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Once upon a time, the economy broke and a whole lot of other awful stuff happened…

Don't worry

…but art cheered me up.

From my past posts, you can probably gather I’m a big fan of seeing lots of live performances, as cheaply as possible.  Actually, every performance I’ve written up on this blog has cost less than 15 pounds – all of the Edinburgh festival events, and all the stand-alone performances at day ticket prices.  It helps to have a student card and a flexible morning schedule to scope out tickets, but even for posh places like the ROH you can try your luck at the ticket office just before the performance.

Back when I was in Sydney I liked going to the Belvoir St box office on Tuesdays to get pay-as-you-can-afford tickets (or a minimum of 10 dollars) for shows at the downstairs theatre – if you’re there about forty minutes early you’re pretty much guaranteed a seat, depending on the popularity of the show.

According to this article in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian arts sector is starting to suffer from the economic downturn, and companies are starting to look at discounting tickets across the board.

ETA: Here’s another one today.

Last night I went to a great Balkan club night here in Edinburgh – seven pounds for a couple of hours of crazy folk-ish/gypsy/klezmer music, plus belly dancing, and an impromptu farandole-mosh-pit.

I love you

Tonight I went to local arts co-op Forest to see a performance from Anti-folk-ish harpist Erica Holcomb.  It was great.  The harp pieces were better than those on the guitar, and the crowd was a little distracted and noisy at times, but free concerts are awesome.


Moral of the story:

Take advantage of cheap tickets if you can get them – show everyone there is a demand for good quality, affordable theatre and music.  Go see new things.  Be nice to box-office staff.  Student performances and emerging new acts are cheap, and sometimes free.  Free/inexpensive shows can be bad.  So can expensive ones.  Arts companies like loyal audiences.  Support them.

Art is free!
Art is (sometimes) free!




St Andrew's day parade

Bluedog left a comment here recommending Scottish Opera’s La traviata and letting me know about the 10 pound ticket offer the Scottish Opera has going for under 26s, and it looks like a good deal – the price is good for any performance and all categories of seats.

I picked up a promotional postcard with an interesting Rorschac-like graphic:

‘Decadence, love, despair: Everyone sees something different.

They also have a website about the offer.

Unfortunately I was dragging along a 27 year old (unfortunately for the ticket buying, not the quality of company!), so I went up to get day tickets and grabbed the last two at 1.15, they sell 50 or 60 on the day so the cheap tickets seem to be in demand.  Day seats are 8 pounds, and ours were on opposite sides of the auditorium – the front row and the second.  There were quite a few empty seats in the more expensive sections of the stalls, so maybe in tough economic times the company is feeling the need to advertise down market.

The performance was very good.  I tend to find Verdi so catchy it is exhausting, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen La traviata and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Violetta was played by Carmen Giannattasio, a wonderful Italian singer who dramatically upstaged the rest of the cast.  Richard Zeller was also very good as Giorgio Germont.  Federico Lepre was a decent Alfredo, but in comparison to Giannattasio his voice got a bit lost as he moved away from the front.  The cast also included an Australian singer, Catriona Barr, as Annina – a reletively small part done very well.

The production was new to Scottish Opera this year and the design was one of the best traditional opera stagings I’ve seen in some time – great dark colours and decadent costumes.  Brief stage nudity, as I’ve come to be expect.  The use of tracking curtains midway up the stage stopped the entirely interior-set story from becoming too static.

If I hadn’t been so busy last week I would have definitely gone to see it again.  Tonight was the last night in Edinburgh, but the production will be heading to Belfast early next year.

La traviata
Scottish Opera

Edinburgh Festival Theatre

The leaves are falling here in Edinburgh.

And the days are getting much shorter.  But luckily there is plenty to do at night.
Red dancers
A week ago I braved the cold to watch the Samhuinn parade along the Royal Mile. Samhuinn is the pagan festival celebrating the end of the harvest and the start of a new year (by ancient Celtic calendar), and is considered to be the historical basis of Halloween.
Summer dancers
The boundary between the living and the dead is supposed to be thinnest on the night of Samhuinn.  Masks were worn to prevent malevolent spirits playing tricks on the living.  The parade here in Edinburgh acts out ancient Scots myths where characters representing light and dark, and death and life, fight for authority over the earth.
Ice maidens

People didn’t seem to mind braving the cold.
Then last Wednesday I climbed Calton Hill (and the Scots Monument) to see my first Guy Fawkes Night fireworks.
The mist was so thick all I could really see were flashes of light in the clouds when the fireworks exploded.

Edinburgh lights

Guy Fawkes Night Edinburgh

Not even the people of Edinburgh can escape the avalanche of hope:
Scotland for Obama

The rally

Yes we can

Happy voting Americans!

A television reporter outside the Senator Boxer event (Feb. 2007)

…And not just about developments in naked opera.

I wrote this article while I was traveling around the US at the beginning of last year. It was published in Sydney University’s student paper in March, despite the slightly haughty over-explanation of basic issues in US politics.

Can’t wait till ’08:

[Between Castles] looks toward the next US Presidential election.

The landslide victory of the Democrats in the midterm elections late last year signalled not only a shift in public attitude towards George W Bush and the war in Iraq, but also a dramatic change in the distribution of political power in the US. While the next presidential election is almost two years away, strategists in Washington are already turning their attention to what effect this change in political climate might have on the next big race.

I arrived in the US in early February this year, on the eve of Barack Obama’s announcement of his contention for the Democratic Presidential nomination. The next day thousands of supporters gathered for his address at the old state capitol building in Springfield, Illinois, where President Lincoln had delivered his famous “house divided” speech almost a hundred and fifty years before.

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November 2008
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