Background

Everything I put up on Wikipedia gets wiped so I am putting it all up here in my own way -- mostly stuff that Wikipedia does not have in English. Mainly information about operetta but some other topics as well

Monday, September 9, 2019



Clickable table of contents for this site

A new Ingeborg Hallstein channel on Youtube with lots of videos

Moscow nights

The late Lawrence Auster 1949 – 2013

Why a great Protestant hymn breaks my heart

Musical discoveries

Bach's toccata and fugue in d minor at Passau

The Tilt Train has been nobbled

A new favourite pianist -- Alice Sara Ott

"Trim Taut & Terrific" -- the Lightburn Zeta

Emotional music

More wonderful singing from Anna Netrebko

A marvellous rendition of Meine Lippen, die kssen so heiss by a young Anna Netrebko

Pergolesi and Sabina Pu‚rtolas

Dr Gordon Lavelle Mangan (1924 - ): A biographical note

Ingeborg Hallstein: Die Fledermaus (excerpt)

Another Ingeborg Hallstein clip: "Ich bin die Christel von der Post". Also the Nightingale song by Grothe

Austro/Hungarian operetta

The marriage of Figaro

The Tsar and the Carpenter

Der Opernball by Heuberger

Giuditta

The Duchess of Chicago

Dollarprinzessin (Dollar Princess)

Fledermaus (The bat) at Moerbisch

Simplicius (The simpleton)

Graf von Luxemburg (Count of Luxemburg)

A wonderful Austrian singing lady: Ute Gfrerer

Der Vogelhaendler (The bird merchant)

Zirkusprinzessin (Circus Princess)

Der Rosenkavalier (The rose gentleman)

The New Testament canon

Bach and Psalm 23

Wiener Blut  (Vienna spirit)

Das Land des Laechelns ('The land of smiles")

Altemeyer's conceptual confusion

Eine Nacht in Venedig (a night in Venice)

Csardasfuerstin (Gypsy princess)

Bettelstudent (Beggar student)

 Zarewitsch (Heir to the throne of Russia)

Zigeunerbaron (Gypsy baron)

Jesus Christ Superstar

Lustige Witwe (merry widow)

Graefin Mariza (Countess Maritza)

Emerich (Imre) Kalman and Graefin Mariza

Fledermaus at Covent Garden  

Paganini a psychopath?

Zigeunerliebe (gypsy love) and GWF Hegel

Weissen Roessl (White Horse inn)

Aida

"The pirates of Penzance" as satire

Salzkammergut  and "Im weissen Roessl"

Swan Lake The 2009 performance by the Australian ballet

Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar) at Glyndebourne

Psalm 23

Disney: a Philip Glass opera

Falvetti and  Il diluvio universale (Noah's flood)

Just click to go there

A new Ingeborg Hallstein channel on Youtube with lots of videos


See here. Many of the videos are of her in her younger days.

My favourite is her version of Frühlingsstimmen Walzer (Voices of Spring Waltz) by Johann Strauss. I will never be able to listen to anybody else's version now. See below:



The owner of the channel is "megadim" (megadimih@gmail.com), who informs me that he has a lot more videos of her that he will put up in due course.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Moscow nights


Moscow nights is a simple romantic song in which the singer relives the magic summer days of his youth when the world seemed fresh and love was in the air.  I think most people are able to identify with it.  I can.  It reminds me of summer nights in 1968 when I was doing my M.A. at the University of Sydney and eating chicken Maryland at the Forest Lodge hotel -- in company with Michael Crowley, the wonderful Lesley Johnson and others

Moscow nights has been much sung and recorded in the West so I think I am right about its popular appeal.  It is a great favourite of mine so I think I will not be controverted if I say that the best performance of it was the famous performance in Red Square with Netrebko and Hvorostovsky singing.  Anna Netrebko is a supreme soprano and Dmitry Hvorostovsky is a famous Russian baritone from (of all places) the industrial city of Krasnoyarsk in Siberia.

Hvorostovsky (sadly now prematurely deceased) was a very handsome and manly man so presented his songs in a very strong, confident and dignified way while Netrebko is a rather shy person who is easily embarrassed -- which leads to her being able to throw herself into her parts. She does not have to present her own personality so can be wholly devoted to expressing in every way what she is singing.  And she does that very well.

I have come across a version of the Red Square performance that has both English subtitles and fairly good sound. 

The beginning of the performance is very Russian, with Hvorostovsky dragging a submissive Netrebko onto the stage but then pledging undying love to her. In her reactions you will see how easily embarrassed she is but will also see how much she enjoys Hvorostovsky and his declarations. Most Russian ladies would envy her as Hvorostovsky is a very attractive man. Feminists will hate the whole thing.



There is a version with better resolution and better sound here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SwumVFUMBg
but it is wholly in Russian

And look at the audience.  They are our people.  They are just like us.  They could be an American audience. We MUST not have a war with Russia -- despite what Congress would seem to want. I have friends of Russian origin.  If there were a war between Russia and the West I think I would kill myself to get out of a crazy world.

And here's an interesting footnote.  Even the brilliant young Alma Deutscher has got into the act:  In June 2018, the English teenage composer Alma Deutscher adapted the song for piano to entertain Russian President Vladimir Putin during a State Visit to Austria, at the request of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Given three days to arrange it, Deutscher started with a sad lament that transformed itself into a Viennese waltz. Kurz explained that the melding of the two musical styles illustrated well the bond of friendship between Austria and Russia.



Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The late Lawrence Auster 1949 – 2013



By John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.)


Auster

Author of the blog "VIEW FROM THE RIGHT", Auster was a deeply conservative writer who often wrote on immigration and multiculturalism. Sadly he died all too soon. Conservatives tend to remember their honoured predecessors so I thought I should put up a small personal memoir about him. I therefore put up below largely unaltered versions of my posts about him in 2004


Defining conservatism

I rarely comment on arguments put forward by my fellow conservatives, but I am going to make a small exception today to say a few words about the ideas of Lawrence Auster, a traditionalist Jewish writer who thinks that almost nobody these days is conservative enough. He has just put up on Frontpage an excellent article on the antiwar RIGHT ("The Antiwar Right's Bent View of the World") that I fully agree with and recommend. It no longer comes up on that site unfortunately but there appears to be a complete copy of it here and here

Auster summarizes it as follows:

"The charge of “anger” has, of course, long been a liberal shibboleth used to label, belittle, and dismiss conservatives. This has especially been the case at the New York Times, where the word “anger” as applied to conservatives, both in headlines and the body of stories, would typically appear more often in the paper than “House of Representatives,” “poll,” or “gay.” It is classic politically correct propaganda, a way of portraying any non-liberal position as consisting of nothing but primitive impulses and dark prejudices. Since 9/11, however, the phenomenon of anger-driven politics, both on the left and the antiwar right, has ceased being a politically correct fantasy and has become an all-too-real, indeed formative element in our national politics that renders rational discussion almost impossible much of the time. As such it represents an extremely important development that needs to be understood in depth and resisted."


Auster replies to a critique of it here. and there is an updated and expanded version here

He also has an excellent article here (reproduced here) that explains why American Jews are so overwhelmingly Left-wing. He says that they are actually AFRAID of American Protestant Christians, who are -- as Auster points out -- in fact the very best friends that Israel and the Jews have. Auster does not say so but I think the Jews concerned can be forgiven their paranoia. It is a pity that they are not more up to date but Christians (including Protestants such as Calvin and Luther) DID persecute them for a very long time.

Some other Auster articles of the many I could mention are ones complaining that the Pope is too Leftist and that most modern conservatives are really Leftists. He also thinks that the "neocons" are a bad lot who have GWB in their hip-pocket and that America's largely open borders are a disaster.

I of course agree with SOME of those other articles. I do think the whole neocon conspiracy thing is just paranoia but, as an Australian conservative I am delighted that our government has just about stopped illegal immigration stone dead and that it locks up any illegal immigrants it catches -- as it would anyone else who defies our laws. And I agree that the Holy Father, like most of his predecessors, is not much of a conservative politically.

My disagreements with Auster arise from the fact that I am one of those villains whom he sees as having destroyed conservatism -- libertarians. He rightly notes that libertarian conservatism is one of the dominant forms of conservatism today (the other being Christian conservatism) and makes the correct point that Christian conservatives are pretty strongly influenced by individualistic, liberty-oriented thinking too. Unlike Auster, however, I do not see this as a particularly modern phenomenon. I have done an extensive historical survey showing that belief in individual liberty has always been central to conservatism. Auster, by contrast, seems to think that traditionalism is the main current. I actually see something more basic in conservatism that underlies both traditionalism AND belief in liberty -- a certain cautious pragmatism and mistrust of the goodwill of others. Because of this basic trait of caution, conservatives want as much freedom to make their own decisions as possible and they also like systems that have been tried and tested. But the liking for tradition is in the end just a tool -- a way of being cautious, not something that is compelling for its own sake.

So the basis of Auster's complaint is that modern conservatives are too liberty-oriented and value-free -- and he sees this as something that they have in common with the Left. A related complaint is that modern conservatives have no anchors -- they just go along with whatever seems to be working. The only thing I disagree with there is the idea that Leftists believe in liberty. They don't. They only believe in power. They advocate various liberties from time to time -- e.g. various sexual liberties -- mainly because it suits them as a way of disrupting existing society and thus hopefully getting themselves into power. But for the rest, I would claim that liberty and the good life are the only lasting values for secular conservatives and that going along with what seems to be working is the historic conservative modus operandi. And long may it continue! We have had more than enough of theorists telling us what to do!

I apologize to Auster for having to a degree caricaturized his views above but I was aiming only to give a quick impression of them. His own prolific writings give plenty of detail, explanation and nuance.

Auster made the following brief comment on my post above about his writings:
"I thank Mr. Ray for his sympathetic and thoughtful overview of my writings. However, regarding his main criticism of me, I don't think I ever said that the belief in individual liberty was not part of the American conservative tradition. The difference is between those who understand liberty as being within a moral and constitutional order, and those who see liberty, or rather freedom, as essentially free of any constraints". Mark Richardson is another writer who often makes that sort of point. I find such a view incomprehensible. I know of NO conservative who denies that "rights connote duties" and I know of NO conservative who denies that we are in at least some ways constrained in what we do by "human nature". So the claim that there are conservatives who believe in some sort of absolute liberty is a total straw man.

So it would appear that the differences between Auster and other conservatives lay mainly in matters of emphasis

Border control

Under the heading "Exposing the Open-Borders Arguments", Auster has a very comprehensive article here (also here) arguing against America's current de facto policy of allowing millions of illegal immigrants to flow into the country. Australia has a high immigrant inflow too but we insist on choosing whom we allow in. As a result we mainly get high-quality (hard-working, law-abiding) immigrants from East Asia. We were getting a rash of illegal Muslim immigrants for a short while but Australia's conservative government put a stop to that -- to great public acclaim.

Was Pope John Paul II a conservative?

Auster has a heap of posts and comments up at the moment (e.g. here) about the late Holy Father. Auster is derisive of the view that John Paul II was a conservative. But that depends on what you mean by conservative and Auster has his own view of that. It is certainly clear that JPII was a political centrist but I think one could say much the same of GWB. So is GWB a conservative? NO! I can hear some people shouting. But no real-life politician wins universal approval even from his own side of politics so I think we have to say that in the ordinary meaning of the term GWB IS a conservative.

From my own libertarian conservative viewpoint both GWB and JPII are/were not nearly conservative enough but I think that real-world conservative politics at least from Disraeli on have almost always consisted of finding a safe balance between competing political claims rather than pursuing some hard-line ideology. Hard-line ideologies are for Leftists. So I think Auster's view of the matter misses the point that JPII was of necessity a real-world politician -- so compromises were to be expected of him. Even my great hero, Ronald Reagan, signed into law some pieces of legislation I would rather not think about.

What I think Auster also misses is that political centrism is thoroughly Papal. The attitudes of JPII were simply modern adaptations of traditional Papal thinking. I go into that at slightly greater length here. Papal thinking is in fact the ancestor of the Blairite "third way". The syndicalism that was recommended in the famous 1891 encyclical De rerum novarum of Pope Leo XIII also tried to strike a balance between capitalism and socialism.

Update: I guess I should mention explicitly something I initially thought was too well-known to require comment: That there was one respect in which His Holiness was NOT a centrist -- his stand in favour of individual rights versus the power of the Communist State. So in that respect he was very much a conservative, and a great one.

Winston Churchill was a neocon

I am sometimes amazed by how little history even my fellow conservatives seem to know. Lawrence Auster is of course well-known for the way he agrees with Leftists in his paranoia about the "neocons" so I guess that helps us understand his latest lapse. He has put up a post consisting mainly of a letter from an historian claiming that Winston Churchill was NOT a neocon. In the narrow sense that Churchill was not Jewish and that the term "neocon" is only a recent invention, that does, of course, have to be true.

In the broader sense -- a neocon being a former Leftist who favours foreign military intervention in favour of democracy -- however, to say that Churchill was not a neocon betrays no knowledge of history whatever. He joined the British LIBERAL party in 1904 and served as Colonial Under-Secretary under Campbell-Bannerman and as president of the Board of Trade and Home Secretary under Asquith. So he was in his early years a prominent Leftist in terms of British politics at the time. But, like the neocons, he later (1925) changed his tune and became a prominent Conservative.

And as for foreign interventions in favour of democracy, who was Secretary of War under Lloyd George when Britain sent troops to join the "white" Russians in fighting the Bolsheviks in 1919? It was Winston Churchill! And there is no doubt that Churchill did not repent doing so. One thing he never changed was his fierce opposition to Communism -- an opposition that is also characteristic of the neocons.

And though Churchill was not Jewish, he was at least philosemitic. As Auster notes, Churchill once said: "Where the Jew goes there is oasis. Where the Arab goes there is desert."

So on the four primary neocon identifiers -- Jewishness, anticommunism, Leftist early life and support for military intervention in the cause of promoting democracy -- Churchill scores 3 out of 4 -- and on the Jewishness angle he might be said to have done his best! I gather that not all neocons are Jewish anyway -- particularly if you include the Straussians in what is after all a pretty loose classification to begin with. Some people also say Churchill was a neocon because he was an unabashed defender of the British Empire but for that to be relevant we have to accept that the neocons want an American empire -- which is in my view a brain-dead claim. The idea of America as an empire is antithetical to all American values and traditions and the neocons are far too smart to be unaware of something as basic as that.

Auster does not link to it but the article which started the recent discussion about Churchill as a neocon is here

Paleocons

Auster on Paleocons: Auster is a pretty old-fashioned conservative himself so his critique of the "paleocons" (who as far as I can see are in fact largely anarcho-capitalists rather than any sort of conservative) got a bit of a reaction. Such internecine feuds are normally of little interest to me but this particular feud involves criticism of "psychologizing". The claim is that one should look only at the argument someone is advancing rather than their motivation for making the argument. That is of course the classic critique of "ad hominem" arguments but in cases when an argument makes no sense at the logical level, I think you have to look at the psychological motivation. It is of course my contention that Leftism can ONLY be understood as a psychological rather than a rational phenomenon. Leftist arguments are so inconsistent from occasion to occasion that one has to look at what is behind such a strange phenomenon. So I am on Auster's side in this one. There is of course an argument against speculative or "pop" psychologizing but my 200+ published academic journal articles on political psychology insulate me fairly well from that charge. I do not however rely on any claims of authority to substantiate what I say about Leftist psychology. I do what all scientists do (or should do): Present evidence for what I say. And again, I think Auster does a fair job of substantiating his points in that way.

"Moderate" Muslims?

Auster says that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim. He is wrong. One of the major religious leaders (and a former Prime Minister) of the world's largest Muslim country is actually pro-Israel. And I'll bet Lawrence does not even know whom I am talking about. That there is no such thing as a moderate ARAB Muslim I might tend to agree with, however. No doubt there are some decent Arabs but they seem to be vastly outnumbered by others whom I can only call disgusting.

It is very encouraging to see an article by Abdurrahman Wahid in the WSJ which sets out the urgency of defeating Islamic extremism. Better known as Gus Dur, Wahid is of course arguably the most respected religious leader in the world's most populous Islamic nation -- Indonesia. As Indonesia is on Australia's doorstep, many politically aware Australians are rather appreciative of Gus Dur and his moderation.


*There is a comprehensive list of Auster's writings here

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Breuer chairs and I


With a nod to bentwood chairs

It all began with bentwood. Around a century ago, people discovered that when you put wood in a steamer, you could bend it into all sorts of shapes without it splintering.  A practical use of that was to make lightweight chairs.  And bentwood chairs were very fashionable in the early 20th century



But what should you use for the seat? To keep the chair light rattan was a popular option. British colonialists came across it in Malaya where the rattan plant grows prolifically -- and it is light but strong -- so woven rattan was well known at the time, as you see above. So rattan was also favoured for the seat of Breuer chairs when they arrived

Breuer is the German word for brewer so the chairs are also called brewer chairs.  They come from the Bauhaus architectual movement of Germany in the 1920s and 30s -- self-consciously innovative.  And they are in fact a bit mad.  Innovativeness that leads to no back support!

Aside from looking rather stylish, they are very light: Strong  steel tubing plus Rattan seats and backrest.  So they have some practicality.  They looked very fragile however so the vogue for them did not last long.



Anyhow they had some revival in Australia about 30 years ago.  And I bought 8 of them!

As with bentwood chairs before them, however, the seat of the Breuer chairs tended to fail, with a big hole left in the middle.  And that is the reason why if you see any bentwood chairs around these days you will see that the seat has been covered with a layer of 3-ply -- not elegant any more but at least usable

I did not pay a lot for my Breuer chairs however -- they came in a flatpack -- so when they failed I did not bother to save them but just threw them out.  And I was down to 3 of them left when a tenant moved out of one of my properties and left another 3 behind.  They too had obviously concluded that they were not much good. So I now had 6 Breuer chairs again.

They continued to fail however and I continued to throw them out. But I also found a couple at charity shops so restocked a little there. 

When I was down to 5 chairs however, I had a rethink.  As lightweight chairs they were rather handy and they looked rather interesting so I decided to do what the earlier generation had done with their bentwood chairs.  When I was growing up, ALL the bentwood chairs I saw had had their seats repaired with plywood. So I stopped throwing my Breuer chairs out and repaired their seats with plywood.  And I even have two with the original seats.

And when the council had one of their rubbish disposal weeks recently, I spied a complete set of them put out by the side of the road.  So I took them in.  That lot however has upholstered seats so that may be why they lasted better.  So why did the owners chuck them out?  Maybe they thought the upholstered seats were looking a bit fragile.  I guess I will find out.

But, anyway, after about 30 years, I once again have 8 Breuer chairs.


Thursday, January 24, 2019

A procedure and T.S. Eliot



I went in on afternoon of 23rd to the Wesley with a 3:30 appointment for a colonoscopy.  There was a fear that I might have bowel cancer. My father died of that at age 65.

The preliminary literature that the hospital sent out  was mostly of little interest but I liked one piece of advice they gave.  It said "There may be delays so take a book".  And I did.  I had for years been meaning to read "The cocktail party" by T.S. Eliot and I did own a copy so took it along.  It was good that I did as it was in fact 3 hours late -- 6:30 -- that I was wheeled into theatre.  I had in fact just finished reading the play shortly before that so it fitted in well.

It is a good play.  It is about people coming to terms with the ordinariness of their lives.  It is an English drawing room play much like Agatha Christie's novels and there is in fact a substantial "who dun it" element in it.  But the over-riding theme is the actors talking about their feelings.  So it is a sort of psychological "who dun it".  There is a famous quote in it that I have known for some time:

"Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."

Eliot wrote that as a comment on interpersonal relations, highlighting how that thinking distorts and destroys relationships.  I also see it as a comment on Leftism.  The Leftist too is always trying to puff himself up as better than he is. "Virtue signalling" is the modern term for it.  "I am better than you" is the basic message.  Toxic!

It's possible that Eliot did mean it politically too, as he was a conservative

Eliot's famous poem "Prufrock" also portrays  the ordinariness of English life and reflects on what to do about it. As such it is rather dismal piece of work but is nonetheless important and famous. It does have some good lines in it (e.g. "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons") and it seems clear to me what it is all about -- though there are various versions of that. A stream of consciousness poem does lend itself to various interpretations. My interpretation is that it is the young and frustrated T.S. Eliot bemoaning his inability to understand and get on with women. The epigraph in the poem is from Dante so Prufrock is apparently speaking from Hell, metaphorically

Anyway, the colonoscopy was a great success.  There was no cancer and only two polyps were found and zapped.  Only two polyps in a man of 75 is very much at the upper end of desirability. So I was allowed to go immediately back on to a normal diet, which I did.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Why a great Protestant hymn breaks my heart



I don't know if I will be able to convey what is after all a feeling but I cannot listen to the original version of the great Lutheran hymn "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" (A mighty fortress is our God) without being upset.

The hymn is now best known in the marvellous setting by J.S. Bach -- a supreme work of musical art -- so we usually overlook the original hymn.  Both the original work and the Bach setting are works expressing Christian triumph over evil and adversity  but in the original version you get a feeling for what Christians of hundreds of years ago had to triumph over. 

The world they lived in was full of tragedy, hardship and disaster  and they attributed it all to demons and the Devil himself.  To them the Devil was real and powerful and present in their lives. They saw his cruel deeds all about them on a daily basis -- in sickness and death and disaster.  There are few things, if any, more upsetting than the death of a child but they had to endure such deaths often.

So what the hymn conveys to me is both how awful their lives were and how their Christian faith gave them the heart to power on.  Their faith was their only rock, their only comfort. They had no power to combat the evils around them. It cuts me up that they had so little power over their lives when we have so much.  Their survival truly is a wonder.

But I have said as much as I can.  Just listen to the starkly simple words of a very simple hymn and feel for those poor people.



As students of foreign languages always tell you, you cannot adequately translate a poem and that is certainly so here.  The song is even more powerful in the original German:  Simple punchy words

The words: "Gut, Ehr, Kind und Weib: lass fahren dahin" are not well translated above.  They say that your possessions, your honour, your child and your wife can all be lost but the Devil still has not triumphed. What tragedies they had to expect!

And now listen to the wonderful things Bach did with that ultra-simple hymn:



Bach had joy in the Christian triumph over the Devil

Footnote:  The opening image in the first video above depicts Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church.  In the background is the Wartburg castle where Luther hid from his imperial pursuers