Friday, October 28, 2016

Viktoria und ihr Husar

Viktoria with her husband -- in his dreadful shiny blue jacket
A close-up of the hair

I have just finished watching my DVD of  "Viktoria und ihr Husar" for the second time.  It was written well outside the Golden Era of Operetta so I did not expect it to be of the same standard, and it was not.  Both the libretto and the music disappointed to some extent.  The composer, Paul Abraham, did apparently get some acclaim in his day but seems to be forgotten now, for good reason, I think. I had certainly never heard from him. To me, none of the songs were memorable.

So why did Dagmar Schellenberger decide to put it on at Moerbisch?  I would say that she put it on just as a piece of  light entertainment.  The plot was so corny that it could not have been much else.  So the show was, at a rough estimate 90%singing and dancing and capering around, all done very colorfully.  So I imagine that the audience would have appreciated the ever-changing colorful scenes that flitted before them.

Some writers have described the show as a "Revue operetta",  meaning that the story was just a small framework around a whole series of light sketches.  It is that. So if that is what the audiences expected, they got it.

I wonder a little what the costume dept. was up to.  The "American" was presented in some weird get-ups.  The shiny blue jacket he wore in the early part of the show was was quite revolting and I have never seen anything like some of his later ensembles on any live American.  Possibly they have absorbed the British stereotype of Americans, that they dress in a tastelessly flashy way.

Americans do tend to dress more colorfully than the English but the costume dept. seems to have let their imaginations rule the day here.  Mind you, when a deplored minority of the English get into their shell-suits, anything goes -- so the Moerbisch designers may have been aware of that.

A shell suit

Before I started watching the show, I did not look to see who was in the cast.  So I was vaguely curious to see who the young woman was who had the leading role.  She looked in her 20s so I just assumed that she was some new singer.  So when I looked up the cast I was amazed to see that the leading lady was none other than KS Dagmar Schellenberger herself.

At the risk of extreme ungallantry I note that it is some time since Dagmar was in her 20s.  So it is amazing what stage makeup, stage lighting and careful cinematography can do.  I note that there was not much in the way of close-ups on her this time.  But she was as sprightly as ever, running around the set  with great energy. She even drove off on the motorbike. The singing was not very demanding vocally but she managed to pump out some big notes here and there.

 That she took the leading role for herself was no great surprise.  Her predecessor at Moerbisch, Harald Serafin, also usually cast himself in major roles in his own productions.

I have not yet been able to find much in the way of reviews of the show but, as a revue, I imagine it was a great success.  I have never enjoyed revues so my limited appreciation of this one should not be read as a general criticism.

Viktoria (Dagmar) finally gets her Hussar

Aren't those Hungarian costumes gorgeous!

Monday, October 24, 2016

More wonderful singing from Anna Netrebko

I have of course over the years heard many renditions of "O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini.  It would go close to being Puccini's best aria.  So I was pleased to see two versions of it by Netrebko.  And I think she is the best yet at it in my judgment.

A performance at the Waldbuehne outside Berlin if I am not mistaken

But that's not the end of it.  She did another  version of it that is now online.  I suspect she is a little older in this version.  It is however a bit hard to tell.  She was fairly informally presented in the first version, with very little makeup on.  In this version, however she has the full slap on.  It does look very elegant and romantic.

It's interesting that Netrebko looks quite Italian in this performance.  Since the whole song is set in Firenze (Florence) -- with references to the Ponte Vecchio, the Arno etc -- that is very appropriate. Netrebko is from Southern Russia -- Cossack country -- so she probably comes from a latitude nearly as Southerly as Firenze.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Another good weekend

On Saturday night I arranged a dinner for Sandi to meet Jenny.  Sandi is the daughter of Joyce -- and Jenny knew Joyce from age 17 on -- so Sandi was keen to hear some history about her late mother.

We had the dinner on my verandah so Jenny came over early and cooked us up a gluten-free lasagna.  Fortunately, Jenny is a keen cook so she can make even gluten-free food taste good.

Jenny and Sandi hit it off together immediately so there were many stories told. I mainly supplied a bottle of my favourite Tyrrells Verdelho.

Then on Sunday I was again social.  Joe and I had our usual Sunday brunch at the nearby pieshop and then Joe drove us over to Suz & Russ's place to deliver presents to Dusty, whose birthday it was.  He was already swamped with presents but no matter.  That's the way of it these days. One of the things I gave him was a plastic trumpet, on the grounds that all boys should have a trumpet.  It was however a very quiet trumpet. He liked it, though.

I got into quite a long discussion with Russ about matters connected to his work -- refrigerants, occupational licensing, trade training etc.

I also had a good chat to Suz, reminiscing about when she and Von were kids and teeners.  I asked her why she had been such a grouch when she was a teen.  She said it was just teenage hormones and rebellion.  I used to call her Lady Fun when she was a kid and in her post-teen years she has resumed that happy disposition.

Joe played a Pokemon game with Sahara.  We left around noon.

Monday, October 17, 2016

A visitor

Two or three months ago I began a fairly frequent email conversation with GR, a reader of my blogs.  He found that my observations closely reflected his own so was interested in sharing his experiences as confirmatory of what I write. We are both fascinated by the psychology of the Left.  He works in a social work context so has seen a lot of them and their hypocrisies close up.

After a very good correspondence had developed, he decided to come up and see me. He lives in Victoria.  I don't normally encourage visitors whom I don't already know as my degree of deafness can make conversation difficult.  This was however clearly an exception and, as it turns out, GR has a loudish voice that I could hear quite well.

The visit went well but, out of caution, I had arranged only for us to have a brunch together -- so the visit was rather brief.  In the circumstances, I felt that I should arrange a longer visit with me shouting the airfares next time.  That happened this weekend.  GR arrived via the Airtrain just after 10am on Saturday so I drove us both directly to the Buranda shopping centre and my usual brunching place.  My usual place was very busy at that time, however, so we went to the Japs instead and had some excellent Chicken Teriyaki Don.

We then adjourned to my place and continued the discussions -- interrupted by both of us having a mid-afternoon nap.  I have a guest room so that was no problem.

We spent most of our talking time on my verandah, a place that gets a lot of praise for its breezes, outlook etc.  And we do see wildlife in the mulberry tree in front of it.  On this occasion we watched a pair of Australasian Figbirds feeding on the mulberries.

We discussed the Trump phenomenon and the widening of the Overton Window.

GR spoke on symbolism in the 23rd psalm.

We talked about the nature of money, about how there will always be a need for services, and about economies being self tightening like a tablecloth with weights on it.

I had my little joke about my art "Installation" (A vise clamped onto my writing desk)

I mentioned the contrast between vicious and virtuous cycles in interpersonal relationships.

And we spoke about anger never feels itself to be in the wrong, but always feels itself to be in the right and that is why the habitual anger of the Leftist is hard to give up, because wanting to feel/be right is naturally part of human nature --  from the basic physical survival drive, through intellect and moral issues we like to be right. And leftism has a very strong anger component, at society/reality, at how things are, so leftism always feels itself to be in the right.

For dinner I cooked us a "Tandaco one-pan dinner".  It was just mincemeat and noodles basically but an all important "flavour sachet" was included -- turning the meal into quite a good one.

Later that night I played GR some Bach via Youtube, which he was interested to understand.

Next morning I gave him a light breakfast and had a cup of tea with him.  I have a customary Sunday Brunch with Joe from about 9:30am each Sunday so while that was going on GR went to church.  He is a Christian but is not much fussed about the denomination, which is common these days. So he went to Holy Trinity Anglican, which is nearby to me.

In my experience the Rev. Paschke is not much of a preacher but GR liked his sermon. It was based on Luke 18:

"He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed[a] thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

I like that scripture too and believe that it forms part of my values.  GR saw the Pharisees there as directly analogous to the modern-day Left, who think that they know it all and are confident in their own righteousness.  So it is no wonder that Leftists hate Christianity.  Christ condemned them.  Leftists much prefer the arrogant religion of Mohammed. So we discussed that at some length.

For lunch, I heated up a couple of pies.  Then GR had to get a move on to make sure he first caught the Airtrain and then his flight.  There is an Airtrain station just a couple of minutes drive from me so it makes sense to use it.

Friday, October 14, 2016


I have some vague pretensions to being a cook these days.  I get ready-prepared meals from Woolworths or Aldi and just heat them up.  But Woolworths and Aldi have good chefs so I think I mostly serve up pretty good food. But even in that humble role I was this week "relegated", if I understand that sporting term aright.

I had some Kassler chops (smoked pork chops done the way they do them in Kassel, a German city) so asked Anne over to share them with me on Wednesday.  I thought I had done rather well preparing some horse doovers and a pickle collation in advance.  Germans eat a lot of pickles. And I also cut up a couple of onions and fried them.  But as soon as Anne arrived, she took over cooking of the smoked pork and did things that didn't seem to correspond to the instructions on the packet.  But in deference to her great culinary experience, I left her to it and just hovered in the background.  And she got the smoked pork just right in the end. And she also brought over a potato bake that went well.  So we had a great dinner, albeit with more food than we could eat. My pickle collation was rather underused so it went back into the fridge. So I was glad to be relegated

And then the next night I invited Jenny over to share a gluten-free feast. I had acquired a variety of gluten free products and was interested to see if they were any good. We started with a guacamole dip and went onto the main dish of pork sausages.  I started out cooking the snags but Jenny also took over there.  So once again my feeble culinary skills were sidelined.  But Jenny got the snags just right so we again did well.  I also trotted out the pickle collation and we got near to finishing it  that time. I had the rest for a late-night snack. My third and fourth courses were not needed. Again we had too much food.

So I was lucky to be in the presence of two most accomplished  cooks. My own feeble skills were rightly bypassed.

I suspect that when a man offers to cook a dinner for a lady he might often end up with the lady doing most of the work.  He has just got to look feeble and the lady steps in to save the dinner from disaster!

Monday, October 10, 2016

A busy weekend

I have on a number of occasions on the past put on a party late in the year in my backyard with the theme being "Pizza and champagne".  I shout the pizza and champage for all.  For one reason or another, I have not done it recently, mainly because two families who used to come now live far away -- one in Scotland and one in the Shaky Isles.

But at short notice it occurred to me that I should do it again while Von & Co. are here. We decided to have it at Jenny's place, which limited the guest list a bit but I made sure to get George along, as I always do.  Jenny sent out the invites and also ordered the pizza.  That way she could get a gluten-free pizza that she was happy with. I brought along  three bottles of Seaview Brut -- which people always seem to like -- but only two were opened.

There were ten people present, including Joe and Kate -- plus the three kids.  When Joe arrived he was grabbed by the kids even before he could get though the door. So Kate was left standing outside for a bit while Joe fended off his young admirers. He plays rough games with them, which they can't get enough of.  The mothers of the kids concerned are not worried about what Joe does -- for the excellent reason that I used to play the same sort of games with them when they were kids.  Generational succession!

George was in great form.  He entertained the kids with nursery rhymes -- little Miss Muffett etc. But George acted the rhymes  out so he had the kids all sitting enthralled in front of him.  The bit about the spider coming down was infinitely popular.  George had to do that bit over and over again.

George also spent a bit of time with Anne and she later commented how she could always have an interesting conversation with him. He and I talked a bit about the way the media present Aborigines.  George was disgusted that everything is said to be our fault rather than the fault of the Aborigines themselves.  I heartily agreed.

At my request, Von dressed Hannah in her little red Gingham dress and Von herself wore one of her long skirts.  Such skirts look very good on her in my opinion.  The one she wore was a 3-tier skirt, which I last remember as being fashionable about 30 years ago.  But I liked that fashion at the time so that is probably another instance where Von and I see eye to eye.  Von was born glamorous so doesn't need to spend much money on clothes.  She tells me she spends more on clothes for her daughter than clothes for herself

I have always spoken of Suz as having a good heart and I have now become a beneficiary of it!  She has noticed that I am a bit doddery these days so does small things to help me -- like standing up to offer me her seat.  She has got her mother's good heart 100%.

Jenny was aware that there have been some difficulties beween Anne and myself recently so Anne wondered how welcome Jenny would make her.  I told her not to worry and, in the event, Jenny was particularly welcoming to Anne, which really touched Anne.

We had the pizza in the BBQ area out the back of Jenny's place, where the kids could run around like mad things, which they proceeded to do. Russ was not present because of work demands.

Then on Sunday we had a lunchtime BBQ at Jenny's place, with Jenny cooking sausages, kebabs etc.  George sent his apologies and Anne had another engagement but my brother came and Russ came.  Kate was busy working on her thesis for her M.A.  So we would have had similar numbers to Friday.

Simon did up a quantity of his NZ cheese sandwiches and there were some good Dim Sims too.  We had another bottle of Champagne plus a bottle of Houghton's white that Jenny particularly likes.  With so many good things, I rather overate but still had room for a couple of small pieces of cold watermelon at the end.

Joe was pretty quiet until he got up and played with the kids.  Then he ran around like a mad thing too!

Nanna also took charge of a couple of games for the kids.  She in fact got around a fair bit.  She helped clean up at the end of proceedings too. It was great to see a 92 year old lady still making herself useful.  Since most people present shared some of her genes it must have been a great source of hope for a good old age.

At one stage someone mentioned Aborigines.  My brother is married to a lady with some Aboriginal ancestry.  But practically everyone chimed in to say that Aborigines are mostly a pretty hopeless lot and need to stand on their own two feet more.  There were of course several Pauline Hanson supporters present.

My brother noted the red Gingham dress that Hannah was wearing and said she looked like a tablecloth in an Italian restaurant. Neither he nor I are big on tact!

I mostly talked to Simon and my brother but I spent most of my time watching the kids, which is always a great pleasure to me.

At one stage we revisited a lot of the old family stories -- about Suz being denied a cream bun, about me getting her drunk at the time of Joe's birth and about Von telling me that I couldn't have her hair! -- etc.   The old stories are the best stories.  Always good for a laugh.

I subsequently remembered a couple of stories I should have told -- about Von telling me she was cold -- what a fool I was there!  -- and when Suz had lost her "Pacer" (propelling pencil).

Friday, October 7, 2016

Meatloaf update

I have posted previously on my quest for the  perfect meatloaf. So I was pleased to see in Woolworths a Jamie Oliver beef meatloaf.  Definitely worth a try.  Anne came over to share it and I served it with my basic salad and toast.  My basic salad had tomato, cucumber, avocado, olives and Feta but no onions, lettuce or dressing.

We both thought the meatloaf was quite good, though Anne prefers the one she makes and I prefer the one I got from Aldi. To welcome Anne over, I put a couple of bunches of flowers in her room to greet her when she arrived -- mainly red and yellow roses. They were a MUCH bigger hit than the meatloaf.  When Anne got home next day she photographed them and sent me the picture.  See below:

For breakfast next morning I took Anne to a place called "Medley" at the end of Wharf St., Kangaroo Pt. It is right beside the Brisbane River and seems pretty trendy.  I ordered the Shakshuka in order to find out what it was.  It seemed to comprise mainly tomato, beans and chick peas plus two poached eggs.  It was served as a sort of soup in a very hot cast iron dish.  It tasted quite good but it was too soupy for me.  Anne had an avocado & Feta dish. It was at any event a pleasant location, but you do of course pay for that.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

A lively weekend

Von & Co. joined me for Friday brunch.  I took them to the Caffe di Moda at Stones corner.  I ordered my personal version of the lamb salad, Von had the regular version and Simon had a bacon & egg meal with various trimmings.  Hannah had chicken nuggets with chips.

Von and I covered a lot of ground with reminiscences and family discussions and it was a pleasure to see that we still see eye to eye on a lot of things.  Von remarked that she likes Kate so she gives Joe permission to marry her.  It was a joke of course but like a lot of jokes it had something real in it.  Von's judgment is greatly respected in the family so if she had been critical of Kate it would have caused concern.  Her approval does mean something.

So we agreed that Joe is getting a good deal with Kate.  I added to that by saying:  "Kate is getting a good deal too.  Joe is tall and well-built and that is 95% of it for most women".  Von simply replied:  "It is".  Von is a born psychologist.  She has been closely observing people and thinking about them since she was a little kid.

I spent a bit of time playing silly games with Hannah, just as I used to play with Von when she was that age.  Hannah was certainly ready for fun.  She initiated a lot of the play. She is quite a fun kid, actually.

Then for Saturday lunch we went to our usual dosa place.  We always go there when Von comes over.  Jenny joined us but Joe was down in Sydney and Suz already had something on that night. Von had dressed Hannah in a pretty little red Gingham dress.

We once again mentioned my favorite story of Von getting into my bed when she was a little girl.  I have often told that tale so it was interesting that Von for the first time gave her reminiscences of it. She remembers it well, including how she felt at the time

After dosas we went back to my place for tea and coffee -- helped down by a packet of Afghans that Von had brought over from NZ.  I really enjoyed talking to Von.  She is so sensible and cheerful.  And after that we got my old Amiga computer going so Hannah could play some of the old games

I mentioned that Von and I used to get around together at that time without a word being spoken.  We understood one-another well enough so that we didn't need to talk to enjoy one-another's company.  Simon is very quiet so I told him that I had prepared Von for him by giving her the experience that much talk was not needed to get on well. Von chats quite well these days, though.  She is her mother's daughter after all.

Then on Sunday Suz and Russ hosted the whole family for a lunch. Jenny drove me out there as I don't fancy that long drive much these days.

They served up a nice mild curry.  Kenneth was there so we discussed his book and his invitation to Government house.  Ken is now The Author.  Anne has asked for a copy of his book so we arranged that.  And Maureen had brought along one of her excellent Pavlovas.  I really like Pavlovas so I congratulated Maureen on it.

The kids all played well together -- loudly, of course.  And they discovered Dan at one stage so climbed all over him in search of fun -- which Dan delivered. Walking around with a kid slung over each shoulder is great fun for the kids concerned.

And when I got home, I finished up the afternoon with a good nap.