Francis Merson

Francis Merson

Articles by Francis Merson

30 January, 2015

A Musical Cruise

What are Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Cheryl Barker and Simon Tedeschi all doing on a cruise ship? Continue reading Get unlimited digital access from $3 per month Subscribe Already a subscriber? Log in

13 February, 2014
CD and Other Review

Review: Dido’s Lament (Black, Chindamo)

Joe Chindamo is a jazz pianist with the chops of a Russian virtuoso; Zoë Black is a versatile classical fiddler who has played with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, inter alia. The opening track of their third album forms a manifesto of sorts. Scarlatti’s Sonata in G Major is given a sparkling re-arrangement: the violin ostensibly takes the “melody”, but really plucks voices from the stave and tosses them back against the piano. This isn’t jazz; it’s just having fun with music. The titular Lament gets a thorough update with some seemingly improvised passages – perhaps a coy allusion to the ornamentation native to a da capo aria. Jazz gets its own guernsey in Gershwin’s It Ain’t Necessarily So – a rather André Previn-y arrangement, with all the dazzling pianism that suggests. Then out of the blue arrives a totally straight, but rather lovely, reading of Prokofiev’s Five Melodies for Violin and Piano. Instead of breaking down boundaries, this duo appears not to notice them. I wouldn’t even label this “crossover”: the brilliantly eerie version of Nessun Dorma – occupying a conceptual space somewhere between muzak and Messiaen – is anything but a nod to popular taste. I did often find myself wanting to boost…

3 February, 2014
CD and Other Review

Review: Opera review: La Bohème (Opera New England)

Without inviting accusations of Sydney snobbery, I think I can safely state that opera performances are not exactly a frequent occurrence in Armidale, a rural town of some 24,473 inhabitants in northern NSW. This makes the sophomore production by local company Opera New England something of a big deal – and not just for the town’s inhabitants, but for all those who believe opera can, and should, flourish outside Australia’s state capitals. Puccini’s La Bohème was the ambitious choice of opera (following on a well-received debut with Figaro last year), and it demonstrated that even a grand Romantic blockbuster can be staged in a small theatre on a small budget. All you need is an engaged community, a dash of talent and plenty of hard yakka. The cast of this production was comprised of hopeful young singers from around Australia, and I’m guessing it took little effort for them to step into the roles of passionate young artists living on the smell of an oily canvas. Many of the voices were still works-in-progress, but all the singers were able to meet the challenges of the score, some brilliantly so. As the consumptive seamstress Mimì, recent Sydney Con graduate Sarah Toth gave an assured performance,…