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Canberra Opera announces new Artistic Director

Distinguished Australian singer Peter Coleman-Wright AO has been visiting Canberra to hear voices from the region prior to taking up his appointment as Canberra Opera’s Artistic Director in the new year.

Coleman-Wright has performed throughout the world’s great opera houses, including The Metropolitan Opera New York, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, English National Opera (most recently in the title role of Glanert’s Caligula) and the Glyndebourne Festival.

Canberra Opera’s Stephanie McAlister talks to Barbie about Peter Coleman-Wright AO’s appointment

He created the roles of John in Johnathan Harvey’s Inquest of Love, Colin in David Blake’s The Plumbers Gift and Harry Joy in Brett Dean’s Bliss which he performed in Australia and at the Edinburgh Festival.

He has sung in the opera houses of Paris, Bordeaux, Munich, Amsterdam, Geneva, Milan, Florence and at the Aix-en Provence and Bregenz Festivals. In North America he has sung in Houston, Santa Fe, New York (City Opera) and Vancouver.

For his native Australia he has sung Scarpia, Macbeth, Mandryka, Don Giovanni, Il Conte, Germont, Billy Budd, Balstrode, Pizzaro, Onegin, Golaud, and Sweeney Todd, winning the Helpmann Award for Best actor in a Musical.

As a concert artist he has performed in all the major venues throughout the world, most notably at the BBC Proms, the South Bank Centre. Barbican Centre and Wigmore Hall in London, Avery Fisher Hall, New York, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Sydney Opera House and Melbourne Concert Hall and he has recorded extensively for Telarc, Chandos, Hyperion, and EMI.

He was recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Melbourne, and was awarded the Order of Australia in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Keep up with Canberra Opera at https://www.canberraopera.org.au/

Kerri Turner – The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers

HQ Fiction Australia, 2019

A dancer herself, Kerry Turner is in an excellent position to write about the professional aspects of dance in this historical fiction set mostly  in a tumultuous Russia between 2014 and 2017 with a postscript in Paris in 1920.

Her fictional hero and heroines are woven into the documented story of the Romanov ballet company, dancers to the Tsar. While there is considerable sympathy for the dancers and the art of ballet, the author does not flinch from the excesses of life in the Imperial orbit.

Barbie speaks with Kerri Turner about The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers
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Speaking and Listening from the Heart

Tuggeranong Arts Centre
5 December 2019 to 18 January 2020
Schools Reconciliation Challenge 2019

In 2019 over 1500 students have explored the theme Speaking and Listening from the Heart. Students tapped into the need for First Nations Peoples voices to be heard and to understand that Speaking and Listening from the Heart offers everyone the ability to connect with Country, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders and with their own feelings about identity and being an Australian.

Barbie spoke with Thea Baker, Project Manger for Reconciliation NSW, and Alison Faure-Brac, Executive Director of the NSW Reconciliation Council
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Canberra International Music Festival – Giving Voice

1 to 10 May 2020
Various venues, including the Fitters Workshop
Directed by Roland Peelman

The festival theme Giving Voice is expressed in the program’s focus on Indigenous stories, untold stories and a number of concerts for the human voice.

The inspiration of voices in nature is also apparent with The Whale and the Curlew and Birsdsong at Dusk for example.

Festival director Roland Peelman previews the festival
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Pamela Cook – Cross My Heart

Wildwords Publishing (independent), 2019

Known for her rural romance fiction, with this fifth novel, Cross My Heart,  Pamela Cook moves into new territory. Not only is the subject matter different, the book is also independently published.

The story explores the inter-generational consequences of child sexual abuse. Two promises made in adolescence and young womanhood drive the plot – one to keep a terrible secret and the other to take on the foster-mothering of her friend’s child should the need arise.

Barbie speaks with Pamela Cook about Cross My Heart
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Andrew Fuller – Your best life at any age

How to acknowledge your past, revive your present & realise your future
bad apple press 2019
Andrew Fuller is a Fellow of the Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Learning and Educational Development at the University of Melbourne.

Andrew Fuller’s sympathetic invitation to reflect on our lives and the choices available to us is an absorbing read. After all we are all interested in our ‘selves’, and rightly so, because how else can we expect to make the most of the gift of our lives?

 The book is divided into age groups – the stages of life we pass through if we are fortunate   – and we are advised to perhaps first read our own age bracket and then the ones either side of it – we can see what 500,000 other people have experienced and how we fit into that wealth of life stories. We can also see what we were doing in comparison with others at certain times of life.

Barbie talks to Andrew Fuller about Your Best Life at Any Age
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Livia Day – Keep Calm and Kill the Chef

Deadlines, an imprint of Twelfth Planet Press, Australia 2019

Livia Day, who also writes as Tansy Rayner Roberts, will appear at the Terror Australis Festival in Cygnet Tasmania from 1 to 3 November 2019.

This is a cozy café crime novel and hence about murder and some mayhem, but it is also a book about friendships, both female and male-female.

We are treated to lots of fun in this somewhat kooky and very youthful novel, the fourth in the Café la Femme series. You don’t need to have read the previous three, but this has whetted my appetite to do so.

Barbie talks with Livia Day
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Angela Meyer – A Superior Spectre

Ventura Press, Australia, 2018
Angela Meyer will appear at the Terror Australis festival in Cygnet Tasmania between 1 and 3 November 2019

Richly redolent of Mann and Kafka, this is a disturbing surreal debut novel by Angela Meyer.

Two principal characters  occupy this story – Leonora Duncan in the 1860s in Scotland and the person we eventually learn to be Jeff in a just slightly future present, a dying man who moves from Australia to Scotland to escape his own life and the possible surveillance of the unnamed authorities. He is in search of release and freedom in a way, but is unable to govern his own parasitic desires.

Angela Meyer talks to Barbie about A Superior Spectre
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Canberra Opera Recital – The Magic of Mozart

Featuring  Clare Therese Hedley, Katrina Wiseman and Nathaneal Patterson
Saturday 26 October 2019 at 3:30pm – 5pm
St Philip’s Anglican Church, MacPherson Street O’Connor

Canberra Opera’s final recital brings the much-loved works of Mozart to Canberra audiences  with pieces from The Marriage of Figaro, Cosi fan tutte and The Magic Flute.

Barbie speaks with Clare Therese Hadley about the concert

Clare Therese Hedley has been involved with Canberra Opera since 2016 and was a part of the chorus in their 2017 production of Die Fledermaus. Clare took on her first principal role with Canberra Opera as Dorabella in Cosi fan tutte in 2018 where she again had the opportunity to work with Ghillian Sullivan.

WOW in wonderful windy Wellington NZ

Opinion, by Barbie Robinson

What’s WOW and why were we there? Canberrans will know that Wellington, like Nara and Beijing, is one of our sister cities. Canberra’s population is about 390,000; Wellington’s is about 413,000. Both are the capital cities of our nations.

Our experiences of Wellington over many years confirm that it is a city which does well in the arts and culture stakes as well as being very live-able and pleasant to visit as a tourist.

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Capital Blues Inc, Wellington New Zealand

Weekly blues at Jack Hackett’s Irish Pub, corner of Dixon and Taranaki Streets Wellington – every Thursday from 8.30pm
Free for Blues Club members and guests

Wellington is one of Canberra’s sister cities, and we attended the 3 October blues night featuring Carol Bean, Terry Casey and Dave Murphy. What a great night out!

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Paul Michael Murray – Contra-Fiction

Meditations on the survivor stories from the ‘Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’, and the culture of secrecy and justification within the Catholic Church
Tuggeranong Arts Centre
3 to 26 October 2019

Paul Michael Murray, draws on personal accounts, research and reflection to try and understand the theology and psychology that leads to a culture of child sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church.

Paul Murray talks to Barbie about Contra-Fiction. Please note that this interview and the exhibition contain suicide and child abuse themes
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Joanna Baker – The Slipping Place

Impact Press, an imprint of Ventura Press, Australia, 2017

Joanna Baker will be at the Terror Australis Festival in Cygnet, Tasmania, from 31 October to 3 November 2019

This is a story about motherly love and family, clothed in a dark tale of violence, betrayals and secrets. We are taken deeply into the lives of two women, friends Veronica, an artist, and Lesley, a gallerist.

Whilst the story could well have been called ‘Looking for Roland’, as much of the novel has Veronica in search of her elusive son, its title The Slipping Place holds a much greater meaning than its role as the name of a place the women visited with their sons during their childhood.

Joanna Baker talks to Barbie about The Slipping Place
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Dorothy Johnston – Gerard Hardy’s Misfortune

For Pity Sake Publishing, Australia, 2019

Dorothy Johnston will be in the Hall of Writers at Terror Australia Festival on Friday 1 November 10am to 4pm, Cygnet Town Hall, with publisher Jen McDonald and fellow For Pity Sake writer Sara Dowse (
As the lonely fly, 2019).

Declared interest: Barbie Robinson, who wrote this blog, is the designer for the internals of this book.

The many fans of Dorothy Johnston’s sea-change mysteries will not be disappointed by this third novel. It’s atmospheric, a little bit creepy and strange, but as with its two predecessors,  imbued with a sense of place – in this case, the small seaside town of Queenscliff Victoria, but it could, I guess, be any small seaside town. They have their secrets and silences.

Barbie talks with Dorothy Johnston about Gerard Hardy’s Misfortune
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Shamini Flint – Inspector Singh Investigates: A Frightfully English Execution

Piatkus, Great Britain, 2016
Shamini Flint will be at the Terror Australia Festival in Cygnet 1 to 3 November 2019.

This is the seventh in the Inspector Singh series. Where have you been all my life, Inspector Singh?

Inspector Singh is a Sikh policeman based in Singapore, but his investigations take him far afield, this time to London. His presence in London, ostensibly, is to take part in a Commonwealth conference on policing and community relations.

Barbie speaks to Shamini Flint
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