Australian Chamber Orchestra
February 9th-March 19th 2008
In a busy 2008 schedule that will include trips to Europe and Asia, the Australian Chamber Orchestra comes to Sydney as the city wakes up after the summer holidays. Australia’s leading chamber-music ensemble kicks off the year with two programmes at the Sydney Opera House and the City Recital Hall under the direction of Richard Tognetti, the lead violinist.
The first features Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No. 19” played by Melvyn Tan, a British pianist, and “Strung Out”, a piece for strings by Roger Smalley, a British-born composer from Western Australia. The second programme has works by Elgar and Vaughan Williams, with Katie Noonan, a renowned Australian vocalist, performing English songs ranging from the 17th century to the Beatles.
City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney. Tel: +61 (02) 8256 2222. For programme details, see the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s website.
Until February 16th 2008
Sydney has two outdoor cinemas running this summer, both of which are worth visiting as much for their atmosphere as for the films. The most popular is the Open Air Cinema at Mrs Macquarie’s Point, facing Sydney Harbour off the Royal Botanic Gardens. The programme mixes recent releases (such as “Michael Clayton” and “Atonement”) with previews of forthcoming features (“The Savages” and “3.10 to Yuma”). Web pre-sales have sold out, but about 50 tickets are held for sale at the gate each day from 6.30pm; it is worth joining the queue. There is a bar with drinks and good food on the premises.
You should have better luck booking ahead for the Moonlight Cinema in Centennial Park. Here you’ll find a less ritzy location with a more adventurous programme, including a repertoire of classics (“2001: A Space Odyssy”, “Thelma and Louise” and “Casablanca”, among others). Bring a picnic. This cinema closes on March 9th.
Opera Australia Summer Season
December 31st 2007-March 29th 2008
Opera Australia, the country’s leading opera company, kicks off its summer season with a New Year’s Eve concert of selections from its repertoire. Consider splashing out on dinner beforehand or a party in the foyer afterwards, and expect excellent views of midnight fireworks over Sydney Harbour. The season closes with a rare performance of “The Pilgrim’s Progress”, conducted by Richard Hickox, the company’s music director, to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Ralph Vaughan Williams, the opera’s composer.
In between, there are new productions of Bizet’s “Carmen”, directed by Francesca Zambello, and Richard Strauss’s “Arabella”. For something a little different, take a picnic and a cushion to the Domain on February 2nd for the free, open-air performance of Puccini’s “La bohème”.
Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney. Tel: +61 (02) 9250 7111. Box office: +61 (02) 9318 8200. See Opera Australia’s website.
January 5th-26th 2008
In January many Sydneysiders escape the city for their summer holidays. But the Sydney Festival provides a good reason to stay. This year Fergus Linehan, the director since 2004, has added an opening night party of music and dance, which will wend through the central streets. Other highlights include appearances by Brian Wilson (co-founder of the Beach Boys), the National Theatre of Scotland and Spain’s Compania Nacional de Danza.
After its sell-out debut in 2006, the Spiegeltent—a travelling tent—returns to Hyde Park to host risqué performances by La Clique, a cabaret and vaudeville company. The festival has two big open-air concerts in the Domain, both of them free. January 12th sees a jazz evening featuring the Spanish Harlem Orchestra of New York conducted by Oscar Hernandez. On the 19th the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jonathan Stockhammer, performs an ensemble of classical and contemporary works. Arrive with a picnic a few hours before the 8pm starting time, as the best spots on the grass are snapped up quickly.
For programme details and bookings, see the Sydney Festival website. Telephone bookings: +61 (02) 1300 888 412.
Sidney Nolan: A New Retrospective
private collection (c) The Trustees of the Sidney Nolan Trust photograph Jenni Carter
Until February 3rd 2008
Sidney Nolan (1917-1992) is probably Australia’s most internationally renowned artist. Unashamedly modern in his approach, he drew his inspiration from the ancient landscapes of the outback. At a time when many dismissed it as harsh and barren, Mr Nolan saw this landscape as “the real Australia: old, dignified and coherent”. Starting with his earliest abstract works from the 1930s, and finishing with a spray-painted self-portrait completed in 1986, this exhibition of 117 works spans Mr Nolan’s visits to Antarctica, Africa and China.
Its essence, though, is the series of images for which he remains famous: of Burke and Wills, two ill-fated 19th-century explorers, and Ned Kelly, an outlaw whose gang was pursued by Mr Nolan’s grandfather, a policeman. They were the characters, he once said, whose stories helped him to interpret the outback. And do not miss the epic “Riverbend” series, depicting the Goulburn river in Victoria, where Mr Nolan spent part of his childhood. The exhibition is the centrepiece of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’s summer season.
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery Rd, The Domain, Sydney. Tel: +61 (0)2 9225 1744. Open: daily, 10am-5pm. Admission: A$12. See also the gallery’s website.
Tough Men, Hard Times: Policing the Depression
Courtesy of Michael Cannon
Until February 10th 2008
This fascinating exhibition explores the political conflicts that rocked Sydney during the Great Depression. By 1932, more than one-third of Australia’s workforce was unemployed; violent clashes erupted in Sydney between police and members of the Unemployed Workers Union, a communist-backed body. The New Guard, a paramilitary group with quasi-fascist leanings, attracted about 40,000 members in response to its claims that a Soviet-backed working-class uprising was imminent.
The exhibition presents the story of the 1930s by examining Sydney’s police at the time. The force infiltrated both sides, and even uncovered an alleged New Guard plot to overthrow the government of New South Wales. The archival newspaper and film images of Depression-era Sydney are riveting, and provide a sobering contrast to the booming city of today.
The Photographs of August Sander
November 17th 2007-February 3rd 2008
There could hardly be a stronger contrast to the vibrant colours of Sidney Nolan’s paintings than this concurrent exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW). It contains 155 photographs by August Sander, a German who documented life in the early 20th century using the faces of farmers, artisans and families around Cologne, where he lived.
The portraits tend to be austere and posed rather than spontaneous, and most predate the 1930s. The Nazi authorities’ disapproval of the social realism in Sander’s approach had a chilling effect on his output afterwards. The exhibition is drawn from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, which boasts the largest collection of Sander photographs outside Germany.
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery Rd, The Domain, Sydney. Tel: +61 (0)2 9225 1744. Open: daily, 10am-5pm. Admission: free. See also the gallery’s website.
Convict Hulks: Life on the Prison Ships
SJ Jones collection, State Library of Victoria
Success, a convict hulk, at Hobart (c.1894)
Until July 26th 2009
This revealing exhibition charts the human stories behind Britain’s policy of using hulks, or old and unseaworthy ships, as floating prisons in the 18th and 19th centuries. The system, pioneered in London as a solution for Britain’s overflowing prisons, was farmed out to colonies such as New South Wales, Tasmania, Gibraltar and Bermuda. Most of the displays here concentrate on Bermuda, which between 1824 and 1863 received some 9,000 convicts, 2,000 of whom died in captivity. Look out for objects recovered by divers in 1982 from the Dromedary, a sunken convict hulk. They include pipes, rings and gaming boards that convicts made from bone, shell and metal to sell in exchange for tobacco, alcohol and food. The exhibition fits comfortably in the Hyde Park Barracks Museum, which sits in Sydney’s most historic convict building.
Hyde Park Barracks Museum, Queens Square, Macquarie St, Sydney. Tel: +61 (02) 8239 2311. Open: daily 9.30am-5pm. See also the museum’s website.