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07 January, 2013

New Year wishes for 2013

Andrew Byrne’s greeting: busy with family matters; less time for opera and medical journal summaries; disappointed in ‘big pharma’ tactics; also by inept opera company decisions; occupied with mosque and synagogue events; look forward with gusto to 2013. 

Dear Colleagues,

The year 2012 was one I did not expect to get to, being my eighth whole year after treatment for advanced lymphoma.  This year my partner Allan and I have relocated to the charming Southern Highlands town of Bowral.  We still have a flat in Sydney where I continue to work three days at the Redfern surgery (Wed-Sat).  My father John died in May aged 85 following an operation.  He was a crazy opera fan too and he finally made it to The Met in his 80s and saw three great works and went back-stage to meet some of the stars (and spoke Italian to maestro Marco Armiliato).  As his executor I have been busy dealing with a lot of material and emotional things.  With my four wonderful sibs (one in New York presently) we have still enjoyed another festive season relatively intact.

There have been few notable opera performances in Sydney yet we are probably lucky to still have an opera company at all.  The company lurches from pathetic populism to inept casting and poor marketing.  Their administration personnel have made statements about elitism amongst the audience, quite an astounding (and irrelevant) assertion.  One senior member even publicly likened public support for opera as somehow comparable with the situation in the Middle East and before the French Revolution.  What is he thinking?  And the quality has dropped year by year with a number of significant and laudable exceptions of late (Salome, Lucia for example) for which credit is due.  Much of the company’s output is not actually opera but musical comedy, something for which they have no mandate under their own charter, nor is it consistent with their funding from the Australia Council.  It is the unique talent and training of opera singers to vocalise without the use of amplification.  The company repeats Aida, Boheme, Butterfly and Carmen, wonderful operas, of course, but ones which are so over-exposed in Sydney that subscriber audiences groan to know of their reappearance while there are literally dozens of other very popular operas and hundreds of other master-works to choose from.  We may be lucky to hear better things in 2013. 

Some of you will know that I have been despondent at the widespread acceptance of drug company advertising convincing many doctors to prescribe in a way which is not evidence based but which maximises profits.  It is indeed depressing but these marketing tactics do not just affect the addiction field but are found across the medical spectrum where less effective but far more costly products are pushed against traditional (and cheap, tried and true) medications as long as they remain mega-profitable (usually about 5 years).  

My continuing involvement in comparative religions of the book has almost become a recreation after several years.  The vocalism in mosque and synagogue is indeed worthwhile and is usually cheaper than opera seats (YouTube links on request).  In my quest for knowledge, whenever I think I have cracked some ‘secret Semitic code’ I invariably find that I am up another blind alley and need to start over.  Arabic and Hebrew are quite difficult languages, making Cantonese seem easy in my book (clue: the latter is musical).  

Some of my greatest joys during 2012 were re-reading The Merchant of Venice and listening to Gotterdamerung.  While I have still not encompassed the details of either, I adore delving at random into the beauty the works, marvelling at the genius involved in their geneses.  Apart from their complex character interactions and racial overtones, there is also a court-room drama, concealed identities, double crossing and a murder on stage.  Interestingly, each plot revolves around the default of a sub-prime mortgage of sorts (over Valhalla and Antonio’s merchant ships respectively).  

Wishing you all a happy and prosperous 2013 from Andrew Byrne ..

A sample of our blogs:

A month in New York

Grandfather Harry Gracie’s trip to America 1924