February 26, 2016

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Making his debut tour of Australia, Roberto Alagna, one of the greatest voices of his generation, will be performing in the Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House at 7 p.m. on Thursday 21 July. This is a rare chance to hear the magnificent Italian/French tenor, one of the most sought after opera stars in the world.

Roberto Alagna’s career spans over 30 years, but unlike most other tenors, he has a performing background in cabaret, giving him the ability to cross boundaries. During his tour, as well as performing some of the great operatic arias, he will sing popular songs that reflect his Sicilian, Neapolitan and French musical background.

As a young man he studied accountancy, sang in Parisian cabarets and released a pop album.  Influenced by the films of Mario Lanza, he made the switch to opera. In 1988, when Luciano Pavarotti came to Paris and was signing copies of his recordings, Alagna pushed his way through the throng and told Pavarotti he wanted to be an operatic tenor. Amused, Pavarotti invited Alagna to sing one note and when he did, Pavarotti’s jaw dropped. The maestro invited Alagna to audition to earn a ticket to the finale of the Pavarotti Competition in Philadelphia. After winning his ticket to Philadelphia, Alagna then won the prestigious competition and overnight, at age 24, his operatic career took off. Lead roles and acclaim at opera houses such as La Scala, Royal Opera House Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera in New York followed.

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Roberto Alagna will be supported on his Australian tour by a young German based Australian soprano, Siobhan Stagg, who has quickly established herself as a rising star of the opera and concert stage. Stefano Miceli, who is currently working with the NYC Opera Renaissance and Bellini Opera Foundation in Michigan, will conduct the Australian Sinfonietta Orchestra in Sydney. Maestro Miceli is a regular guest artist as pianist and conductor at festivals and theatres across Europe, Asia and the USA.

Brought to Australia by the arts patron and philanthropist, Lady Southey AC, a co-director with Franca Smarrelli of SkyHigh, Roberto Alagna has a repertoire of over 60 roles, including two operas composed specifically for him. His diverse discography boasts numerous gold, platinum and double platinum sellers. Enjoying the devotion of a vast mainstream audience, while never compromising on his rigorous approach to singing the great operatic repertoire, Roberto Alagna has sold millions of albums of his unique crossover blend.  Deutsche Grammophon and Universal Music Australia are delighted to release Alagna’s 2-CD album “Robertissimo” in conjunction with the Italian/French tenor’s much anticipated Australian tour. This official tour edition of “Robertissimo” includes arias from Verdi, Donizetti, Massenet and Puccini.

Undoubtedly his tour will be a high point on the Australian cultural calendar and follows on the back of a three month season starring with the New York Metropolitan Opera in the role of Canio (Pagliacci) and as Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly).

Sandra Tiltman


February 22, 2016


Opera Australia’s touring program will launch the opera version of “Hansel and Gretel” in NSW schools this year, after touring Victorian schools last year. It will be performed over 200 times, in more than 150 primary schools, to approximately 45,000 children.

Written by 19th century composer Engelbert Humperdinck, who described it as “a fairytale opera” based on the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale, “Hansel and Gretel” has been a favourite of young audiences for over one hundred years.

The primary school tours, performing to well over one million children, have been run by Opera Australia since 1998. Showing people of all ages, especially children, that operas come in all shapes and sizes is a strong way to develop a foundation of knowledge and interest in opera within the wider community.


Opera Australia’s Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini said, “Taking opera to primary schools across NSW is an important part of Opera Australia’s commitment to new audiences and one that we particularly enjoy, not only for its importance in education, but also for the pure fun of entertaining and engaging with our youngest audiences.”

“Hansel and Gretel” was originally devised and directed by Christine Anketell especially for a younger audience. She worked closely with Tim Sexton and Ian Bone who adapted the music and libretto to under one hour. This 2016 production is directed by Sally Blackwood, in conjunction with Musical Director Michael Curtain and features a highly talented rotational cast of six Opera Australia performers, Emily Barber, Belinda Dalton, Angela Hogan, Jared Lillehagen, Eugene Raggio and Jessica Westcott.

With familiar characters performed by an energetic and talented cast, “Hansel and Gretel” is sure to delight children across the state from February to early September 2016.

Sandra Tiltman


February 11, 2016
Photographs: Simon Bullard. Belmore Park Security Presence. The City of Sydney council has recently posted a security detail to the park in the hopes that their presence will make members of the public feel more secure after the recent influx of homeless people who have set up temporary residence inside the park.

Photographs: Simon Bullard.

Azamara Club Cruises, the boutique and destination focussed cruise line, made its Australian debut in December 2015 when the 686 guest “Azamara Quest” arrived in Darwin.

With smaller ships that are able to go to places other larger cruise ships can’t, Azamara differentiates itself by making destinations the star of the show, offering longer stays, more overnight calls and night touring, giving travellers the opportunity to truly experience a destination, taking in the sights, sounds and flavours of local cultures in every port.

Azamara’s “Insider Access” takes guests behind the scenes at heritage estates, family farms, local shops and art galleries. Guests enjoy conversations and stories with their hosts, gaining valuable insights and appreciation of local culture. Their “Nights & Cool Places” are exclusive after dinner experiences in small, intimate groups, ranging from a harbour yacht experience to a private gallery tour with a famous local artist. Azamara’s “Cruise Global, Eat Local” programme features carefully curated dining experiences around the globe and Azamara does the sleuthing to bring guests to places the locals frequent, from a traditional family trattoria to a dim sum feast.

Larry Pimentel, President and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises said
”Azamara is all about Destination Immersion and we spend more time in ports at night and stay overnight to ensure our guests can spend enough time in the destination to come away with an authentic experience. Our AzAmazing Evenings, Nights and Cool Places, Insider Access and Cruise Global, Eat Local are just a few of the programmes we provide guests to make the most of their time in port”.

Sandra Tiltman on board Azamara Quest. Photo: John Pond

Sandra Tiltman on board Azamara Quest. Photo: John Pond

While destinations are the highlight, both “Azamara Quest” and “Azamara Journey” offer guests personal service, fine cuisine, boutique wines from around the world and inclusions such as gratuities, self-service laundry, beverages, English Butler service for suite guests and shuttle transportation to city centres in ports, where available.

Azamara Club Cruises has unveiled new design plans for its suites and staterooms as part of their “Reimagine Azamara” programme, to be carried out during the upgrade of “Azamara Quest” & “Azamara Journey” while in dry dock early next year. Several of the world’s leading design consultants will help transform the suites and staterooms into modern oases at sea. The result will be an overall ambiance that is comfortable, timeless and elegant.

The Spa Suites will be brand new additions to both ships. Built adjacent to the Sanctum Spa these suites will feature an elegant look with muted colours. The bathroom shower and tub will have a view of the water and Spa Suite guests will have exclusive access to unique spa amenities included in the price of these suites.

In all other staterooms, guests will see new blackout curtains, bed linens, furniture, carpeting, lighting and a complete bathroom modernisation. These updates will give guests a better experience onboard Azamara and will add to an exciting and enriching travel experience.

“Azamara Quest” enters dry dock in April 2016 in Singapore after her Australian season while “Azamara Journey” entered dry dock in the Bahamas in early 2016 and was completely refreshed for her maiden Australian season in February 2017.

Sandra Tiltman


February 10, 2016
Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde’s infamous play “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is currently playing at Sydney’s Genesian Theatre in Kent Steet. This “Reimagined” version is an original adaption by Nathan Farrow and a worldwide premiere for the Genesian Theatre.

Directed by Stephen Lloyd-Coombs, this production has all the wit associated with Oscar Wilde, but the story, originally written over a century ago, has been reimagined to bring it into line with modern times, complete with all the original narcissistic undertones.

To those who meet him, at first glance Dorian appears to be a beautiful, pristine and perfect idol and they look at him with adulation, but when they get close to him, they find he is something much more sinister.


The production follows the journey of Dorian, who has sold his soul in a pact that enables him to stay forever young and beautiful, never ageing, while his portrait turns decrepit and those around him age and deteriorate.

Good looking actor Michael Yore is totally believable as the beautiful self-centered Dorian Gray.

“The Picture of Dorian Gray” plays until 19 March 2016, with performances on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and a Sunday matinée at 4.30p.m.

Sandra Tiltman


February 10, 2016


TOMATOESThe Tomato Festival returns to Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden on 20-21 February 2016 with a new chilli theme and experiences that promise to be bigger, hotter and tastier.

The Festival celebrates the humble tomato through tomato inspired lunches, Relish Café & Bar pop-up, talks, workshops, cooking demonstrations, tours, children’s activities, produce stalls, tastings and more.

Botanically a fruit, but classified as a berry, the tomato is an indispensable part of our lives and is enjoyed the world over. From salads to sauces, pizza to pastas, the tomato has become a versatile staple in the diet of many.


2016 marks the Garden’s 200th birthday and a highlight of the Festival will be the D’VineRipe Longest Tomato Lunch with patrons enjoying a tomato inspired hamper and the Garden’s 200th Birthday bottled wine by Tyrell’s.

New additions to the Festival Village this year include cooking demonstrations with well-known Sydney chefs and a vegetable mandala display 5m in diameter.

Sandra Tiltman


February 4, 2016


To capitalise on Cathay Pacific’s high international brand recognition, Cathay Pacific Group is aligning their two brands, with Dragonair to be rebranded as Cathay Dragon. The rebranding will leverage on Cathay Dragon’s unique connectivity into Mainland China. The two will remain as separate airlines, operating under their own licences and both airlines’ customers will benefit from greater convenience and a more seamless travel experience.

Since becaming a wholly owned subsidiary of Cathay Pacific in 2006, Dragonair has added 23 new destinations, with the number of passengers travelling across both carriers growing to more than 7 million in 2015. Combined annual passenger numbers of the two airlines grew from 22 million to more than 34 million last year, made possible by Cathay Pacific Group’s efforts to channel international passengers to and from Mainland China, regional and long-haul markets through Hong Kong International Airport.


A new livery will be created for Cathay Dragon that features a Cathay-style brushwing logo. The Chinese dragon emblem, well known throughout the region, has been retained in the redesign, although subtly updated and will feature on the nose of every aircraft. This livery will appear for the first time on one of Cathay Dragon’s Airbus A330-300 aircraft in April and will be progressively introduced to the rest of the airline’s fleet.

Cathay Pacific’s Chief Executive Ivan Chu said: “We are very proud of what we have achieved together. Cathay Dragon is a brand that will be recognisably part of the Cathay Pacific Group for our customers from different parts of the world. The rebranding will enable us to capture the fast growing passenger flows across the two carriers by creating a more seamless travel experience.
We are building on what is a true Hong Kong success story that has made our city a leading international aviation hub and gateway to and from Mainland China markets. This rebranding will sharpen our competitive edge by offering an attractive Cathay led brand package that carries the assurance of a consistently high quality customer experience.”

Cathay Dragon and Cathay Pacific will offer a premium in-flight experience, with each airline having its own distinct personality that reflects the specific needs of their passengers, such as in-flight meals, which will continue Dragonair’s tradition of providing the best of Chinese and Hong Kong cuisine.

Cathay Dragon’s Chief Executive Officer Algernon Yau said: “We can assure our customers that Cathay Dragon will continue to provide the same high level of products and services that made us a four time winner of the World’s Best Regional Airline award. We will have the same dedicated team continuing to offer their friendly and caring service style. We will also continue to build on our experience and understanding of what our passengers like and treasure, such as specialty Chinese and Asian dishes as well as popular local Hong Kong snacks.”

Cathay Dragon and Cathay Pacific will provide a seamless brand experience that truly enables a Life Well Travelled.

Sandra Tiltman


February 2, 2016
Paola Toppi

Paola Toppi

Caviar and truffles are just two of the gourmet treats to be found at Josh Rea’s incredible food emporium, Gourmet Life. Sydney food lovers will delight in the large selection of unique food items that have been sourced locally and from around the globe.


Gourmet Life recently held a cooking demonstration featuring fresh truffles which had arrived that day from Spain. Conducted by Paola Toppi, from the famous Italian Ristorante Sciue Sciue in Double Bay and the soon to open Bar Machiavelli in Rushcutters Bay, the delicious black truffle tagliatelle which Paola put together with such flair, was a taste sensation and had everyone wanting a second helping.

Using her own homemade pasta, which is also available for sale at Gourmet Life, Paola let us see how keen home cooks can replicate the dish without a worry.

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Paola also showed how easy it was to make the perfect blini to accompany Gourmet Life’s selection of premium caviar. I was even inspired to attempt cooking some myself at home, so I purchased a jar of caviar, the perfect partner with a glass of champagne.


Located at 52-60 New South Head Rd, Edgecliff, Gourmet Life should feature as the go to venue for chefs, home cooks or those who just love good food.

 Sandra Tiltman     Photos: John Pond