Thursday, December 12, 2013


On another warm Sydney evening, Andy Vesey Wells (the 'Moffatt Oxenbould' of the Western & Hills Opera Company), directed a splendid outdoor performance of Puccini's Madama Butterfly at Meadowbank last night. With an all star cast, including Steve 'Anson Austin' Ryan as Pinkerton and Gill 'Elena Prokina' Fowler as Cio Cio San, the specially favoured audience of 200 were treated to a wide range of emotions as AVW made one of this well loved opera's most audacious stagings.

Vesey Wells began with the setting, turning the Meadowbank stage into a perfect representation of Nagasaki and its harbour - complete with naval wharf near control #3 and the embassy buildings at control #11- and rounded off the illusion with a course design that was an almost perfect replica of a butterfly. And for those that enjoy Pork Pie pushing the envelope way too far, we note with approval control #15 (Cio Cio San's age) being located behind the pink striped paper modesty screen in the north west, and somewhat detached from the hurly burly of downtown Nag and its points picnic. More? Well, you could say the map shape was rather like a butterfly net, and the open yellow areas the fabulous markings of the Imperial Japanese Monach - a rare species indeed, and prized by collectors because of this colour and its unique large left wing, small right wing shape.

Being dressed for a first night, and already in the thrall of Giacomo 'Pie', let's set forth in our tux and Blahnik's, and analyse the evening.

The cast sheet for this special Charity (Point) event was a full colour affair in landscape configuration, and was on offer to attendees for a modest $10 donation. Upon taking their seats, guests noted the eastern wing offered 210 points (230 if you added #16), and an almost similar wing shaped amount in the west. The west wing show also included some stretch work where young naval officers, intend on making a call on the Geisha, had to 'put in' a ninety point penance for their troubles. These four controls (7,24,29,14) were beyond most, who, inbound or outbound, peered past #13 and #27, began to quaver, and abruptly turned for more yellow. There was also a flutter further north, with the shops near #30 providing Pinkerton with flower buying opportunities as he awaited introduction to our heroine at #15 by #8 (Goro, well played by Graeme 'Mike Burton' Macfarlane).

It looked a gentle affair without too much need to scratch and string. For those of SSS average abilities, there was a 380/390 - 410/420 point loop around the butterfly wings that was hard to vary. The east side included the 'suck in' (#2), the worth it scenic 'Larry' to #26, and the 'Terry Bluett' award tenner at #4 that was best avoided. After working through 22,20,25 and the 19/28 fun, runners generally ignored number sixteen and raced over the railway to the western 'wing' - looping from 12,5,21,23 to the yellow points homeward bound. If you had time (and many did), there was a four hundred metre dash to #6, or the bolder shopping trip to include 30,8,15 etc already mentioned.

There was little else by way of variation (although many did the above journey in the reverse of course), it being a simple two direction exit sign evening with the course then following line astern - as per Pinkerton's departing frigate. Probably the most scratch work in the programme was how to add #11, with a 3/2/11 loop working for the speedy (and the ramp to #1 immediately questioning memory and ability - an excellent 'sucked-in' placement that screamed don't, don't) - or working it in by going 19/28/11 and then using the road crossing west instead of the footbridge. Ian 'The Brewers Elbow' Miller was one working this light ale route.

The ABC arts programme was on hand to record impressions of the night, and files the following 'stage door' report.

In contrast to last week, Andy's opera saw 129 of the 185 actual entries post 300 or more - with 59 A Reserve seats going over 400. Our star tenor, Steve Ryan, once again took the first curtain call with 580 in 46.52 (560 net) to hold a tenner from fellow OM star Andy Hill (550). Our leading 'all roles' baritone, Glenn Horrocks, was one of five all ports singers, posting his 600 in 50.25 to take third prize - and with another tenner back to fellow MM Richard Green 'Room' on 530. Of interest, our other three 600 songsters were all at the foot of the programme - Ian McKenzie (113.29 for minus 90) taking the deeper bow from Ulf Stigen (94.46) and Graeme Hill (91.32). Splendid work boys, and great to see Graeme about his work again.

Age group winners were mostly as per programme once again, although we note; Louise Brierty taking the MW title, the tie between Janet & Sue in IW (240 points after both back slightly late), and Rebecca George winning in SJW. Aidan and Michele Dawson had handsome JM/JW wins (480/390 and both back early), with, by contrast, Dunk winning SJM in much more modest fashion than is usual with 'only' 380. As noted in the opera guide, once a route was well underway, there were few add-on options if you suddenly saw old father time had gone slow on you.

In the timing department, Helen Murphy (a splendid Suzuki) gets things perfectly right once again (!) with an exact 45 minute performance. John Bulman (VM) looks like our only .01 over cast member, although we are talking well over, with his 50.01 reducing his 460 somewhat - and no real close shaves. Darren Li (playing Yamadori for the first time) gets close though, with 44.56 and a 310 point post finding favour with the well coiffured ladies in row D.

Let me see. Perhaps a run through a few other notables in the audience.

A very modest score is noted from OM star Mark Schaefer (200), although the addition of 'group' beside the list of sponsors and donors could be behind this. Pork Pie also notes a return to first night running from Sir Ronald of Terry Hills (working 42" for his 330 points and being forced to queue for the after party dinner at the West Ryde), Gerry Wong back on the burst (one of the elders of Sydney orienteering and the WHO club - great to see him back), Chris Crane looking in much better health at the download bar, and Thuy Ho (OW 190 points) preparing for a repetitive sir name christmas. 'Chest Fever' looked good with 490 (MM) - sneaking ten from Richard Morris and Sandy 'Beach' Smith in the same age class, and from BenneGo respectively, with Kar-Soon 'Not Made Here' a further ten adrift on 470.

Wazza is speeding up at last, although Mel landed the more important role - and goes home on 450 to his understudies 440. Neil, again, has taken a more minor role (Sharpless) and contends himself with an early back 410 - as does your senior 'culture writer' in LM (probably thanks to Ted going astray at the bridge above #28, as he was moving with purpose and pace in the early stages). Ian Cameron piles on a nice 420 in SVM, Tim & Dazza worked the morning show for 460's, Lisa managed a clearer signal from the US consul and posted 470, with Claire 'Of Hardy's Bay' back twenty after losing ten by fourteen seconds. Tania Kennedy had another good run with 380, to be only twenty behind VW leader Robin Cameron, and holding ten over Linda Sesta, and another ten to project lighting designer, Lisa Lampe.

Of the groups, White & Field have a certain ring (270), Kringas & Naz are noted in the circle (230), J&J Josie are promising to do better next time (120), and Trevor & Seb are after work in the costume department - and have paid 180 points for a look in. Great to see Tearaway Ted on the burst (IM 340, but thirty off Heiko Heiko San), and young Sam Rogers tackling his SJM roles with vigour (ten behind Alastair 'King' George) and not too far adrift of Tall Timbers. Jim Merchant's twenty second over cost him an equal lead in WaM with Anthony P (I can feel you pain Jimmy cried the audience), Margaret Waugh took twenty over Carol in LW, and Garingal's Scarlet Gill posed for the camera with 250 on the clock. There are many other tales and performances worthy of extended reporting, but the ABC is suddenly short of funding and time is UP!

To conclude, our most popular arias were 410 (sung by twelve) and 370 (another twelve member chorus), with most other point options getting a moment on stage (well, not 570-600 of course!), so it was a night that went down well. Perhaps not a night of drama, route choices made and regretted, hills not anticipated, or controls hidden - but, it was a most enjoyable outing in one of our favourite theatres. A special feature of WHO productions was the excellent placement and securing of checkpoints - much appreciated by those bent on a swift insertion and perhaps a glass of Moet before act two. Thanks Andy (and Adrian White noted in the programme - who turned out to be the organiser, not the setter), and all the WHO cultural crew. A great night was had by all.

Next week we return to Georges Heights where Bennelong's Rachael Povah is promising 'beach, bush, battlements, beasts and a brae'. Brae?? Hmmm. Sounds excellent, and an (almost) great way to finish the first half of the programme - remembering that we have a final pre-christmas turn out on Monday 23rd at Woolwich Pub (oops, I mean Dock). The Chowder Bay/Balmoral/Mosman flog is our next event, and is always a goodie, with good parking and sensational views. Add the almost sprint like old building stuff around about the start, and you've got me - and I suspect you too. Whoo hoo folks, it sounds like a biggie.




1 comment:

James said...

Pork Pie has outdone himself with the Operatic illusions. I am only sorry to have missed the event. Which character would he have assigned. Wonderful stuff

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