August 16, 2013


Opera Australia’s winter season continues to thrill audiences.  Their latest production of Verdi’s La Traviata at Sydney Opera House had the audience stamping their feet and clapping their hands in enthusiastic appreciation.

La Traviata tells the tale of popular courtesan Violetta.  In true operatic tragic tradition, Violetta is dying of consumption but a young man, Alfredo, admires her from afar and at a party declares his feelings for her.

Violetta, torn between her life of freedom and the promise of true love, sings her famous aria, Sempre libera, calling love “the torment and delight of my heart”.

La_Traviata_SW13_37_Fotor_20130816Choosing a life with Alfredo and moving to the country, Violetta has been selling her possessions to fund their lifestyle.   After Alfredo discovers this, he travels to Paris to obtain some alternative money.  While Alfredo is gone, his father Giorgio Germont arrives and begs Violetta to leave his son, lest she destroys the entire family’s reputation.  Violetta agrees, for the sake of Alfredo, and writes him a farewell letter.  Alfredo is heartbroken and furious.

Over three acts, the dramatic tale unfolds as to whether Alfredo will learn of Violetta’s undying love before she succumbs to her illness.

Australian soprano Emma Matthews performs the lead role of Violetta, joined by Polish tenor Arnold Rutkowski as Alfredo in his Opera Australia debut and baritone José Carbó as Giorgio Germont.   Komische Oper’s Principal Conductor Patrick Lange conducts.

A new fun event for opera goers at interval is the installation in the Northern Foyer of a mock La Traviata set.  Complete with chaise lounge and armchairs, audience members can take pictures of themselves posing on the “set”, then send the images via facebook, tweet and instagram.  What a great way for audience members to engage with their friends and spread the word about opera.

Sandra Tiltman 



August 16, 2013

Spirit-Kathy-Marika. Photo credit Danielle Lyonne

Australia’s premier national Indigenous performing arts company, Bangarra Dance Theatre, under the inspirational artistic direction of Stephen Page, has been recognised by the Australian arts industry with four awards for their outstanding artistic achievements.

July 29 saw Bangarra receive two Helpmann Awards at the Sydney Opera House ceremony.  Dancer Deborah Brown was awarded the Helpmann for Best Female Dancer in a Dance or Physical Theatre Work for her performance in the 2012 work Terrain.  Frances Rings, who choreographed Terrain, also received the Helpmann Award for Best Ballet or Dance Work.  Artist in residence, David Page, was nominated for Best Original Score for Terrain.

On August 1, Bangarra performed at the inaugural Australian Arts in Asia Awards which recognise Australian artists who have engaged with Asia and who have contributed to strengthening cultural links between Australia and Asia.  Bangarra received an award in the Dance category for their production Spirit and its recent tours to Mongolia, Thailand and Vietnam.  They shared this award with Annalouise Paul for Game On.

Artistic Director Stephen Page said, “These awards are a wonderful affirmation for the company that we are achieving artistic excellence while we pursue the equally important role of building connections.  Whether Bangarra is performing on stage at the Sydney Opera House or a theatre in regional Victoria, running an indigenous youth workshop in remote New South Wales or presenting a performance for brand new audiences in Vietnam, the high quality of our work is what helps create meaningful engagement.  During our recent South Asian tour of Spirit, audiences were fascinated by Bangarra’s fusion of traditional culture with modern dance theatre.  There was an instant connection with the spiritual, grounded nature of Bangarra’s work and they understood the story-telling that strongly influences our productions.”

Lastly, at the annual Australian Dance Awards in Canberra, Shane Carroll received the Services to Dance Award.  Over the last two years Shane Carroll has overseen the development and implementation of Bangarra’s new youth program Rekindling, designed to connect Aboriginal young people with their culture through story-telling and dance.

Sandra Tiltman 

Picture Credit:   Kathy Marika in Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Spirit – Photographer Danielle Lyonne.


August 15, 2013


The inaugural Australian Garden Show Sydney, spanning over seven acres, will be in Centennial Park from Thursday 5 September to Sunday 8 September.  With its world class garden displays, vibrant floral pavilion, bars, fine cuisine and stunning visual installations which will come alive at night, this is definitely not to be missed.

The event is an experience unlike any other garden show.   “There is absolutely nothing like this available in Australia.  It’s not just all about gardens, anyone with an interest in design, architecture, sustainability, organic food and cooking will take something valuable away from this event” said Event Director, Anthony Bastic.

A sweeping tree lined avenue will connect 16 stunning display gardens, including the centrepiece garden September Sky created by recent Chelsea Flower Show gold medal winner Tom Harfleet and partner Andrew Fisher Tomlin.

Gardens will also be created by event curator Myles Baldwin, Brendan Moar from The LifeStyle Channel’s Dry Spell Gardening and Charlie Albone from The LifeStyle Channel’s Selling Houses Australia.

To commemorate Gallipoli’s centenary in 2015, award winning landscape designer Jim Fogarty will design The Last to Leave, a Gallipoli inspired garden.

Wander through lavish tomato archways and learn how to utilise even the smallest spaces with a pop-up edible garden.

fp2q39rJ4nwVxAWdky9OgPQ-KlTQA1MCxBfXEICjhncVisitors will discover a new gardening experience at Indira Naidoo’s 1000 square metre Kitchen Garden by building their own strawberry wall or watering plants with pedal powered sprinklers.

By night, the gardens will take on a whole new form as light installations illuminate the displays and majestic lighting floods the grounds with beautiful effects.

Celebrity chef Kylie Kwong and entomologist Skye Blackburn will create a selection of recipes featuring locally bred edible insects, including crickets and dehydrated earthworms, in their talk as part of the Seeds of Wisdom Lecture Series.  If insects aren’t your idea of fine dining, catch talks from international vertical garden guru Patrick Blanc, Aussie garden legends Angus Stewart and Graham Ross plus Gourmet Farmer Matthew Evans.

Offering much more than just flowers, attendees can enjoy a drink at one of the many cafes and bars, grab a bite to eat at the Harvest Restaurant, browse through the Florilegium bookshop and get books signed by their favourite horticultural personalities.

There will be over 100 exhibitors ranging from nursery and garden associations to a large variety of gardening produce and information stalls.  There will also be a fun interactive kids section operated by Twigz to keep the little ones entertained.

Gardeners can access expert advice at the Ross Garden Clinic operating on site from 10.30am – 4pm daily.

The Australian Garden Show Sydney is exclusive to New South Wales and will attract garden enthusiasts and horticulturists from around the world.

For more show information including public transport visit:

Sandra Tiltman 


August 15, 2013

Gay BarDarlinghurst’s bar scene is now even more exciting with the official opening last week of The Gay Bar at 231 Oxford Street, just near Taylor Square.  Drag Queen, Trevor Ashley, bedecked in rainbow hues, performed his duties as party host with great aplomb.  Co-Owners Stephen Craddock & Nelson De Sousa made guests at the launch party feel very welcome.

With three levels of bars to select from, patrons are really spoilt for choice.  Depending on what mood you’re in, there’s the street level more traditional style bar area, or venture up the stairs to the second level Dame Edna’s with its walls decorated with oversize headshots of Cher, Bette Middler, Blondie & Madonna to put some glamour in your life

If your mood desires a more elegant setting, go straight to the top floor bar area and sink into the sumptuous armchairs.

There are special glassed walled areas for those who like to smoke, yet still be able to watch what’s happening inside.

Set apart from its neighbouring venues, The Gay Bar provides a clean and slick party venue, with some of Sydney’s best DJs and entertainers.  Serving awesome food and drinks plus delicious cocktails, this new bar will prove to be one of Sydney’s best.  Try a Kylie Minogue, this is one of the best cocktails I’ve had in a long while.

The Gay Bar is open Tuesday to Sunday from 5 pm till late.

Sandra Tiltman     Photos:  John Pond


August 11, 2013


Tourism will be the big winner following the announcement of the global premiere to be held in Sydney of “Strictly Ballroom The Musical”.

At Sydney Town Hall, in front of an audience of assembled media, New South Wales Premier, Barry O’Farrell, launched the forthcoming global premiere of Strictly Ballroom The Musical, along with co-writer and creator Baz Luhrmann.

“Sydney will host one on the most anticipated musicals in recent times.  Baz Luhrmann will undoubtedly dazzle our State’s theatre goers and generate more than $20 million in visitor expenditure for New South Wales over a six month run.  There are plenty of cities around the world that wanted to premiere Strictly Ballroom The Musical and I am very proud that Sydney was chosen over the likes of London and New York.  It’s a clear vote of confidence in Sydney as an events destination from Baz Luhrmann and producers Carmen Pavlovic and Gerry Ryan of Global Creatures” said Mr O’Farrell.

NSW Premier, Barry O'Farrell with Baz Luhrmann

NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell with Baz Luhrmann

Strictly Ballroom The Musical will be produced in Australia by Global Creatures and Bazmark together with the support of Destination NSW, the NSW Government’s tourism and major events agency and the City of Sydney.

Carmen Pavlovic, CEO, Global Creatures said “We believe that Sydney is the rightful beginning for Strictly Ballroom’s journey back to the stage and to ensure the international success and recognition it deserves.”

Minister for Tourism and Major Events, George Souris, commented “Strictly Ballroom The Musical has huge appeal and will attract audiences from all over Australia and across the globe.  We are committed to securing the best musicals and live performances to attract visitors to our state.  For each six month run of a first run musical about 7,000 overseas visitors and 26,000 interstate visitors come to Sydney.”

Originating as a stage play that Baz Luhrmann devised with a group of students at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in 1984, Strictly Ballroom The Musical is the inspiring story of a championship ballroom dancer who defies all the rules to follow his heart.

The new theatrical production will bring this iconic story to life on stage and will feature numbers from the film, Love is in the Air, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and Time After Time as well as newly composed songs.

DSC_1330Based on the much loved Australian film, Strictly Ballroom The Musical will dance its way onto the stage with the original creative team behind the classic 1992 film, including director and co-writer Baz Luhrmann, set and costume designer, Academy Award Winner, Catherine Martin, choreographer John “Cha Cha” O’Connell and co-writer Craig Pearce.

An announcement of cast and the rest of the creative team will be made in the near future

The story that inspired the world to dance, Strictly Ballroom The Musical, will hold its opening night at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre on 12 April 2014.  Previews will run from 25 March 2014.     Sandra Tiltman  

Photos:  John Pond


August 7, 2013

Heather_credit Scott HoneMontreal based Cirque du Soleil shows have toured Australia over the last decade, bringing the joys of circus performance to a whole new audience.  Not forgetting Circus Oz and the more traditional circus troups which tour both town and country regions of Australia, such as Ashtons and Stardust, circus skills have become a popular artform.  Circus acts no longer perform only under “The Big Top” but can be found on stage in theatres, nightclubs and even cruise ships.

The National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) is now inviting aspiring circus artists to submit their applications for entry into the 2014 Bachelor of Circus Arts course, with the opportunity to join the ranks of the acclaimed alumni who have passed through the Institute’s doors over the past 14 years.

If you see an Australian circus artist working today on the professional stage anywhere in the world, chances are they began their career by auditioning for the NICA Bachelor of Circus Arts course.

From 30 September 2013, NICA trainers will be holding auditions in Sydney for entry into the course in 2014.  Those with a flair for the physical and a desire for a challenge will have the opportunity to apply for this prestigious course.

The course is a great career opportunity for those with some background in physical training such as circus, sport, dance, physical theatre, gymnastics, acrobatics, martial arts, diving or trampoline and who dream of performing.

NICA is one of eight national arts training institutes and offers Australia’s only Bachelor of Circus Arts.  The course is accredited by Swinburne University and training takes place in custom-built circus facilities on its Prahran campus.  Over 100 young people currently study at NICA’s internationally-recognised facility in Melbourne, with a determination to graduate with a degree and a competitive advantage that will help them perform at an elite level.

Entry into the three year Bachelor of Circus Arts Degree course in 2014 is by audition, interview and physiotherapy assessment.  Applicants must have completed Year 12 or equivalent to be eligible for this program and are required to apply for an audition via the NICA website at or by contacting NICA’s Student Administrator by email or on 03 9214 6537.

Applications close on 9 September 2013 and NICA Sydney Auditions are to be held on 30 September 2013 at Aerialize, Canterbury.

Sandra Tiltman 


August 7, 2013
Cr Angela Vithoulkas, Sydney City Council, Gabrielle Upton, Member for Vaucluse with Rabbi Mendel Kastel CEO Jewish House

Cr Angela Vithoulkas, Sydney City Council, Gabrielle Upton, Member for Vaucluse with Rabbi Mendel Kastel CEO Jewish House

Veterinarian Dr Sam Kovac has launched Project HoPe, an exciting new initiative that aims to help the disadvantaged pets of the homeless, as part of Homeless Persons Week (5-11 August 2013).   Dr Kovac in collaboration with the Jewish House will be providing free vaccinations to Sydney’s homeless pets.

“I think many homeless people in Australia own pets because they make great, non-judgmental companions” said Dr Kovac, founder of Southern Cross Veterinary clinic in St Peters.

Project HoPe aims to vaccinate as many homeless pets as possible from common yet deadly diseases this winter.  Often these diseases can be prevented with a vaccine that costs less than $50.

“All of the diseases we will be vaccinating against are preventable.  The aim is simple, we would like to prevent these animals from becoming sick in the first place and avoid unnecessary angst and pain for both owner and animal.  I will be running the Project HoPe with help from Jewish House.  I will be administering the vaccinations myself.  It is just a small way that I can give back using my time, qualifications and skills” explains Dr Kovac.

Dr Kovac has set up the Southern Cross Compassionate Fund to ensure the financially disadvantaged do not have to bargain over the life of their companion.  All proceeds donated to the fund will go directly to helping the homeless and their pets.

For more information on Project HoPe or to contribute to the Southern Cross Compassionate Fund, please visit

Rabbi Mendel Kastel, CEO at Jewish House understands that for those on the street it can be very challenging to provide their pet with even basic needs such as food and shelter.  “It is important to show the homeless of Sydney that the community is there to support them.  As a front line worker at Jewish House, I have seen first hand how the companionship from a pet can provide comfort and relief to the homeless owner.  Project HoPe is a really positive initiative that offers hope and support to those living on the streets”.

The Jewish House is a safe haven open to any member of the public in need.  They assist in a wide range of circumstances, ranging from someone requiring a counselling session to someone requiring a bed and a roof over their head.  Whatever the case is, when a person is in need of help and on the edge of despair, the Jewish House is there to provide food, shelter, counselling, jobs searching and a 24/7 crisis line. The Jewish House is a leader in crisis management.  Its caring approach, whereby a number of services are combined in a unique way for each client, is admired by many organisations and its approach has ensured a very high success rate in assisting people to rebuild their lives after a major crisis.

Sandra Tiltman    PHOTO: John Pond