Monday, June 29, 2020

Mozart's Magic Flute and the Abuse of Women.

A stunning production of Mozart’s “Magic Flute” by The Met.

It ought to be the perfect introduction to opera as it is easy to listen too and gorgeous to watch. It is a beautiful, classy pantomime. Mozart had to do it and was not the first or last composer to have lower his artistic standards to please his philistine masters and pay the rent but and it is a big “But” the content is really unacceptable today and if it were not by Mozart it would be condemned by all the “Me Too” followers for it condones the abduction of a girl child from her mother simply because all women are evil, not to be trusted the men know best!
This attitude was common in Mozart’s time. Removing children from their mothers was an everyday occurrence. Beethoven did it successfully. He stole his nephew from his mother who had done nothing to deserve it and did not have to give him back.
Pamina loves her mother. She tells her father so but Daddy knows best even though his wife has already chosen a lover for her, of whom he approves, saved  Tamino’s life and given him his Magic Flute that will keep him from harm.
Pamina is left at the door of the Temple that would be defiled if a woman entered. She is kept in the dark about her future.  It is so humiliating and puts every woman in her place. Then her father bad mouth’s her mother in front of everybody just like Donald Trump and his daughter is told if she wants to marry then she must reject her mother and do what she is told by her husband for the rest of her life. No wonder her mother is slightly annoyed about this. I would be too.
The only good part is The Queen of the Night is the most memorable character in the opera.
If the opera were not by Mozart it would not be produced. There are many operas, operetta’s and musicals in this class and sadly most fairy tales would not cut the mustard either. Time for them to go?
Still, I have watched three different 'Flutes' in the last few weeks this is the one I liked the best but I always feel uncomfortable when it is finished. Incredible standard. I just hope that Covid 19 does not damage this wonderful company.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Bournemouth's Corvid 19 crowded beaches

Bournemouth! My family loved Bournemouth. I got taken there every year by my grandparents and I hated it but I did learn to play croquet and table tennis. My parents hated NZ and retired there! Bad choice as they learned to hate it too but, wow I never saw the beaches like this before. 
This comes from having a lockdown and stopping this lot from going to Spain! In desperation, they have all come to Bournemouth. I cannot for the life of me understand why Spain wants them back!
Watch this space for another spike of the virus in two weeks time. 

It even shocked Germany!

How to grow Slipper Orchids in Auckland

The second orchid of the year is my magnificent Slipper Orchid with 17 slipper orchids. Three are hidden.
This year it has excelled itself after a few disappointing years where it has produced just seven or eight and once five.
I have had it for 18 years and was given to me by a neighbour who was about to die. It is her memorial and I think of her every year when it flowers
To get them to flower well is very difficult but this year I found the right place for it to thrive. 
In Auckland, it goes like this. It likes the morning and early afternoon sun outside for the summer and no watering just the occasional shower.  Keep it dry. It does not like being disturbed so no cutting for friends or repotting as it will sulk for years. A small feed and watch for slugs all the time as they eat the bugs. This is the moment I would reach for the slug pellets if I had them. 
Water from February on, that is autumn here The moment it starts to flower usually in June, bring indoors and enjoy for a couple of months.
Next year it will possibly rest and it will be back to seven but aren't they gorgeous.
The secret of a nice garden is "never move!" Stay in the same place and learn what flowers for you. Takes about 45 years but what a reward.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Sad Tale of Patch the bunny

"Patch" of Northcote Point NZ

I have acquired a bunny! 
I do not want a bunny but it seems the bunny has decided it likes me. His name is Patch and it is a really sad story. A few months ago some very thoughtful neighbours decided they no longer wanted their pet bunnies and as they were moving let them go!
Bunnies however cute are not wanted in NZ and one is only allowed to keep them under special conditions however NZ being sensible if they are spayed and people do not object they can live wild if they can!
This bunny has been eating my young plants. A well ago it ate my new expensive young rhubarb and a few others and I am afraid I was as enraged as Mr MacGregor of Peter Rabbit. I used to chase them out but about 10 days ago two nasty red setter dogs who were not on leads caught Patch's mate and killed it!
Bunnies are not supposed to have feelings but this one lingered saw where is mate was buried and tried to did her up! It was heartbreaking. It is winter so I have decided to feed the bunny. At first, he ran a mile as he knew I would chase him but gradually over the past few days he has responded with rabbit pellets and carrot and he let me stroke him.
So now I have three tuis, two doves on with a sore wing and a bunny! I am not supposed to have animals but he is so cute.

Monday, June 22, 2020

"Satyagraha " a Corvid19 treat from the Metropolitan Opera

Having had a go at "Akhnaten" at the Met yesterday I thought I would have a go at "Satyagraha " today. Both operas are by the minimalist Philip Glass. Having now experienced two of the most fabulous staged productions I have to admit my husband was right. It is like watching grass grow.

The little trailer is about 4 minutes long and really that is it but the whole opera takes nearly 3 hours. A few cords, a very basic vocal line mainly grunts and without the brilliant production a very boring evening. I cannot see these operas ever being given a concert performance! This one is made even more incomprehensible as there are no subtitles on purpose. Even Wiki did not come up with any useful programme notes. Act I was a few simple chords and grunts, ditto Act 2 but in Act 3 we got a couple of scales and lots of sellotape.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Ghost of Versailles Metropolitan Opera 1992 Director Colin Graham

I have waited a long time to see the original  1992 Metropolitan Opera, New York production of The Ghost of Versailles and it was worth it. What I did not realise is that the director was Colin Graham who was the director of my first opera "Noyes Fludde" in 1958 at Aldeburgh. We children, well Michael Crawford used to call him "He of the tight trousers"! I was so lucky to hit Colin as a director when I first started as he was punctilious and controlling down to the last eyelash. His 45 minutes of "Noye" was packed with intricacies. It took him 6 weeks to perfect.

Colin is the perfect director for this production which is packed with special moments and he pulled it off magnificently. He was really never truly appreciated in UK opera circles even by Britten who overlooked him on many occasions. I remember congratulating him on a particularly wonderful "Orpheus" at The Royal Opera House. His sad reply was "They haven't asked me to do anything else!" which was really all our loss as he was a truly great opera director as this production is evidence.

Still, this is a worthy finale. He ended up for a while as a monk is a strange cult in the Bible belt USA but left after a year. I am so glad the Met gave him this 20h Century grand opera. He gave them their money's worth.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Four Children and It" - Independent Film Julie Baines BBC World 2020

Four Kids and IT produced by Julie Baines

I listened to Julie Baines the producer talking about her film Four Children and IT on BBC World this morning and how it took 8 years of her life. It was fascinating and informative. Like the BBC interviewer, I was touched by her enthusiasm and tenacity. I have loved this story since I was a child a long time ago. I remember seeing it on BBC children's TV in black and white.

Because of Covid19, this film has been denied its theatre exposure. That was just such bad luck but as I live in New Zealand and I also live next door to an art cinema I may get the opportunity to view.
For her sake, I do hope so as without it the backers may not get their money back.

Was this a wise choice because another film version Five Children and It was made in 2004 and rather well too looking at the trailer. E Nesbit published the story in 1902 and it would have been out of copyright. That is 6% of the budget saved.

You can tell a lot from a trail. Gone are the days when the audience just had to take what was given. The audience is now an expert and very choosey.

Casting is crucial too and it has to be right. I think Russel Brant is one of the greatest Shakespearean comedy actors ever but even in the few shots in this trail you can see this is not his forte and Michael Caine's voice is not right either.

Will I go? Although NZ is supposed to be Corvid19 free I am still anxious but I wish her the best.

It doesn't help when Julie Baines does not have a Wikipedia entry either. Nobody has thought in the film world to give her one, you cannot write your own. No male producer would put up with this.

The world needs people like her to have dreams even if they don't always work out the first time as the may the second.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

"Candide" Bernstein Glasgow Opera BBC production 2018 YouTube

Found this last night! I have never seen a staged production only very good concert versions but they still were concert versions. This one filmed by the BBC is all I need. Wonderful staging, singing and acting and believe me "Candide" needs very professional performers. Bernstein oversaw this production and is sitting in the audience with minor Royalty so it has his mark of approval.
I never realised it is so long and I haven't finished it just yet. It is about 2hr 45 min.
The design features oversized furniture. I used huge furniture in my production of "Die Fledermaus" in Wellington and Auckland. Not sure it was right for me. The scene designer did not tell me that the furniture was oversized until too late and I was not happy as it makes the actors look like puppets and my characters had to be larger than life but that oversized furniture in the correct context is fine here as the characters are in fact the puppets of fate. Never be employed as a director if you can help it. For me, it was a horrible experience from which I have yet to recover.

Miles, my very knowledgable GP husband Oriel Oxford, always thought that as an opera composer Bernstein was very poor G&S and one can see that here in the numbers for Dr Pangloss of which there are quite a few. Bernstein was really a fantastic musical composer and this is a musical style which is still going strong today in "Hamilton". I love musicals by the way and performed in many but they are different from opera.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Glyndebourne Opera appeal for donations Corvid19 2020

I love opera and have been going to The Royal Opera House since I was 9. I used to queue for tickets all the time I lived in London and could always get it but never to a Gala as I was not on the list. You had to on the list for getting Gala tickets. I did go to A Gala because I was in the ballet. The point is I could get in, to Covent Garden but Glyndebourne Opera? No never. Glyndebourne did not want the likes of me. Aldeburgh? Yes. Glyndebourne? No. "Not even for ready money" as Oscar Wilde put it so succinctly.

Now in the midst of the Corvid19 catastrophe for the Arts Glyndebourne needs me to make a donation by offering its productions online on YouTube for a month.

It is such a pity that with so much to offer Glyndebourne has been such a horrible place to visit. Every time I visit I am met with a feeling that Glyndebourne has to put up with me but would rather be left alone. I am not the type or class that is welcome at Glyndebourne. I am actually upper middle class in the scheme of things but with touches of Trade. I married on Oxford educated GP and even he was not good enough for Glyndebourne either He went to the opera once a week either ENA or Covent Garden but he too never got tickets for Glyndebourne.

The last time I visited was with an ancient aunt who was dying who lived in Brighton. I live in New Zealand and as she lived in Brighton she wanted to visit Glyndebourne but unfortunately had never been able to buy tickets. It seems she and I were not on the list of preferred customers and as she had never seen it so I drove her as a treat. It was out of season so I drove in at the gate so she could get a better look. The huge car park was empty.   As I stopped the car a well-dressed woman who was obviously someone in authority strode over to the car and tapped on the window. "Get out" she screamed in her very upper-class English voice. I timidly said that my aunt just wanted to see the opera house even from a distance. This was met with "Get out. We are not open! Go away! We are closed" So we did. We did feel like naughty children from the village who did not know our place. We certainly got the message that we were not wanted. I was so embarrassed that I had put my aunt in such a position. It was very hurtful and not necessary. I had tried to book tickets for many years with no luck. It was almost impossible to get tickets. You had to be on the list of approved. I was certainly not. The only time I went was by myself when I was given a ticket. It is rather a lonely place by oneself in the long interval with just an apple. The only time I bought tickets was when the box office made a mistake and advertised for one day only that tickets were available from the Glyndebourne office so I dropped everything and went down to book. It is a long 54-mile drive from London. When I got there the box office was not open and I was greeted with horror but as it was advertised they had to sell me two tickets as it is the law. The ad was changed the next day to keep the riff-raff out.  I now live in Auckland so going to Glyndebourne is out of the question. Now with the larger house and more tickets to sell, I hope they are more welcoming. This production looks rather good but it is only because of a catastrophe at the end of my life that I am allowed to see one. Now it sadly seems that Glyndebourne is willing to accept my money that it has rejected for most of my life.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Cellist - a ballet featuring the tragic life of Jacquline du Pre, Royal Ballet 2020

When I was at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama I never realised that the life one of my colleagues would be made into a ballet performed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as we sat drinking tea out of huge white china cups in the local Fleet Street workman's cafe. In those days Jacquline du Pre had very short cropped red bobbed hair but she was already "special" and it was no surprise that she won the Gold Medal for musicians in the same year that I won the GSM&D Production Prize and Michael Jayston won the prize for Drama. We were a very talented lot but this would have surprised us all.

I am not sure what she would have made of it but I was surprised and delighted at the result even though I think the true story which was not all roses for her and her family could have been even stronger if this could have been postponed a couple of years until all the supporting cast could be portrayed more realistically. Regretfully the ballet leans on sentimentality which is not a bad thing as it touches us emotionally at the moment of performance when not a dry eye in the house seems fitting but later one when one gets a grip on oneself I always feel slightly annoyed as I did after watching "Song of Bernardette". Du Pre's life, glittering career though it was and full of promise, ended up in tragedy for all of us.

Lovely choreography, dancers were wonderful as usual and splendid production. Well done! Took some courage to mount this.

PS. I was glad to see that the Royal Ballet gave the young dancer who played the youthful Du Pre the correct curtain call. She deserved it but also could have deserved a bouquet too! The Royal Opera House should have a few spares on these occasions. Fonteyn used to have a standing order at the local florists for her bunch of pink roses, not red, from her missing husband. I feel sure the budget could run to it.

Well worth watching!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

David Hockney and the Camera Obscura of 1420

Saw this BBC documentary a long time ago in 2011 and I found it again by accident today in 2020. This documentary made me appreciate just how brilliant David Hockney is.

Ever since I saw this type of painting in my youth, my mother always included a sojourn at the National Gallery when we went up to London by tube, I was fascinated by the problem of how the artists did it. The intricate lacework on the ruffs seemed impossible to achieve.

It never occurred to me when I was nine it was traced as today we trace in Adobe Illustrator. Hockney's explanation is so simple and his evidence conclusive.

All these pictures are about 32 cm square as that is the size that the subject comes into focus. When shown in black and white they all look like photos. This all happened about 1420. Yes, it can be dated.


Janette Miller The Adobe Products I use in 2020

I use Adobe products. 

They are all challenging to use and take some learning and there are so many of them that I enjoyed this video. 

All 50+ Adobe apps explained in 10 minutes

It must have taken an age to make and it is only one of three made by this maker humtog but it has had over 3 million views and I can see why.  

I use Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Auditon, Muse, ( Now obsolete but still the best web design programme) Premiere Pro,  plus an awful lot of others on my iPad and iPhone.  

If I don't use them for a bit, like now when I have been watching the Metropolitan Opera I get out of touch and have to revise.
Thinking of reading another audiobook. I lost my voice due to hyperthyroidism but now it is coming back. I shall use Audition to do this as for sound enhancement there is nothing else like it. Maybe the novella "The Turn of the Screw" by Henry James. I'll see.

I have had to relearn how to use this blog too as I gave up on it it appears when I took to FB but I think I shall give it another go.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Damnation of Faust at the Met

I have been privileged to see two fantastic productions of Berlioz's Damnation of Faust, the first at the ENO in 1969  by Michael Geliot, I went three times. It was said to be better and more spectacular than the coronation and this Met production by Robert Lepage which is in the same vein, a multi-media extravaganza.

This opera was said to be unproducible in Berlioz's day. It was a century before its time. Both productions lean heavily on dance, the former was choreographed by John Broome who did the choreography for my first West End musical "Stop the World I want to Get off", I wish I had known he had done this. At the time I was not only in the musical I was the ballet mistress and tidied up the production every Thursday morning. I would have happily continued as the ballet mistress but it appeared I was too valuable as a performer. Evidently, I had "IT"! I wanted to produce opera not appear in "Lilac Time"!

I love the use of live TV behind the singer and I had the opportunity to do "Tristan" I should use this technique so the audience gets up close to the action.

The only problem at the Met on the transmission is getting the ensemble together. Berlioz was clever as a lot of the work is in unison so it is acceptable but when the parts separate it is unfortunate. Musicals get around this by wiring each artist for sound so they can hear themselves sing. Opera singers need to be able to hear themselves sing otherwise they can't and end up yelling which is most unpleasant and not their fault. Too many gorgeous voice are ruined in the hopeless attempt of getting over an orchestra and singers quickly develop large wobbles. Too many choruses are out of time and tune as the distance is too large. This production avoids this pitfall by having the chorus strung out downstage by the audience.

These past four weeks have been one feast of opera. Almost an opera a day and a superb example of the art at that. Without this virus, I should never have been able to see these fabulous works as I am too far away and even in NZ expensive. It is hard to recall them all but if I have to the one that was most striking was the "Tristan & Isolde" set in a submarine, very powerful, and surprisingly the two Fausts, very different and both "powerful".

It is OK to Live a Life that Others Do Not Understand -Janette Miller

There is no doubt about it I have lived a "Strange Life". My playground was Wembley stadium, one of my schools was a palace the other Upstairs, Downstairs, one grandfather ran the 1948 Olympic Games, the other gave the world pneumatic golf balls and the golf umbrella and that was just the start! I am definitely an "Outsider".
But I do enjoy being "an outsider". All artists are "outsiders. We see the world differently. We can't help it. We just do and we recognise each other immediately. We also "move on" to the next adventure. Normal people will just have to forgive us.
I am certainly not "Normal"! "Strange?" Maybe. I think "Eccentric" may be the best description. At my age I am old enough to be "Eccentric"!

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Mona Lisa De-varnished and what a computer can reveal,

This engineer is using powerful lights, cameras, and computer software to digitally remove the varnish from the "Mona Lisa," allowing people today to see the painting as da Vinci once did.
Stream "Decoding da Vinci" online now to learn more:

I had an IT experience of this type quite recently at The Auckland Art Gallery. It is truly astonishing what scanning and IT can tell you about a work of art but not everything. In real life one never knows exactly what is going to happen. 
In 1982 I commissioned two designs for "Fidelio" from the then destitute artist Tony Fomison. In NZ I owned the copyright. As oil paintings dry so slowly I had to leave them with the artist and as I was busy I never gave them another thought. He said he would look after them and I never saw them again until I walked into the Auckland Art Gallery 37 years later when I thought I recognised "Fidelio Act 2" only it did not look quite right. 
Four years and an expensive court case for both parties established legally that I owned the copyright. Naturally, I thought the Art Gallery held my original and as I am 77 I asked at the settlement meeting if I could see it again as my recollection of the original and the slides that were used in the production looked very different but time has a way of altering colours and tints and one's mind plays tricks. It was agreed that I would be allowed a final look at the Galleries convenience.
After the settlement, the Art Gallery behaved in an exemplary manner and five months later this February 2020 a viewing was arranged. I had not been given access to the painting during the court case. Viewing the Art Gallery's painting was a shock to us all. It was in fact very different from the original and it was not time that had made the changes. My original was blue and light beige/pink, the one on view was yellow and white. Pure white! 
What had happened? Well, we just don't know. Fomison was famous for reworking his artworks sometimes to destruction and this may have happened here as the underpainting revealed a ghost which was not there in my original copy. Separations for printing on Photoshop can show these as the Art Gallery's revealed. The original "Fidelio" had no ghost and was painted on board, not canvas as with the copy. The ghost is almost thumbing its nose at us and laughing at how much angst the artist's actions had caused.
Unfortunately, the Art Gallery and the BNZ, who holds what was thought to be "Fidelio Act 1", both have an unauthorised copy which the artist quietly sold on without my knowledge or permission in 1983 as originals and neither organisation holds the copyright. Still, as the price paid was just a few hundred of dollars and not the hundreds of thousand dollars the originals would be worth if genuine the galleries have not made a huge financial loss but both now have worthless copies that cannot be shown without a copyright licence till fifty years after my death. 
It shows that proof of provenance is everything in buying art. Fomison was wise enough not to sign these works and sold them as is through an agent. Be warned art buyers, never buy an original artwork without a formal written transfer of ownership and guarantee from the artist.
Did Fomison cut up my original and paste it on to an old canvas? We don't know. Is my original underneath? I had hoped this would show up but it didn't.
But it was a practical lesson into what this type of technology can and can't do. It can clean up the Mona Lisa but it cannot tell reliably what is underneath unless each layer is dry first before being repainted as with the ghost who won't go away.
I am hoping when this virus is over to have "Fidelio Act 2" made into a mural on a wall somewhere in NZ which I think Fomison would have enjoyed. It was the mural he never painted on a wall. It is very beautiful and a vision of hope for the future which is so needed at this moment.