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Wednesday, 05 October 2011 12:11

Tosca

Opera in Preview

After an 11 year absence from performing with Opera Queensland, Cheryl Barker makes a return, treading the boards up here in the sunshine state, to play the title role of Floria Tosca in Puccini’s ‘Tosca’. â€¨â€¨
“They’ve invited me to come back and I’m happy to be here,” Barker says. “It’s such a lovely company to work for and everyone is so friendly. I’m having a great time so far and I’ve got a lot of friends in Brisbane so it’s a perfect chance to catch up with them.” She muses, 

“I’ve been doing other repertoire lately that are completely different genres to verismo opera, a lot of 20th century music instead, but ‘Tosca’ is in the verismo style and to repeat a role that’s very dear to me and to play a great character - it’s like putting on a lovely warm pair of socks.”

‘Tosca’ explores the themes of jealousy, love, betrayal and passion through its characters Floria Tosca, her husband Cavaradossi, the corrupt chief of police Baron Scarpia, and prisoner Angelotti. The character’s lives intersect when Cavaradossi takes in escaped prisoner Angelotti, unknown to Tosca. With Scarpia hot on the trail of Angelotti, Cavradosi does not tell his wife of his plans to help the escaped prisoner. Through deceitful means Scapria convinces Tosca that Cavradossi is having an affair. Tosca confronts Cavradossi and all is revealed, setting off a chain reaction of betrayal, murder, love lost and emotional turmoil.

Barker says Floria Tosca’s fire, as well as her vulnerability, is what appeals to her when playing the iconic character. â€¨â€¨â€œShe’s fantastic because she behaves in a way that most women would, certainly the way I would, and she’s full of passion and fire but she’s vulnerable at the same time,” she says.
“She’s just a real woman and because it was a play to start with, the text is straightforward, nothing is wasted and the music enhances the drama.”

 Although the character appeals greatly to Barker, and the range of themes and emotions she gets to explore is an amazing opportunity, the pressure to play the title character still presents its challenges. â€¨â€¨â€œThere’s always a pressure playing title characters because you know that the buck stops with you so it’s important that you give of your best even if you’re not feeling great or a bit tired,” she says.

“It’s all resting on your shoulders, there’s huge pressure with opera, the same as if you’re playing football with the crowd all there.”

 Even though the pressure is always there, Barker’s many years of experience and her vast array of performances in the theatre industry have given her the ability to tackle the role with confidence. â€¨â€¨â€œI think as you mature as an artist you can bring some depth to the character. I’ve played many different characters since my first performance as Tosca about 15 years ago and they all add to your performance palette that you can draw on as not only a character but also vocally,” she says. “That’s one good thing about getting older, the only good thing I think.”



Barker is more than adequately experienced in the performing arts but she can’t stress enough the importance of preparation. “If it’s a new role you might sometimes take three months to prepare for it. You have to learn all the notes and the meanings and then memorise it. You don’t just turn up, you actually have a lot of preparation and work to do before you start rehearsals,” Barker says.

“The preparation and rehearsals are a very involved process and there’s a lot of hard work to be done.

 It’s the same sort of process if you were a professional athlete, opera is exhausting physically.”

 ‘Tosca’ is not the first of Puccini’s work that Barker has been involved with, having worked with some of Puccini’s other operas in the past. Barker shares Puccini’s passion for theatre and it’s that passion that draws Barker to his material.

 “Puccini really understood women, he wrote gorgeous music and tunes. He was really particular about the text and understood theatre and he understood passion,” she says.

“He wasn’t afraid of gutsy things. At the time some of the subjects must have been shocking, he was out there. I think to actually perform, you have to be uninhibited with your emotions. You can’t be prudish or too reserved to play these roles in order to give them the full passion that they need.”

It has been a long road for Barker to achieve such a level of success but she strongly believes it has been worth the journey and is right where she belongs when on stage. “It was a lot of auditioning and it was a slow, steady progression but I think it was my destiny.”

‘Tosca’ opens at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC on October 15 and closes Opera Queensland’s season on October 29.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011 15:54

Celebrating Diversity

Photography in Preview  

Genetic disabilities come in many different forms and affect their sufferers in a number of ways.

‘Celebrating Diversity’ is a photographic exhibition that has turned this affliction around and has chosen to celebrate the differences and appreciate the uniqueness of those with genetic disabilities.

Executive member of the Society for the Study of Behavioural Phenotypes, Honey Heussler has played a big part in bringing the ‘Celebrating Diversity’ exhibition to Brisbane after being inspired by Rick Guidotti’s work. “A couple of years ago we had a conference in the UK and the photographer Rick Guidotti had an exhibition there. I loved his work and his philosophy about trying to celebrate people who were affected by genetic diversity and was very keen to try and bring that message to this exhibition,” she says. “This is an exhibition of photographs designed to normalise the various aspects of genetic disabilities that people have and really celebrate the difference. It’s all about celebrating diversity, celebrating the positive and the normal aspects of people affected by these disorders.”

Honey is hoping the exhibition will change people’s attitudes towards genetic disabilities. “I would hope this exhibition encourages people to see past the label of the disability and to see that it’s actually a person affected by a disability,” Heussler says. “I’m hoping that Brisbane audiences will start to see disability not as a negative and start to see the positive.”

The idea for the exhibition came from a need to change the perceptions and representations of people with a genetic disorder. “The concept behind Rick’s photography came from an experience where he saw a person affected by albinism. He then went to a library and saw a book of medical photos that featured pictures of people with genetic disabilities that weren’t very nice and he made it his mission in life to actually develop a resource which is much more about people in real life situations and affording people much more dignity as to how they’re photographed,” Ms Heussler says.

‘Celebrating Diversity’ features at the Brisbane Powerhouse until October 17.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011 15:52

Romeo And Juliet

Theatre in Preview   

Talking with Damien Ryan, it soon becomes clear the intense passion he has for all things Shakespeare.

Sometime around 1994, Ryan directed a version of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and was immediately hooked on the material. “It had a huge effect on me, I loved it,” he says. “I found this bottomless well of possibilities in the work and I find Shakespeare extraordinary and inspiring to read. I’ve never lost this desire or energy and I literally can’t put it down.”

For Damien the classic tale of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and the encompassing storyline were what drew him to take on directing duties. “In terms of Shakespeare’s works, it’s obviously so popular but this play is quintessential Shakespeare and has everything you would want a play to have,” he says. “It’s the most romantic play you could imagine. But it’s also very dangerous and violent with a thrilling plot line and wonderful placement of physical action and yet it has this most divine poetry.”

Although Damien loves the material he admits there is some apprehension in dealing with such widely known material.
“There’s trepidation taking on a play that’s so well known to people but the key is always to go back to the text,” he says. “It’s incredibly good material and if you go back to the script and try to come up with a few original perspectives on how to bring the world to life, it all unfolds in an exciting way.

“You don’t see a production anymore that doesn’t bring something from the modern world and I think you have to applaud that. It’s important to place something that says something about who we are now,” he says. “The play is a different world to the original but it’s still a play about human beings and a brilliant portrayal about what first love feels like. It is also a brilliant portrayal of what loyalty and friendship is like among young people and what happens when kids are idle and inheriting a world that they didn’t make for themselves - a world that’s full of problems created by their peers.”

‘Romeo and Juliet’ plays at the Brisbane Powerhouse from Sept 20 - 24 as part of the Brisbane Festival 2011.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011 16:08

Die Winterreise

Musical Theatre

Director Matthew Lutton explores the themes of loneliness and acceptance through performances of dance, music and theatre in his latest offering, ‘Die Winterreise’.

Based on the 1827 song cycle created by Franz Schubert, Lutton has reworked the original and put a modern take on it. “We conceived a theatrical work around a man in the middle of Australia listening to this song cycle. It’s a piece for an actor, singer and a dancer and it is inspired by these songs.”

Lutton was drawn to create the performance by the haunting melodies included in Schubert’s work. “It was about the music - I found this music incredibly moving, confusing and haunting,” he says. â€œWhen I first listened to the songs it was a mixture of feeling emotionally confused yet addicted. I wanted to listen to them again, and like all great things that are very beautiful, they hurt a bit.”

The modern take on the work however was inspired by Lutton’s curiosity and his desire to explore the work of Schubert. “It was about a few things. Firstly it was about why would someone listen to these songs nowadays - they are German songs and come from a very distinct source of past European era,” he says.

“I wanted to create a character and a world where someone listens to this music almost on a daily basis to deal with or purge their loneliness or find comfort. Thus it became about who might listen to these songs today and who might associate the story of someone wandering through the snow in their own life.”

As Lutton prepares to show ‘Die Winterriese’ at Brisbane Festival, he stresses how important these kinds of festivals are for the arts.
“I think Australia relies heavily on its art festivals as focus points for culture and creativity, sharing and imagination,” he says. “It’s important that there are places of risk-taking and this project is exactly that. It has been developed but has been a great risk and that took confidence and trust for the Brisbane Festival to support it.”

‘Die Winterreise’ as part of the Brisbane Festival 2011 plays at the Powerhouse Theatre from Sept 28 - Oct 1.

Wednesday, 07 September 2011 15:08

So You Die A Little

Theatre in Preview

Ever wondered what it’s like in the afterlife? ‘So You Die A Little’ takes that curiosity and presents a quirky, humorous and oddly recognisable answer.

The director Gregory Rowbotham provides the details of the play that he fell in love with over a decade ago. “‘So You Die A Little’ is about a man who dies and ends up in limbo and he discovers things in the afterlife are a little bit too familiar, ” Rowbotham says. “There’s admin, people pushing paper around and the whole universe is run through a very elaborate bureaucracy. “It’s a dark comedy and this play offers the chance for the audience to see a reflection of their daily lives in an odd situation. The audience will be able to recognise a lot of the events that happen to them everyday but twisted in such a way that it’s quite funny and odd.”

The play, written by Brisbane playwrights Tony Brockman and Matthew Ryan, has had a long journey to make it to the stage of the Brisbane Arts Theatre. “I saw a version of this play back in 1999 at the University of Queensland when the writers were still at university. I watched their play and loved it and for years it sat in my mind,” he says.

“I was given the opportunity to pick my play that I wanted to do at the Arts Theatre and I remembered this weird little play I’d seen more than a decade ago. So I got in contact with the writers. They rewrote it and they’ve come up with a much more streamlined story. The Brisbane Arts Theatre will be the first time this version of the play has ever been seen.” With a passion for theatre and putting on a great show, audiences are in good hands with Rowbotham.

“Things that are strange or quirky I really enjoy getting my teeth into. I like to go fantastical, a bit whimsical and I like it when things get strange,” he says. “Theatre says I can show you something that you’ve probably never seen before which requires you to think.”

‘So You Die A Little’ plays at the Brisbane Arts Theatre from Sept 3 to Oct 1.

Wednesday, 07 September 2011 14:39

Jamie Oehlers

Jazz On Sunday

With numerous awards won and countless accolades received over the course of his career, it’s clear to see why Jamie Oehlers is recognised as one of Australia’s leading jazz musicians.

“I’ve always been a really hard worker, I’ve always practised a lot and sought out to play with people who are better than myself and also to play with people with a really unique conception in regards to performing jazz,” Jamie says.

Some of Jamie’s renowned work has been in Brisbane, where he’ll be performing at Brisbane Festival’s Jazz On Sunday this month. “I always loved playing in Brisbane and I’m really looking forward to coming back,” he says. “I’ve been coming to Brisbane on and off for the last ten years or so and I’ve had quite a bit to do with the music courses up there just in as far as doing some workshops. “I know there’s a great bunch of students and a lot of musicians who are friends of mine so I’m looking forward to seeing them and playing.”

For the Jazz On Sundays performance, Jamie will be joined by regular collaborator and jazz innovator Paul Grabowsky. “Paul and I will be performing pieces from our latest album ‘On A Clear Day’. We will be performing some standard jazz compositions as well as a couple of original tunes,” he says. “Paul and I play a lot together, we will actually be playing in Melbourne just before the gig in Brisbane and we perform with each other in various settings throughout the year so it’s always exciting for me to play with Paul.”

Jamie believes festivals like Brisbane Festival are an important part of showcasing Australian talent to local and international audiences. “I think they’re incredibly important,” he says. “Outside of Australia, and I guess within Australia to a certain degree, Australia is not really seen as having a massive cultural diversity, people see us a sports and beach loving nation, which of course we are but there is also a really great depth and wealth of talent in Australia. “I think it’s incredibly important to showcase that talent and to make the general public and the international community aware of what we have to offer here in Australia.”

Jamie performs with Paul Grabowsky at Jazz On Sunday, at the Spiegeltent as part of Brisbane Festival, Sunday Sept 11.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011 15:58

WOYZECK

Under The Radar

Having played to critical acclaim at Sydney’s Belvoir St Downstairs Theatre, ‘Woyzeck’ is coming to town next month as part of Brisbane Festival’s Under The Radar programme.

The play tells the tale of a man, Woyzeck, who’s providing for his family while battling poverty. His army salary is inadequate so he takes on extra jobs including one involving medical experiments. Meanwhile his wife begins an affair with another man much to the dismay of Woyzeck.

Brisbane performer Kat Henry joins the ensemble cast of ‘Woyzeck’, under the direction of Netta Yashchin, breathing life into lonely wife Marie. “I’m playing Marie,” Henry says, “who is the wife of Woyzeck. She lives a very difficult life - doesn't work but is bringing up a two-year-old child. She doesn’t see Woyzeck much because he’s always away with the army, doing experiments or trying to bring in money. So she feels lonely and wants some excitement in her life. Then she meets a dashing authoritarian figure who she wants sexually.”

Kat believes the show touches on some important themes.
“Dramatically, it’s dealing with poverty, fidelity, and the effects of a difficult life,” she says.

Kat is heavily involved in the performing arts as both a performer and a director and she admits not being the director on ‘Woyzeck’ was a “pleasure” and allowed her to fully embrace what she loves about performing. “I really enjoy performing as there’s something about bringing my mind, body and soul into that moment to create something really powerful,” she says. â€œI choose my projects really carefully and that means that I choose who is going to be my director, and I adore Netta. She’s a really good friend but also someone whose artistry I really respect and so it’s actually a pleasure to not have to make the decisions anymore. Because I love Netta and believe in what she does so much it’s actually really cool to go you tell me what to do and I’ll be yours.”

‘Woyzeck’ is on at the Sue Benner Theatre, Metro Arts from September 12 - 16.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011 14:38

Eagle And The Worm

Good Times

After recording their latest album ‘Good Times’ in a home studio over four days, Eagle And The Worm are currently on tour and heading to Brisbane next week.

With ‘Good Times‘ garnering rave reviews, frontman Jarrad Brown puts the positive response down to the group's chemistry.
“You've got to have chemistry otherwise you sound like some dumb bumbling thing that sounds like shit. We are passionate about the right chemistry on a record and on stage.”

It's this passion for chemistry that allowed Eagle And The Worm to record the album in just four days with no rehearsals beforehand.
“I just wanted the chemistry of people and the feeling of discovering the songs and being really excited about playing something fresh. I just wanted people to have a sweet time.”

It seems the laidback approach to recording paid off, with both critics and fans embracing ‘Good Times’ and Brown being pleased with the overall experience.
“It was sweet. Some of the stuff we did probably sounded like shit but I'm not really fussed, I just wanted to have a sweet time in the studio.

“If I was worried about stuff not sounding perfect I probably would have asked everyone to rehearse, but the idea was to get some excitement in the room and have some cool accidents happen and discover some cool things about the songs.
“There's a lot of different sounds on the record, I was getting so bored with listening to guitar, bass and drums bands,” he says. “I wanted beautiful sounds in music; there are so many different sounds out there to use and be expressive with and there's a lot of that on the record.”

With the band currently delivering their music to the country, Brown and his fellow band mates are enjoying the opportunity to tour together.
“I don't know if it's a honeymoon period but we all get along so well, and we all have a pretty good time on the road. A few days to hang out with eight of your friends and play a couple of shows is pretty fucking awesome.”


Eagle And The Worm play a free show at the Elephant & the Wheelbarrow Sep 8; they also play a BIGSOUND set on the same night. ‘Good Times’  is out now.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011 16:29

Resin Dogs

Hip Hop Camp

With festivals such as Livid, Splendour and Big Day Out on their resume, Resin Dogs are veterans of both the festival circuit and hip hop scene in Australia.

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