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.