MIAF ’09. Lame-town.

The Melbourne International Arts Festival has launched their 2009 program. There are a few things I’ll be interested to see (I’m very interested, for instance, in Dusapin’s Medea, and some of the Warhol film stuff), but on the whole this program looks utterly yawn-inducing. A pervading issue which is true particularly in the case of its musical items (but admittedly less so for Dance, particularly) is that there’s very little here that couldn’t be accessed at other times of the year. The big musical headline seems to be the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing the lamest programs you’ve ever seen.

Wasn’t there a time (like, a few years ago) when Festivals were the last refuge of adventurous programming? Didn’t it used to be possible to present exciting works and exciting performers? Given the growing (both in terms of size and vibrancy) of this city’s music scene, from underground noise through overground early music to institutionalised classics, Melbourne Festival’s failure to keep pace is, frankly, embarrassing.

One other thing that I found outrageous was this. Not for the program itself (which, containing Julian Yu’s arrangement of Pictures at an exhibition and a new work by Brenton Broadstock entitled Tyranny of distance, should actually be of some interest), but because it’s patently absurd to describe two pieces by two composers (one of which is an orchestration) as ‘showcasing the scope of contemporary orchestral music in Australia’. The scope of contemporary orchestral music in this country is pretty extraordinary, really, despite the less-than-full-voiced support of the Symphony Australia network, with important new works in the medium in the last couple of years from composers as diverse as Brett Dean, Anthony Pateras, Elias Constantopedos and Stuart Greenbaum (to name but a handful). To suggest that any two works can adequately reflect that scope is laughable.

Anyway, I’ll be going to Medea, and will try to make it to the Seven last words from the cross series of concerts.

EDIT: for a contrasting view, read Allison Croggon’s far more positive (balanced?) view on TheatreNotes.

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