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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Todd

Herr Lenz springt heute durch die Stadt in einer blauen Hose, and so has he sprung betrousered upon Melbourne with sunshine, blossoms and sudden storms, all of which I have been variously unprepared for. I remain a rookie and a noob when it comes to this city’s marvellously changeable weather! I’ve been continually dazzled by the outrageous blueness of Australian skies and the startling sonnensatt yellow of wattle in the sun.

Be still, my beating heart! Wattle I do?! (Royal Park, near Gatehouse Street)

As a non-hay-fever-sufferer, I have been able to enjoy my "green thought in a green shade" and embrace my second spring of 2019. The first, was spent in the northern hemisphere, travelling through China on an Australian International Productions tour and I was able to see some incredible places and landscapes. It is a rare and special thing in the 21st century to give premieres of Mozart operas in cities of several million. Before our performance of Marriage of Figaro in Zhèngzhōu, I managed to sneak off into rural Hénán Province for a day and visit the Shàolín Monastery. Nestled amidst the Song Mountains, it is the birthplace of Chán (Zen) Buddhism and Gōng Fu (Kung Fu) martial arts. The boys and young men training here were utterly extraordinary (and exclusively male) – I posted some videos at the time on my Instagram – but it was a passing encounter I had with an old monk next to a shrine to Guānyīn that stuck in my mind. This memory struck me the other day, when jogging in Royal Park, and I paused to sketch out some lines about it, which turned into this little poem.

Shàolín Temple, looking out to the Sōng Mountains. Note the bells suspended from the 'flying eaves' (fēi yán) of the buildings. The wind sounds them as a reminder to come back to the present moment.

Further adding to my general springlike disposition, beginning tomorrow I have the pleasure of singing once again with Victorian Opera – a company that has invested a lot in me over the years and which is very dear to my heart! It has been a very warm feeling to return to that familiar and historic building in Carlton to coach and catch up with the wonderful Phoebe Briggs. The project is a workshop of three newly commissioned one-act operas under the overarching title Three Tales. Acclaimed Australian playwright Daniel Keene has adapted Flaubert’s trio of stories Trois Contes. The stories are A Simple Heart, St Julian the Hospitaller and Herodias. Each one has been set by an Australian composer – Zac Hurren, Dermot Tutty and Stefan Cassamenos, respectively.

These workshops, will lead to performances on September 20 and 21, and ultimately a full staging in 2020. They will also be a wonderful adventure in working with actual living composers and hopefully bringing their ideas into sonorous reality. I will be singing the title role in Julian and John the Baptist in Herodias. Each of these stories deals with extremes of human experience, wrestling with desire, death, and the need to define our ultimate redemption. The music is a fantastic and varied array of style and energy. Lyric, driving and daring. And it will be a privilege to combine with the virtuosi of Plexus Collective to bring this into its full life.


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