Monday, October 27, 2008

Now listed on Voice Talent Productions dot com

I'm very pleased to say that I can now be found on
I'm totally stoked to join this team of voice actors, and there are some absolutely stellar individuals there.

Check out the website, and a little post on Mr. Erik Sheppard's very entertaining blog.


From the 14th of September

Over the next couple of days, I did some walking around Cairo, but was pretty much still in recovery mode, so generally I took it easy.


I had to switch hotels to meet up with my tour group. For our night in Cairo, our lodging was the Hotel Capsis. A nice place in the centre of the city. The staff were also very friendly and helpful.


It was there, at the Hotel of the Capsis variety, that I reached the place of destiny. The place where 12 ‘intrepid’ travelers and 1 fearless group leader would first meet before they ventured out to experience the wonders and challenges of Egypt. That night was when our unique and unbreakable bond formed, that would ensure we stuck together ‘till the very end.


After a thorough briefing for the journey, it looked like it was time to rest up for the days ahead. But hark! Our empty stomachs cried out for nourishment, so we went to dine on the fine cuisine at Gad. At the food place, you can experience such dishes as liver rolls, stews, rice pudding, delicious seafood and viagra. Think I jest?


So after refilling our intrepid bellies, we trekked back to our luxurious resting inn. But not before learning the ancient art of Shisha. 

Tomorrow – a revisiting of Giza, a thrilling trip to the museum and the end of my unnecessarily elaborate writing style.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Let's have a quick Giza.

I woke up the next morning feeling like mild death, but the show had to go on, because today I was visiting the pyramids at Giza and Saqqara and Memphis. It really wasn’t shocking throughout the day, but it certainly wasn’t the most comfortable I’ve been in my life. I started off with a trip with my guide Haitham, and my driver Ahmed (the same guy from the cruise last night) to the archaeological site at Memphis. Generally, it was a little overrun by tourist shops/stalls, but there were wonderful statues of Ramses II (my hero). In particular, this one huge one.

It’s about 26 metres tall.

The next stop was Saqqara and the pyramids there. This site features the first pyramid built in Egypt. Designed by that clever little architect, Imhotep for the Pharaoh Djoser. How fitting, as these were the first pyramids I visited. Boy, was I mesmorised! I could see the step pyramid from outside the enclosure, but the real hit of excitement came when I walked up the corridor of the temple leading through. Then…….pyramid.


After learning interesting info from my guide about how the pyramid was constructed (the step pyramids are actually just tombs stacked on top of each other – called mustabas) we left the miraculous site and made our way to Giza.


I was almost tempted to buy a carpet at the Cairo carpet school that we stopped at, but then I realised I had no idea what the house that I move into in London will look like. Not that I am capable of any decent sort of interior decorating, mind you.


I had that same feeling as earlier (no, it wasn’t gastro), and one similar to what I felt walking up to the Acropolis in Greece, while we drove to the site of the Giza pyramids. I’m sure Haitham was telling me something as we gazed at the 3 ancient giants from the car window, but I don’t reckon’ I retained any of it. That was ok though, as he passed on plenty of valuable material when we got there. The dimensions of the ‘mids are amazing, but they mean nothing on paper.

Seriously, folks – if this sort of thing interests you at all, you gotta go see ‘em. They are more untouched than the ruins at Greece (well, it looks that way) and the mystery of the place is breathtaking.


I took in the ‘atmosphere’ for a while and then wandered into the pyramid of Khafre. You walk down a shaft for a while, and then reach a little room that is freakin’ hot.

After escaping the underground sauna, we made our way to the Sphinx. I read somewhere just the other day that this particular monument is smaller than it looks in photos, and I think I can agree with that to a certain degree. I certainly never put it on par (size-wise) with the pyramids, but I did think that it had more grandiosity than it does. This doesn’t mean I didn’t love it – noooo. I was not disappointed in any way, shape of form.


There is also a stunning lookout at the Sphinx, where you can see the other pyramids.


AUTHOR’S NOTE: I felt and looked like dog’s breakfast at this point.

The best way to explain the experience of visiting the pyramids is to say that it was like getting closure after wanting to visit Egypt for about 12 years or something (my folks can attest to that length of time). Plus, then you have the natural mystery and majesty of the country and the wonder of these ancient sites.

My food poisoning had well and truly reached its peak by this point, so it was lucky that we were heading back to the hotel. I made a quick stop at one of the papyrus academies, which turned into a mildly lengthy shopping trip.

Even though I was in absolutely shocking shape by the end of it, that day was amazing.

The entirety of my next day was spent sleeping and lying around to recover, which means that I don’t have to blog. Nyah.

REVIEW: LPO performs Tchaikovsky’s ‘Iolanta’.

Well, I went to my first orchestra performance in London, and I started myself off with a goodie. The London Philharmonic grabbed Tchaikovsky’s final opera by the horns, and rode that bull around the arena. Led by the LPO’s resident conductor, Vladimir Jurowski and joined by a spectacular vocal ensemble with 11 soloists and the Moscow Conservatory Chamber Choir as the chorus. The soloists were Tatiana Monogarova, Sergei Aleksashkin, Sergej Larin, Vyacheslav Pochapsky, Rodion Pogossov, Robin Tritschler, Maxim Mikhailov, Anne Collins, Olga Peretyatko and Julie Pasturaud.

Iolanta was first performed the year before Tchaikovsky’s death and he apparently reckoned that it was nowhere near as strong as his early operas and thought that he was repeating himself as a composer. 

Bad Tchaikovsky, DON’T doubt yourself. 

This was a concert performance of the staged opera.

It’s a rather touching story of a girl who was born blind, but her father sought to keep her ignorant of this fact, by letting noone tell her. He was hoping this would lead to her having a better life, buuuuut she ends up just sitting around with the same friends entertaining her all the time. She is betrothed to Robert, who doesn’t know about her being blind either. Then Robert and his buddy Vaudémont show up, unexpected. Robert leaves, but Vaudémont stays and figures out that Iolanta is blind and had no clue, and he subsequently falls in love with her.

Now it turns out that the local doc has a way to fix Iolanta’s blindness, but Vaudémont claims that he will love her no matter what. Iolanta’s father threatens to execute Vaudémont if the treatment fails. Then Robert arrives back and confesses that he loves another. Iolanta’s father gives his blessing for her and Vaudémont. The couple are happy, and then it turns out the treatment was a success – Iolanta can see!

It was a solid performance with ridiculous amounts of expression. Jurowski really works the orchestra, and they work with him. The London Philharmonic is a very tight ensemble with great dynamic range. Tchaikovsky’s virtuosic flourishes were treated with due skill and panache and the fleshy harmonies were rich and rang throughout the Royal Festival Hall.

Tatiana Monogarova was quite stunning as the character of Iolanta. She captured that lovely innocence of being completely unaware of the visual world surrounding her. Backing up to my cast notes, though I stated that Sergej Larin performed the part of Vaudémont, I’m going to take a punt and say that it wasn’t him. Why? The guy on stage was the only singer reading from music, so I’m lead to think that something happened towards the last minute and had to get someone to fill in. If they did, Mr. Replacement was EXCELLENT. If not, Mr. Larin should learn his part! At times it distracted from an otherwise stellar performance. That is my only criticism of the singer, and if it was an understudy, then that point is void.

The singers and orchestra had a wonderful synergy, which is important for Tchaikovsky’s music. You have the soaring and lyrical vocal parts, complimented by counterparts in the winds and strings. To make this work, strong ensemble skills are essential. I’m pleased to say that the LPO performance presented Tchaik in an extremely positive light.

My only other negative point was that the chorus was not strong enough towards the end (the finale), and I found they didn’t match the exuberance of the orchestra and the vocal soloists. Jurowski’s style exudes plenty of strength, but the choir was not as receptive to this as the others.

I was so pleased to see so many Russian singers performing this evening. I guess in Australia, we get used to our local artists trying to bash out a difficult language like Russian (I imagine that’s a particular toughie). As much as there is a lot of talent in Australian Opera, and you will not hear me bash them (too much), it’s incredibly refreshing to see a ‘native’ performance…well kind of. I guess that will be the norm’ from now on, though! Lucky me! Obviously, Jurowski himself is Russian, and I could tell he had a particular affinity for Tchaikovsky’s music.

Well, that was a very exciting and reassuring entrance into London’s classical scene and what I would imagine was a great start to the ‘Revealing Tchaikovsky’ series (it was one of the first concerts). I can’t wait to go to the next one tomorrow night!

The night I got sick in Egypt

After a pleasant sleep in I set out to wander the streets of Cairo and make a few essential purchases. What a city. There is nothing quite like wandering the hustling, bustling environment of Cairo. My friend, Rebecca, told me in Greece that Cairo is somewhat like the inside of an ant colony, and that’s a pretty apt and accurate description. It’s organised chaos at its finest.

Any person you think is a madman, is actually completely sane. Somehow – everything works!

I did my usual thing of getting ‘lost’, except this time I genuinely screwed myself over. It took me over an hour to find my way back to the hotel (after I was ready to return), and I didn’t even walk that far.

I was also enticed by a few of the store owners, but didn’t get so roped in, that I was stuck in the store. Plenty of  ‘la shukran’, which means ‘no thank you’. I was actually just out to buy some small things like sanitary wipes and bottled water on little shopping trips. I end up buying a massive bottle of water (which a policeman stole from me, anyway), and I got lost straight after that.  So I was wandering, mildly aimlessly, around the streets of Cairo. Oh year, I forgot to mention, for those who didn’t know – Egypt is hot.

At last, I made my way back. Then that night, I went on a dinner cruise up and down the Nile (not all of it). What a brilliant night that was! It started off with a buffet Egyptian dinner which was extremely impressive. I don’t think I’ve ever been served so much cooked liver, except by Dad. There was also a tasty dip and then it was followed by an unreal dessert.

We moved up to the deck a couple of times and I chatted with some people I met from the States. Then the on-board entertainment started. There had been a singer and band at dinner. By band, I mean a guy on a Casio keyboard who wasn’t even playing. He sang, but was totally key-syncing. That’s a new word I made up…creative, huh?

BUT. The real show was the belly and Sufi dancing, accompanied by a band and percussionists. Man, it was so fun, particularly the sufi dancing. If you ever get the chance to check out Sufi dancers – do it, especially if it’s more authentic.

Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, even though I may have contracted food poisoning from that particular meal. Hooray.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Land of the Pharaohs - The Arrival

It would have been quite the spectacular, flying into Cairo during the day. Unfortunately I arrived at just around midnight. The lights are a nice sight, but no aerial view of Giza and the pyramids for me. I guess I’ll have to wait until my departure.

I pulled in and cleared customs pretty easily, and buzzing with excitement. Walking through to the arrivals area and entrance to the taxi and limousine rank, I was hit with a big ole spoonful of Cairo. There were hundreds and HUNDREDS of people (including kids) yelling and waving crap around. So amongst all that, I had to find my driver, who was going to be holding a sign with my name on it. Huh. Well, turns out there was a mix-up between me and the hotel, and the driver had come yesterday. BUT I didn’t find that out until the second time I made a phone call to the hotel. Up until then, they had told me that he was coming 10-15 minutes. Oy.

Seeing as I wanted to wait for my hotel’s driver initially, I stood around for approximately an hour and 15 minutes before I made that second call to the hotel to find out what the heck was happening. During this time I fended off the advances of numerous drivers who were battling for my business. I’m serious, they get really territorial and will stand there yelling at each other. Not in a particularly nasty way, because I think they all have a pretty polite understanding.

There was this one guy in particular, who stood next to me for a solid 45 minutes in the hope that I would use his limousine. Poor guy. When I finally did get onto the hotel again and found out no driver was coming and that I’d have to catch a cab, I didn’t even use him because he was way too expensive and refused to yield to my superior bargaining skills (scoff). Ah well, that’s his fault. Clingy Clive, I liked to affectionately call him.

The limo driver I went with finally took me to leave the damn airport (I had had enough of Cairo International by that stage). By the way – a ‘limo’ is actually a car that is roadworthy. Usually a reasonably fancy sedan or hatchback. Don’t get any ideas of me driving through Cairo in a stretch. OK, the driver, Hussain, took me out of the airport and headed to Downtown Cairo. Now, Hussain’s nickname could be nothing less than ‘Crazy Hussain’. He was a very nice guy, he just drove like Raikkonen on Bundy Rum.

I have a new perspective of traffic ‘weavers’ in the Western world. I still hate them, but I’ll just think, “Oh well, at least they’re not driving in Egypt”. It was that ridiculous.

 When I asked my driver back at the airport if he could drive me to my hotel, and his eyes lit up, he smiled and said “Of course!”, I naturally assumed he knew where it was. Instead, we were constantly pulling alongside cars and he’d be yelling out for directions. Then one time he pulled over, left me in the car and walked into a shop to ask the owner for directions. However, Hussain’s truly defining moment was when he reversed 400 metres up a one way street. I wasn’t worried, and actually had a chuckle at the hilarity of it. He would go back and then pull over to let cars pass. It was a pretty busy street, too.

I gotta give him this though, he got me to the hotel. Having not died on my first day in Egypt, I was happy.

I checked in, and finally got to sleep.