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    Opera on Sydney Harbour: Big wigs overshadowed by Aida’s Egyptian queen


    2018 - 12.21

    Rehearsals of Opera on Sydney Harbour’s production of Aida have weathered rain and shine. Photo: Dominic LorrimerAida’s High Priestess comes out of the wings for Handa Opera on Sydney HarbourKardashians inspire Opera on Sydney Harbour costumesVerdi’s Aida the next Opera on Sydney Harbour
    Nanjing Night Net

    It takes a big head to dwarf the big wigs of opera and politics.

    However, Queen Nefertiti’s 15-tonne noggin, even with an eye missing and what appears to be severe acne, easily overshadowed the powers behind Opera on Sydney Harbour.

    The 18-metre-tall head, which is deliberately in a state of decay, is the centrepiece of this year’s outdoor production of Verdi’s Aida.

    However, she will have to compete for attention with fireworks, camels and a group of scantily clad muscular dancers, whose arrival at Wednesday’s media call prompted Opera Australia’s artistic director, Lyndon Terracini, to ask if Mardi Gras was still on.

    Terracini said the cast, featuring US soprano Latonia Moore, had some of the greatest opera singers in the world.

    “This is an extraordinary production by [director] Gale Edwards,” he said. “It has so many layers, incredibly spectacular, but it also has a real purpose to it.”

    The production costs about $10 million and receives funding from Destination NSW, the state government’s tourism and events agency, and Haruhisa Handa, a Japanese businessman and Shinto priest. Handa’s multimillion-dollar donation kicked off the outdoor shows in 2012.

    Yet, Handa has never seen the outdoor show live.

    “Well, he says he’s coming, but then again he says he’s coming every year,” Terracini said. “But he said to me that he’s going to try his utmost to be here on the last night.”

    Opera Australia has also sought to allay safety concerns raised by the union representing performers, including the angle of raked stages, issues associated with wet weather and working in direct sunlight.

    Terracini said the stage was less steep than last year’s production of Madama Butterfly.

    “I think people, once they get used to the fact you’re outdoors, that it’s [a] different performing sensation, that’s how you adapt.”

    Equity director Zoe Angus said: “Equity takes seriously the obligation of employers to ensure the safety of all workers, and the need to be especially vigilant when working in non-typical environments away from usual rehearsal and performance venues.”

    Former NSW arts minister George Souris, who was dumped from cabinet last year by Premier Mike Baird, said Opera on Sydney Harbour was “one of the great things the NSW government has done”.

    He said the outdoor show, now in its fourth year, had attracted more than 11,000 international visitors to Sydney and brought new people to opera “in their thousands”.

    The opera company’s chief executive, Craig Hassall, said 40,000 tickets had been sold for Aida so far; more than for the entire season of Madama Butterfly last year.

    “I’m very happy to say the sales are tremendous, that’s what keeps me calm and happy,” he said.

    However, with 78,000 seats to fill over a longer four-week run and a sales target of 50,000, Hassall said there were many more tickets to sell.

    Hassall estimated three-quarters of the show’s budget went on logistics and the rest was spent on the cast, creative team and the manufacture of the set and costumes.

    “It’s fairer to say it covers its costs for us,” he said. “The costs are high. You can see, if you look around, there’s a lot you have to spend to create this entire site.”

    Opera on Sydney Harbour 2015: Aida is on from March 27 to April 26.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

    Pete Evans’ baby paleo book scandal could jeopardise My Kitchen Rules ratings


    2018 - 12.21

    Preaching for paleo: Pete Evans’ bone broth for babies is causing a stir. Photo: James Brickwood
    Nanjing Night Net

    Preaching for paleo: Pete Evans’ bone broth for babies is causing a stir. Photo: James Brickwood

    Preaching for paleo: Pete Evans’ bone broth for babies is causing a stir. Photo: James Brickwood

    Is the biggest risk to My Kitchen Rules’ oversized success one of the show’s own judges? Pete Evans, along with fellow chef Manu Feildel, has been the face of the Channel Seven’s reality cooking competition since it was launched in 2010, but recently his profile has begun to diverge from the feel-good or taste-bad culinary drama that the series so smartly maintains. Evans has been a punchline previously – activated almonds, anyone? – but there’s nothing funny about what’s happening now.

    Television hits and their hosts have a curious and co-dependent relationship: did the program make the host a star, or did the host make the program a hit? Equally, however, they can weaken each other if there’s friction between what the viewing public know and expect from their small-screen favourite and what eventuates outside the immaculately edited world of broadcast television.

    A fortnight ago publisher Pan MacMillan announced that it would no longer be publishing Bubba Yum Yum: The Paleo Way, a paleo diet book for babies co-authored by Evans, nutritionist Helen Padarin and blogger Charlotte Carr. The book had been publicly criticised by doctors and dieticians for recommending a baby milk formula based on liver and bone broth, and the condemnation was tied to Evans’ very public profile as an advocate for the paleo diet, which is based on unprocessed foods from humanity’s hunter-gatherer beginnings.

    “In my view, there’s a very real possibility that a baby may die if this book goes ahead,” Professor Heather Yeatman, the president of the Public Health Association of Australia, told the Australian Women’s Weekly, while the federal Health Department confirmed it was investigating the book due to, “the inadequate nutritional values of some of the foods”.

    Sam Newman, for example, may have had his moments away from The Footy Show, but I am reasonably certain the words “a baby may die” have never been directed his way. Evans and Channel Seven were lucky that another food-based scandal – the fake cancer survival claims and charitable misdeeds of app developer Belle Gibson – was broken by Fairfax Media at the same time. They dodged a bullet.

    Evans, however, is unrepentant. The celebrity chef and his co-authors announced they were self-publishing digitally and he sarcastically thanked the media for covering an obviously relevant story – “keep up the great work promoting paleo,” he snarked. In the past months he’s also alluded to opposition to the paleo diet, being marshalled by multinational food corporations, and there have also been remarks connecting a modern processed diet with a growth in autism.

    The paleo diet has many satisfied devotees, but at what point does Evans’ advocacy start to intrude on My Kitchen Rules? Tom Cruise’s lustre as a film star dimmed when Scientology overtook his fictional roles, and the more Evans defends the paleo diet the more people are going to wonder whether he actually likes, or even approves of, the food that he’s judging several nights a week on Australia’s reality television juggernaut.

    Some of these issues bubbling under here are already playing out in Britain, where Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended from the show following a “fracas” with a producer over catering that may have involved a punch. The vehicle-based series is a huge success worldwide for the BBC and the divisive Clarkson – contrarian hero to some, prat to others – is integral to the show.

    But generally Clarkson’s activities away from the Top Gear studio have segued with the tone of sardonic bemusement he has made his trademark. On air or off he winds people up, whereas on My Kitchen Rules Peter Evans is clean-cut and relentlessly on message. He wears a suit well, smiles and generally talks about the food contestants prepare for him with concise positivity.

    Pete Evans is currently concluding a 26-date tour of Australia and New Zealand that promotes the paleo way, so any doubts at Channel Seven aren’t about to disappear. Of course all networks have the “utmost confidence” in their talent until the precise moment they don’t, but then again it’s not as if My Kitchen Rules has just two hosts that are indispensable. Based on the newly prominent profile of Irish chef Colin Fassnidge, the show now has three hosts.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

    Sydney Royal Easter Show farmers rope in social media marketing


    2018 - 12.21

    Show time: The country’s best axemen will compete at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. Photo: Brendan Esposito Show time: The country’s best axemen will compete at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. Photo: Brendan Esposito
    Nanjing Night Net

    Show time: The country’s best axemen will compete at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. Photo: Brendan Esposito

    Show time: The country’s best axemen will compete at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. Photo: Brendan Esposito

    Volunteer Grant Frank works at ensuring the display, which includes giant poppies, is finished by the opening of the Royal Easter Show on Thursday. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

    Family ties: The Reids still working to finish their Northern District produce display. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

    The Reid family has been designing and making the northern districts’ exhibition at the Sydney Royal Easter Show for six years, but this year’s Anzac tribute is ripped from the pages of the family’s album.

    Made with local fruit, vegetables and ingenuity, the district’s diorama pays homage to the family’s three great great uncles, Willy, Don and Ozzie, who were killed in the Great War when they were much the same age as the latest generation of young Reid men.

    The Reids have recreated photos – using local seeds as ink – of their three relatives who were killed, devastating their small country town of Woodenbong (population 500), south of the Queensland border. Three soldiers – wearing digger’s hats donated from district locals and powered by an old engine – pop out of a trench to fire at the enemy. Crosses represent the burials of unknown soldiers like these young men.

    On Wednesday, five members of the Reid family were rushing to complete the district’s sad diorama with the words, “It turned farmers into soldiers, and boys into men,” before the 193rd show opened on Thursday. “Ours is probably a bit more morbid than most of them,” said Michelle Reid, a preschool teacher who has been designing the district’s exhibit for six years.

    While this year’s show and exhibits pay tribute to the Anzacs and mark the centenary of Gallipoli, it is using new technology and channels to reach the growing number of visitors who might have never milked a cow or visited a farm. To attract some of the 900,000 visitors expected through the gates, it will use Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels.

    Visitors will be encouraged to post Felfies (that’s a farm version of a selfie) online.

    In recognition of the growing reach of small websites and blogs, “mummy” bloggers  (with their children) such as MummyToTwins, The Mummy Project and Together We Roam, were given their own media preview. The show has a new instagram account where visitors will be able to post their Felfies (farmyard animal selfies), and it has an active Twitter account @Eastershow using the hashtag #Eastershow and Facebook page.

    Showing the female bloggers and their children around the farmyard nursery, where an eight-week-old alpaca cria (pup) jumped in the air like a cartoon character, the RAS’ general manager of agriculture Murray Wilton said the show had to use the same technology as its visitors.

    “It’s another way to tell the story of agriculture. My kids are all over social media, so we have to use that to educate kids in a way they feel comfortable.”

    As the number of people in farming shrinks, the organisers of the district exhibits  – perhaps the oldest and most loved part of the show – are finding it hard to find new recruits for the labour-intensive job. Many volunteers, like Mrs Reid, take two to three weeks leave to set up the display, working 18-hour days to finish and prepare the produce for judging.

    Craig Taylor and his wife Wendy have designed the central districts display for 26 years, becoming family with a group of volunteers who have  endured each other’s marriages, births and deaths.

    Sometimes it seemed like too much work, until the public arrived on opening day.

    “It sounds corny but when you see the reaction of the public, it is all worthwhile. These are the iconic elements of the show, and they aren’t done on anything like this scale anywhere else in the world,”  Mr Taylor said.

    The region’s exhibit pays homage to the poppies that flowered in the battlefields in World War 1.

    “We didn’t want to show battle scenes or glorify war,” he said. “The poppy is seen as the symbol of remembrance.”

    193rd Sydney Royal Easter Show

    Runs from Thursday 26 March to Wednesday 8 April, 2015 and is open from 9am until late every day.

    Where: Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park

    Cost: eastershow南京夜网.au/tickets/

    Showlink tickets, including public transport, range from Adult $39.50, Child $24.00 to Family $114.20.

     

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

    Chinese power giant eyeing NSW electricity in corruption probe


    2018 - 12.21

    Premier Mike Baird: “My job is to encourage investment into NSW.” Photo: Brendan Esposito Premier Mike Baird: “My job is to encourage investment into NSW.” Photo: Brendan Esposito
    Nanjing Night Net

    Premier Mike Baird: “My job is to encourage investment into NSW.” Photo: Brendan Esposito

    Premier Mike Baird: “My job is to encourage investment into NSW.” Photo: Brendan Esposito

    A Chinese government-owned energy company that is a potential buyer of NSW electricity assets, State Grid Corp, was the subject of a “major” state audit last year which uncovered allegations of corruption amounting to more than $1 billion.

    As Premier Mike Baird on Wednesday was asked more questions about the company and its dealings with the NSW government it has emerged that State Grid Corp’s president, Liu Zhenya, was named as a key focus of the probe.

    Mr Baird’s office confirmed that a State Grid Corp executive, Shu Yinbiao, was one of those present at a business roundtable addressed by Mr Baird during his trip to China in September, not its president Mr Liu as previously advised.

    In May the South China Morning Post reported the “massive audit” was in response to authorities receiving letters “alleging financial problems and accusing the power company’s management of potential corruption”.

    The newspaper said the audit would last “at least until October”, raising the prospect the company remained under investigation when Mr Baird addressed the roundtable hosted by the Australian ambassador.

    Reuters reported last June that State Grid confirmed the audit – involving 1000 investigators – but dismissed it as “routine”.

    However, the Wall Street Journal said in June the audit, which also involved another state-owned electricity company, China Southern Power Grid Company, focused on contracts for a west-to-east electricity transmission system.

    The newspaper said China’s national audit agency alleged that “more than $1 billion was misappropriated in less than four months [during 2013] in the construction and running of portions of a major electricity grid system”.

    Asked if Mr Baird knew about the revelations before his China visit, his office said it had “no further comment”.

    Fairfax Media can reveal that State Grid Corp’s attendance at a roundtable addressed by Mr Baird was omitted from an official report on his trade trip to China last year.

    Mr Baird on Wednesday repeatedly refused to detail meetings held during the trip to China last September, which aimed to drum up interest in NSW infrastructure projects.

    The Coalition government’s plan to partially lease the electricity “poles and wires” and spend the proceeds on infrastructure is the centrepiece of its re-election campaign.

    The unions and Labor have questioned the appropriateness of a foreign power owning NSW electricity businesses, a deal which some fear would have national security implications.

    Under Mr Baird’s reforms to political lobbying, ministers are required to publish details of external meetings.

    But on Wednesday Mr Baird said the rules did not apply to trips abroad, saying “there’s a different process for international trips, that’s well established”.

    A spokesman for Mr Baird later said the Department of Premier and Cabinet had been advised that details of ministers’ meetings on official overseas missions “should not be disclosed through the ministerial diary process as there is appropriate disclosure of such meetings through mission reports”.

    However the mission report from Mr Baird’s China trip does not mention a meeting with State Grid Corp.

    Asked later on Wednesday why the meeting was omitted, Mr Baird said he had complied with disclosure obligations for overseas trips.

    At the news conference he declined to say who else was at the September roundtable meeting.

    “I am not going to go into individual meetings. As Treasurer and Premier I met with hundreds if not thousands [of potential investors]. My job is to encourage investment into NSW,” he said,

    Opposition leader Luke Foley said Mr Baird was “trying to skate through to Saturday without facing the scrutiny his privatisation policy deserves”.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

    Massive population growth ignored


    2018 - 12.21

    Bidders: Rapid population growth in Sydney is putting pressure on housing stock and property prices. Photo: Fiona Morris Bidders: Rapid population growth in Sydney is putting pressure on housing stock and property prices. Photo: Fiona Morris
    Nanjing Night Net

    Bidders: Rapid population growth in Sydney is putting pressure on housing stock and property prices. Photo: Fiona Morris

    Bidders: Rapid population growth in Sydney is putting pressure on housing stock and property prices. Photo: Fiona Morris

    RBA sounds warning on house prices

    NSW faces one big challenge that has hardly rated a mention in the election campaign: population growth.

    The population of NSW will increase by about half a million during the next term of parliament – that’s roughly equivalent to adding another Newcastle. But neither major party has a detailed policy on how to respond to the projected increase.

    Analysis by the Australia Institute shows that strong population growth means real budget spending per person in NSW will decline during the next term of government, no matter who wins Saturday’s poll. Despite a torrent of election promises, the institute estimates state budget spending per capita will fall from $9000 this financial year to $8700 per person by 2017-18, after adjusting for inflation.

    Dr Richard Denniss, the Executive Director of the Australia Institute, said there had been no acknowledgement of the implications of population growth during the election campaign. And he warned that the big-ticket infrastructure promises won’t do much to reduce traffic jams and crowded trains.

    “Mike Baird and Luke Foley have both claimed they want to deal with congestion,” Dr Denniss said. “But population growth means that, at best, the big infrastructure projects being promised will only slow the rate at which congestion gets worse. They won’t reduce congestion.”

    The projected fall in state spending per person will put more stress on health and education services. An Australia Institute report released today shows the number of hospital beds per capita has already declined since the middle of last decade in urban, rural and remote areas of the state. Transport services are also under strain – the report says travel on NSW trains has grown consistently over the past decade, with 55 million more journeys per year now than in 2004, an increase of 18 per cent.

    “Announcements of big new infrastructure spending in Sydney need to be put in the context of the population growth – because if you factor that in, it equates to a cut in services,” Dr Denniss said.

    He said government budget papers should publish figures on spending per person in major portfolios to provide a more accurate picture of the resources available for services such as health and education.

    Population growth has two drivers – by natural increase, when there are more births than deaths, and by net overseas migration, when more people immigrate than emigrate.

    Australia has the fastest population growth rates among major developed countries, mainly due to a high rate of migration. The Bureau of Statistics projects that our population, now 23.8 million will grow to around 40 million in 2061, based on current trends.

    “Despite our rapid population growth being at historic rates and among the highest in the world, it is all too rarely discussed,” said the report, titled Population Growth in Australia.

    Dr Denniss said that since the 2000 Olympics the population of Australia had grown 25 per cent.

    “In fact, since the Sydney Olympics, Australia’s population has grown more than the entire population of Sydney at that time,” he said.

    Population growth in Australia has been consistently highest in major capital cities. By 2060 Sydney and Melbourne are forecast to have populations greater than the whole of Australia in 1950.

    “Overcrowding and under-resourcing has put huge pressure on our cities,” Dr Denniss said.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.