Opera With Knitting

30 January 2011

It’s become a regular event in Sydney’s knitting calendar – sitting and knitting in the Domain for about 10 hours and enjoying a free Opera performed by Opera Australia.

There was a good crowd of us yesterday, desperately trying not to get sunburnt. We were even interviewed for Channel 7 TV – they didn’t broadcast the interview but there was a quick photo. I did wonder at one point if we’d stumbled into the Annual Day Out of the National Incontinence Society as a constant stream of people climbed over us to get in and out of the grass area. Have they never been to the theatre? Don’t they understand you’re supposed to stay in your seat while the performance is on?

I’ve seen such great operas at these events and was a tad disappointed this year. The sound quality was pretty poor (and the sound is more important than the visual when it’s a semi-concert performance and the stage is a fairly small dot in the distance). Some of the performances were lack-lustre to say the least. And the French! That’s the only foreign language I have more than a passing acquaintance with and for the first 10 minutes I wasn’t sure if that’s what they were speaking. It totally confused Amanda, one of our group, whose mother-tongue is French. She had no idea what language they were using but it wasn’t anything she recognised.

BUT Teddy Taho Rhodes was as usual wonderful (and gorgeous into the bargain), Julian Gavin did eventually come good in the second half (quite dreadful in the first) and Rinat Shaham – what can I say? –
incredible performance. Apparently this is the 27th production of Carmen she’s done and I can see why. Everything about her just reeks of Carmen.

Next year, Opera Australia, get your sound system sorted and take a leaf out of the English National Opera in London who perform all Operas in English. And we’ll be back (with our knitting, of course)



  1. I hate performances of opera written in other languages “dubbed” into English. The translation very rarely matches the score for rhythm, and it throws out a lot of the assonance and alliteration integral to the poetry of the opera. And lets not forget the fact that given that there is a restriction on the amount of words used for each line, usually the translation cannot contain the whole meaning the line had in its original language. I can enjoy a performance of opera without a translation much more than a poor re-write and reproduction in English. And in recent years I have seen a lot of Operas performed in English as the theatre the Victorian Opera uses does not have the facilities for surtitles, I really would have preferred to see Barber of Seville with its original score….

  2. But the problem with this one was that you couldn’t enjoy it in its original language – even speakers of that language couldn’t – because it sounded like no language on earth. There must be some great translations out there for situations like this as, as I said, the ENO which is the second biggest Opera company in Britain after the the Royal, does all its performances in English. So it doesn’t have to be a poor re-write.

  3. But if francophiles can’t understand the French, what makes you think Anglos will be able to understand the English?

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