He did well.
The cast all did well. It was a good competent performance for a provincial opera. The cast was good, but the audience was not. The audience needs to be shot. When the curtain drops, half the audience bolts. The curtain comes up so the cast can take their bows, and half the audience is streaming out so they can be first out of the parking lot. The other half of the audience thinks they have just seen a world-class performance, when it was an adequate provincial performance, so they all stand up and give a standing ovation. Between the yobs who are leaving and the tasteless ones who are cheering and yahooing, it's pretty difficult to see the cast onstage taking their bows.
31st December 1999
I have long enjoyed Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, but have only ever heard recorded versions. Never a live version. Leading up to the end of the eyar, I saw that there was going to be a one-off performance of Carmina Burana at Chrysler Hall. I booked immediately, because I wasn't going to miss this opportunity. There was a Y2K party afterwards, and they offered me tickets to that too, but it was about $100 a head. I thought we woudl be happier to just go home and see the end of the year in peace and comfort with a cup of tea.
We got there early, and had a long wait before the doors opened. There were lots of activities on in the Hall before the event. There was a string quartet, and jugglers and jesters, and a bunch of young guys in medieval armour clanking about the place. Lots to see before the big event. Finally, the doors opened and we went and sat down. We were up top, about half way down, so we had a good view of everything, even if it was a tad distant.
Joanne Falletta conducted. I hadn't seen her live before, but had heard a fair about her from WHRO and from some CDs. She's a trim and tiny woman. She was dressed in black tonight, black trousers. When the show started and the first burst of Carmina Burana came, I had tears in my eyes and had to wipe them away. The goosebumps didn't leave me for half an hour. Anne said her goosebumps lasted ages too. Evelyn was awed. It's such a strong piece of music. It went on and on and it was great. Joanne Falletta bounced up and down on her podium, practically dancing as she coaxed the best out of the singers. She was great, and very entertaining.
There was a vague Night At The Proms feel to it, good humoured, fun, relaxed, not so much pomposity. We loved it. Came home, had a cup of tea, waited till midnight here and said Happy New Year, then went to bed.
This was our first cultural event in Virginia, an opera at the Harrison Opera House. The Harrison Opera Centre is a fairly new building in the heart of Norfolk. I had been past it before, but not while I was driving and only in daylight. We drove there. We managed to follow instructions up to a point. We got within a few blocks of it, unbeknownst to us, and I parked the car and started working my way around the map. I parked in a no parking zone, too close to the corner, and right beside a fire hydrant. I thought I would be safe, only there for a few minutes checking the map, it's Friday night, no police in sight, she'll be right. Damn. It took 10 seconds for a police car to pull up beside me. I wound down my window, taking care to keep my hands in sight as much as possible, and not making any sudden movements. It was a policewoman. She smiled, and yelled out with good humour "I recognised the international symbol of distress". Yes, that was me holding up a map and trying to work out where I was. "Where do you want to go?" she asked. Opera Centre. "Go up two blocks, turn right at the lights, go up a few blocks and it's on your right with plenty of parking to spare. Have a good night." and she drove away. I almost collapsed with relief. She was friendly, helpful, and knew the area. We followed instructions and got there.
Yes there was parking there. Expensive? $3 for the night, supervised and patrolled. That's a bit cheaper than the Sydney Opera House. The Harrison Opera Centre is a lot smaller than the Opera House and only 4 years old. Only one theatre and a very small and intimate theatre. Very nice. The advantage to having such a small theatre is that there isn't such a crowd as in Sydney. But then they only put one person serving the drinks, so the lines are longer and it takes longer. We dressed casually and comfortably for the night, as we were wont to do in Sydney. We were severely under-dressed here. Men wore tuxedos, women wore evening gowns and furs. Yes, furs. Lots and lots of real furs.
The audience was a very different mix to the Sydney mix of opera goers. Here, it's almost exclusively older people. Nice suthin gennilmen, with large heads of pure white hair, tied back with leather thongs, and shoelaces instead of ties. Large, loud, wrinkled, old suthin ladies who wear furs and proudly display their bosoms in lowcut dresses. Some young people, but not many. One interesting thing was that people here don't seem to look at other people unless they know them. I was standing and chatting to Anne and Evelyn and laughing and looking around. Many times I caught the eyes of women who must have assumed that they knew me, and stopped and said "Hullo, how ARE you" before wandering off again. The first few times this happened, Anne gave me a hard look and asked "What have you been doing behind my back". I explained it was just the eye thing and proved it by choosing anyone and smiling and nodding and getting a familiar greeting back. At interval time, it was really funny. All the older suthin gennilmen and ladies were sprawled on their furs, fast asleep. Most didn't wake up till the end of the opera.
The opera was Mozart's Cosi fan tutti. This was done as high comedy. It was funny. Very funny and very well done. The only slightly unfunny parts were when the male leads were singing Cosi fan tutti, women are all the same, and they raised the house lights and pointed out women in the audience. Audience participation.
The two sisters in the opera were played by real-life twins. Normally this sort of gimmick implies lesser quality, but in this case, it didn't. They had fine voices, although one had a better voice than the other. What I really liked was how their voices sounded so similar, and when they sang together, the voices blended ever so beautifully. The sisters were dressed and played as good ole suthin belles. It probably meant that costuming was cheap as they could use left overs from the last production of Gone With The Wind. It worked.
The opera was very good. Great singing, especially those large ensembles that Mozart is known for. Six people on stage singing together and it blends so beautifully. The acting was very good and very funny. It was a fine, competent, happy opera. We really enjoyed it a lot. But, it wasn't as high a quality as we see regularly in Sydney. Which is why the three of us looked round in amazement when the principals took their bows, and half the audience stood up and gave a standing ovation with great cheers and bravos (even the people who slept through it). It was pretty good, but it was only a couple of steps above a gifted amateur production. There was another thing that amazed us. Only the principals came on and took a bow at the end. All the bit parts, the small actors, the chorus, they didn't get to take a bow. That was rude.
There were a couple of annoying things about the night. The couple sitting behind us talked through the whole opera. Non-stop. He had a deep penetrating voice and he commented on everything. She had a nervous twitter and it wound around his comments all night long.
We had a little problem reading the surtitles because we were so close to the front, in the second row. It was good to be that close to the stage, but we nearly broke our necks looking up at the surtitles, then down at the action, then up, then down. Most of the people around us didn't bother reading the surtitles as they were too busy sleeping.