WENTWORTH HOTEL CELEBRATES 50 YEARS

March 30, 2016

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2016 is a year of celebration for the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth, with the luxury heritage hotel turning 50. Opening in 1966 as “The Wentworth Hotel”, it was the first 5-star hotel in Sydney. The hotel will mark this impressive milestone by inviting guests to embark on a journey of the historic Wentworth Hotel.

In 1800 the site of the first Wentworth Hotel in Lang Street became part of Church Hill, a developing area of Sydney. In 1824 three substantial, two storey terrace houses were built in Lang Street, the last terrace, No 3 Church Hill, became the future Wentworth Hotel. In 1833 William Charles Wentworth and Dr Wardell launched “The Australian” newspaper which was published from No 3 Church Hill.

Sofitel_Wentworth_60s-1In 1854 a boarding residence was operated on the site which became known as Wentworth House and in 1882 Mary Hayes purchased Wentworth House, naming it the Wentworth House Family Hotel. On Christmas Day 1888, fire destroyed Wentworth House. In 1901 the lease on the Wentworth Hotel was given to Donald Samuel Maclurcan and remained in the Maclurcan family until 1950.

The Wentworth Ballroom was added and opened in 1920. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII and the Duke of Windsor after abdication, danced in the new ballroom on a number of occasions. By 1925, the hotel of 100 rooms was a well established and popular destination which was further expanded to 200 rooms in 1940.

Qantas Empire Airways negotiated a controlling interest in the hotel in 1950, beginning a new phase in the hotel’s development. In 1961 approval was granted for Qantas to build a new 400 room hotel next to Qantas House in Chifley Square and in 1966 the new Wentworth Hotel was completed and became the first five star hotel in Sydney.

In 1982 the hotel was resold and further refurbishments were done. In 2002 AccorHotels began managing the hotel under the Sofitel brand, bringing it to the luxurious 5-star hotel it is today, in the heart of Sydney’s CBD.

Over the years, The Wentworth Hotel has hosted many international dignitaries and celebrities, such as Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh. Other visitors have been Prince Charles and Princess Diana, numerous film and sports stars as well as the first men on the moon.

thGeneral Manager of Sofitel Sydney Wentworth, Wayne Taranto said “We are extremely proud of the hotel’s heritage and this year we will fully embrace the beginnings of The Wentworth Hotel with a variety of celebratory hotel activations throughout 2016. The hotel will release a limited edition remembrance booklet and video with original footage of the hotel opening and its evolution throughout the five decades, as well as a selection of anniversary offers for our valued hotel guests. We can’t let the year end without honouring the official opening day of the Wentworth Hotel on 14 December 1966, therefore on that day, we will host a grand celebration in our iconic Wentworth Ballroom.”

Sandra Tiltman


HANDA OPERA ON SYDNEY HARBOUR – TURANDOT

March 16, 2016

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A fire breathing dragon and giant pagoda set the scene for Turandot, the 2016 production for Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, which is the biggest and most ambitious to date.

Italian composer, Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot is one of the greatest operas ever written, with brilliant melodies, a gripping story for those who need action and drama, plus an exotic setting and plenty of movement and visual splendour.

Performed on the over water stage, with views of the Sydney skyline, Harbour Bridge and Opera House in the background, this is sure to be one of the most spectacular productions of Turandot ever staged, complete with a giant 9m high and 60m long dragon incorporating the Great Wall of China and an 18m high pagoda.

Listening to the sounds of the world’s most famous aria, Nessun Dorma, ringing out across Sydney Harbour will be a memory the audience will have forever.

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Beautiful and powerful Turandot, Princess of Peking, is irresistable and brutal. She challenges her many suitors to answer three riddles on pain of death, executing any who cannot answer her riddles. No one has ever succeeded. Calaf, a brave Prince from a foreign land, falls instantly in love with Turandot and despite the wishes of his exiled father and the pleas of a slave girl who loves him, rings the gong and declares his love for the Princess. Turandot presents her riddles and the unknown Calaf answers and offers the ice-cold princess a riddle of his own, but Calaf’s riddle risks more than his own life, everyone else’s hang in the balance.

Chinese-American director Chen Shi-Zheng brings his unique perspective to Turandot’s desire to remain unmarried, putting the entire empire in jeopardy and it’s against this desperate backdrop that the story plays out. Dan Potra is both the set and costume designer.

Performers access the stage via a floating walkway and The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra is housed directly beneath the stage, in an area known as “The Underworld”. There is a total performing company of 136, comprising 78 cast members and 58 from the Orchestra. Two Surf Life Savers keep watch on the over water activities of performers and crew.

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The temporary outdoor “opera house” includes a 3,000 seat grandstand, five food and beverage venues, sparkling wine outlets, merchandise outlets, plus box office, bathroom facilities, kitchens, dressing rooms and offices.

Turandot was Puccini’s last opera and was not quite finished on his death in 1924. One of his students wrote an ending that is performed today.

Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour Turandot runs from 24 March to 24 April 2016.

Sandra Tiltman   Photos: John Pond


GEORGY GIRL – THE SEEKERS MUSICAL

March 14, 2016

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Celebrating one of Australia’s most loved groups and telling the remarkable story of legendary pop group The Seekers, the first Australian band to achieve international success, “Georgy Girl – the Seekers Musical” will play at Sydney’s State Theatre from 2 April 2016, following a critically acclaimed Melbourne season.

“Georgy Girl – the Seekers Musical” follows Judith Durham, Athol Guy, Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley from their folk and jazz beginnings at a café in South Yarra, Melbourne to their meteoric rise to world pop stardom, which took them to the concert stages of the world in the 1960s, to today. The show features their classic hit songs including The Carnival is Over, I’ll Never Find Another You, Morningtown Ride, A World of Our Own, I am Australian and the Oscar nominated Georgy Girl.

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The popular quartet was the first Australian act to achieve major chart success in the UK and US and became the first group ever to reach number one on the UK charts with their first three singles, I’ll Never Find Another You, A World of Our Own and The Carnival is Over, which outsold The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Influential UK music magazine New Musical Express voted The Seekers 1965’s ‘Best New Group’ and the following year, Georgy Girl became the first number one song for an Australian group in America.

Pippa Grandison stars as Judith Durham, lead singer of The Seekers. Phillip Lowe plays Keith Potger, the band’s 6 and 12-string guitarist and Mike McLeish plays 6-string guitarist Bruce Woodley, along with Glaston Toft as Athol Guy, The Seekers’ double bass player. Ian Stenlake plays their tour manager John Ashby and Adam Murphy is the narrator Ron Edgeworth.

Produced by Richard East, an originating producer of Mamma Mia! and Dennis Smith, producer of “Dusty-The Original Pop Diva”, “Georgy Girl – the Seekers Musical” is written by Patrick Edgeworth with script consultant Graham Simpson and directed by Gary Young, with musical supervision by Stephen Amos.

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In 1967, The Seekers made a triumphant return to Melbourne, drawing a crowd of more than 200,000 to the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. In 1968, the group’s members were named joint “Australians of the Year” for 1967, the only group to be honoured with this award. In July 1968, Judith Durham announced she was leaving The Seekers to pursue a solo career and the group disbanded. The Seekers’ Greatest Hits album was released and spent 17 weeks at number one in Australia and six weeks on top of the UK charts, remaining in the UK Top 40 for 125 weeks.

Eventually reuniting in 1993, The Seekers reformed for their ‘25 Year Silver Jubilee Reunion Celebration’ tour and to a sold out UK tour last year for their 50th anniversary ‘Golden Jubilee’ tour, including two capacity concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall. In the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours, they were each awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).

Sandra Tiltman

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AUSTRALIAN BALLET BLENDS OLD & NEW IN 2016 PROGRAMME

March 3, 2016

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The Australian Ballet’s 2016 programme that features exciting new works alongside perennial favourites, blending timeless classics and contemporary works, will have wide appeal. The season brings audiences the return of such popular classics as “Coppélia”, “Swan Lake” and “Romeo & Juliet” plus world premiere works by rising ballet stars. A highlight of the season is the Australian premiere of the masterpiece “Nijinsky”.

Founded in 1962, The Australian Ballet has been delivering extraordinary performances for over 50 years and is one of the world’s leading ballet companies. From its earliest days, a commitment to artistic excellence plus a willingness to take risks have defined the company, both onstage and off. Moving effortlessly between great classical ballets and new contemporary commissions, the company has a unique Australian style, powered by artistry and athleticism. The company exists to inspire, delight and challenge audiences through the quality of its performances.

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“Swan Lake”, a perennial favourite, returns with an encore of Stephen Baynes’ classic. This ageless ballet has enchanted audiences for a century and has special significance for the Company, as it was the first ballet ever danced by The Australian Ballet in 1962 at Sydney’s Her Majesty’s Theatre. “Swan Lake” performs in Sydney from 1-20 April.

“Vitesse”, a triple bill of modern dance, brings together three of the world’s most exciting contemporary choreographers, Christopher Wheeldon, Jirí Kylián and William Forsythe for a collection of cutting edge dance. “Vitesse” performs in Sydney from 26 April-16 May.

Exclusive to Sydney, “Symphony in C” is a mixture of classical and contemporary ballet, beginning with the black and white symmetry of a George Balanchine extravaganza, followed by a selection of ballet moments showing off the art form. Highlights include the world premiere of two new works by emerging choreographers and rising stars of The Australian Ballet, Alice Topp and Richard House. Performing April 2016.

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A premiere work for The Australian Ballet and the centrepiece of the 2016 season, “Nijinksy”, tells the story of the 20th century’s greatest choreographer and male dancer, a visionary who changed dance forever. Russian born Nijinsky, the male star of Ballets Russes, was celebrated for his gravity defying leaps, virtuosity and unprecedented onstage intensity, but it was his sensual choreography that sparked outrage in theatres across Europe. The tragic story of the artist’s downward spiral is told through vivid memories unfolding in the dancer’s mind during his last performance at a Swiss hotel. Performs in Sydney 11-28 November.

“Coppélia”, a frothy fairytale, brings magic, romance and plenty of lavish costumes to the story of Dr Coppelius, an eccentric toy maker, who dreams of bringing his mechanical dolls to life. Performed in the 1962 inaugural season, “Coppélia” has an important role in the Company’s history. Performs in Sydney 2-21 December.

The Australian Ballet regularly tours overseas, including New York, Tokyo, London and Paris to critical acclaim and presents over 250 shows along with audience engagement events each year.

Sandra Tiltman


MAURICE STEGER ROCKS THE RECORDER

March 2, 2016

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Mention the recorder and immediately images of primary school orchestras come to mind. Mention Maurice Steger and the recorder in the same sentence and a whole different image appears.

To say that Zurich based Maurice rocks the recorder like no one else on the planet is an understatement as he has redefined the recorder, the most frequently played instrument in the early 18th century. Playing at breakneck speeds, while never sacrificing the phrasing and technical brilliance, Maurice pushes the recorder to the edge of its physical and expressive limits. He is in high demand across the globe, both as a recorder player and as a conductor, performing and recording alongside renowned artists including Cecilia Bartoli, Hilary Hahn and Andreas Scholl. With a string of prestigious awards including Diapason D’or, BBC Music Magazine Award and 2015 ECHO Klassik Instrumentalist of the Year, Maurice has taken the music world by storm.

With his revolutionary performance style, charismatic Maurice made his Australian debut with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra at concerts in Sydney and Melbourne during February 2016. He tailors his choice of instruments to the specific acoustics of the venue and prior to arriving in Australia, Maurice said “I’m packing 18 recorders for this tour, because every piece needs a different colour. I’ll probably use one per piece, but to find the best possible recorder I’ll bring two recorders for every work and choose in the hall”.

Maurice_Steger_©MolinaVisuals_07_l (1)I thoroughly enjoyed Maurice’s vibrant performance on the evening I went to the City Recital Hall. Paul Dyer, Artistic Director of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra introduced Maurice to the audience, along with members of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and immediately they started playing, I knew we were in for something special. The concert programme consisted of a selection of works including the most challenging, virtuosic piece Vivaldi ever wrote, the Concerto in G major for recorder, as well as Gallo, Telemann, Fiorenza, Handel, Rittler and Geminiani. The audience certainly approved of the music, judging by the loud applause and stamping of feet.

The Brandenburg Orchestra, whose name pays tribute to the Brandenburg Concertos of J.S. Bach, the musical genius central to the baroque era, celebrates the music of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Using original edition scores and instruments of the period, such as the harpsichord and baroque violin, which is almost always fitted with gut strings, compared to metal or synthetic strings on a modern violin, resulting in a warm, rich and textured sound, talent from today supplies the energy needed for playing these baroque and classical masterpieces.

Prior to leaving Australia, Maurice will be performing additional concerts at the City Recital Hall, 2 Angel Place, Sydney on Friday 4 March at 7pm and Saturday 5 March at 2pm and 7pm. Don’t miss this exciting performer.

Sandra Tiltman