The Qantas Flight from London to Sydney developed a minor mechanical glitch just prior to landing in Bangkok, Thailand. As a result the passengers were sent to various hotels in the city for some much needed rest. We certainly needed that as all of you who have travelled long distances know too well. We had also lost track of time as was very obvious when we were returned to the airport and bundled into a crowded transit hall. Way off, on the far side was a minuscule television set blaring what appeared to be a concert. It was the 8th July 1990 in Bangkok and we had, unbeknownst to some of us, (nor did we care because tiredness had set in again) witnessed the live transmission of the three tenors concert on the eve of the World Cup-Final in Rome.
The concert was the brain-child of tenor Jose Carreras and Italian producer and entrepreneur Mario Dradi. In June 1989, after a concert, Carreras suggested the idea of a three tenors concert in which Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and himself, together with Zubin Mehta conducting, performed on the eve of the World Cup Final the following year. The proceeds of the concert would be channeled into Carreras’ pet charity The Jose Carreras International Leukemia Foundation. Carreras had recently returned to full-time singing following successful treatment for leukaemia.Continue reading THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM : THE THREE TENORS IN CONCERT→
Eight young emerging operatic stars will be competing on Sunday 4 August at The Concourse, Chatswood, to win Sydney Eisteddfod’s coveted Opera Scholarship worth in excess of $61,000.
This year, for the first time since 1995, an all-girl final has been announced.
With a history going back to 1933, this scholarship has been a launching pad for many international careers such as The Late Dame Joan Sutherland, Amelia Farrugia, Heather Begg, & Stacey Alleaume.The winner is given the opportunity to study overseas to hone their craft
Since winning the Opera Scholarship in 1994, Amelia Farrugia has had a wonderfully successful international career on the Opera stage. Amelia continues to support Sydney Eisteddfod as an ambassador and states: “The Sydney Eisteddfod Opera Scholarship provides invaluable and precious opportunities to young singers. The operatic world is highly competitive as there are so few opportunities for Aussie artists. Young singers need to study overseas to be able to compete at an international level and to learn foreign languages such as Italian, French and German.”Continue reading SYDNEY EISTEDDFOD ANNOUNCES ALL FEMALE 2019 OPERA SCHOLARSHIP FINAL→
Brett Whiteley is a name many Australians would immediately recognise. His artwork shone so brightly and uniquely he was judged and awarded as a true genius the world over. The youngest artist ever (to this day) to have his work purchased by the Tate Gallery in London his celebrity star rose and fell, rose and fell yet his work is what lives on well beyond his untimely death at the age of 53 from a drug overdose.
Another work has now been completed in his name which can continue that legacy. Opera Australia’s commission for a biographical opera of his life, personally overseen by his ex-wfe Wendy Whiteley, was awarded to Elena Kats-Chernin a much loved composer here in Oz. Her work has its own unique, easily recognisable quality yet her love for art allowed her to delve deeply into Whiteley’s life and work to create a musical representation as unique as him. The premiere was held last night at the Sydney Opera House to a very full house.
The rhythm and flow of the music took a while to settle in, switching between vignette scenes of Whiteley’s turning points in life. Such a transient lifestyle, sometimes deliberate, sometimes unavoidable, called for transient music and there seemed to be very little to grab onto.
Whiteley himself said, “I really paint to try and astonish myself. That’s the basic sort of thing. To see what I haven’t seen. That can run off the rails but certainly repetition kills the spirit quicker than anything else. I mean I’d rather not do anything than go over old ground.”
This feels like what Kats-Chernin was aiming to achieve musically as well so, for those familiar with traditional opera looking for the audible clues to the end of an act/scene or where appreciative applause can be given after an aria, this may feel rather unsteady.
Like a musical play, there were times when a musical phase felt complete yet there were still 3 or 4 words needed to complete the sentence. Other times the familiar Kats-Chernin style flowed in great richness and sense of humour where the audience vibe lifted and relaxed. Conductor Tahu Matheson took an active role in the creative process so was well able to steer the very capable orchestra through the new material.
The libretto by Justin Fleming included many quotes and critiques from the life and times of Whiteley. This often dumbfounded the audience with phrases that were patronising in their application and sounded highly intellectual or overly poetic. It felt a bit like the Emperor’s New Clothes idea where, if you put your hand up and said “I have no friggin’ idea what you just said”, you might be laughed at. I am guessing these words were the art critic voices Whiteley held in such disdain.
One of the strongest parts of the libretto that the audience responded to was the story of a mass murderer which fascinated Whiteley. In plain English the story was told followed up by a moving gallery of the ladies of the chorus parading past as victims plastered into the walls of his home. Whiteley said he was looking for the singular point of evil and this is what he had found. His astounding painting of the murderer was displayed in the background. A very moving moment.
What were the performers like? The cast, in dealing with the challenges of free flowing music as well as constantly learning newly updated material during rehearsals were dealing with a task far greater than the regular season. They did a fantastic job.
Usually in opera, the singer’s musical capabilities and interpretation take the highest priority but in this production the title role, played by American Baritone Leigh Melrose, showed an acting ability far beyond what is normally expected of a singer. Whiteley is a complex, wide ranging character from a 20 year old surprised at the overnight success, to rock star socialite, tentative father and defeated drug addict.
Creating a character on stage that both newbies or experts can believe in and relate to is an exceptional challenge. Melrose rose to that challenge and I expect there would be few, if any, singers around the world who could better his performance. This is his debut role with Opera Australia and I really hope we see him return to Australia again.
Whiteley’s wife, played by Queensland Soprano Julie Lea Goodwin was outstanding. A powerful voice and highly versatile actress. I last saw her in the comedy role of Two Weddings One Bride for Opera Australia and she is well known for her Musical Theatre roles so this role should open the door to more serious roles if she desires.
As gorgeous and glamorous as the real life Wendy, Goodwin carried the story with Melrose progressing from a 15 year old student through to grieving 50-something ex-wife. Well established principal for Opera Australia Mezzo Domenica Matthews gave a very strong performance as Whiteley’s mother – the audience loved her.
I attended the talk Opera Australia held in the Utzon Room of Sydney Opera House 2 weeks ago as promotion for the production. The talk highlighted the constant flow of edits to be managed by a team working through the night to produce manuscripts for the following day. This process had been running 24 hours a day for around 6 months. So the focus of the whole company was “It’ll be alright on the night” and it was. If there were any major mistakes, we didn’t spot them. The mammoth task of creating a premiere seems to have bonded the already strong team vibe amongst both cast and production personnel.
The large video walls previously used in Aida, Madame Butterfly and Anna Bolena were used again for the ever changing scenery, and this time it felt like a perfect balance, neither upstaging nor overwhelming in video imagery. It enhanced the performance with large scale versions of Whiteley’s artwork, sometimes older artwork he was studying bursting into life, other times quiet, abstract panels to keep the focus on the performers – the best production yet in the use of these panels with credit to Director David Freeman, Production Designer Dan Potra, Video and Projection Design Sean Nieuwenhuis.
The audience gave a rousing applause at the conclusion, with many curtain calls. The performance was just over two hours including interval and kept our attention throughout. It is a short season so hurry along if you want to see the most new and innovative production of the year.
Premiere season at Sydney Opera House 15 until 30 July 2019
The story of Henry VIII and his many wives is well known but the opera by Donizetti based around Henry’s second wife Anne Boleyn, mother of the eventual Queen Elizabeth I, is not often performed. The reason for its rarity is that the work is extremely challenging for even the most seasoned professionals.
The composer Donizetti had long held the role of composer for the Teatro de San Carlo in Naples where many operas flowed from his quill. There were however major limitations set within that theatre about the content and style of what he could write. So when he nabbed the position of Director for the Royal Theatres of Naples, a role Rossini had before him, Donizetti took advantage of this new freedom to write what he wanted to write. The topic of Henry VIII and the often gruesome stories surrounding his wives had long fascinated Europeans so it was an ideal way to guarantee a sell out. The opera made Donizetti’s name internationally and launched him on to the world stage where he enjoyed many years of celebrity sized success.
The story of Anne Boleyn in this opera challenges the view in history books, offering a more sympathetic perspective. As we know, the victors always write the history books but, what if they had her all wrong? The opera begins at the point where Henry is tired of Anne and is plotting to remove her from the throne. He has already started an affair with her lady-in-waiting Jane Seymour (artistic licence here perhaps) who is keen for the crown but distraught that Anne might get hurt in the process, so she spends the entire show feeling guilty about what she’s got herself into. We follow the events leading up to Anne’s execution.Continue reading ANNA BOLENA @ THE JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE→
Above : One of the digital sets designed by Damien Cooper. Virgilio Marino as Goro, Karah Son as Cio-Cio-San and Andeka Gorrotxategi as Pinkerton. Featured image : Karah Son as Cio-Cio-San with Sian Sharp as Suzuki. Photo credit for both images : Prudence Upton.
The day you see Opera Australia’s current production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly will be one fine day indeed. This version creates amazing stage atmospheres from which its characters’ arrogance and anguish can unfold.
Opera Australia continues its vibrant and successful partnership with director Graeme Murphy. Ensemble members and principals alike move around the glossy contemporary set with luminous
expression and ominous tension.
Production Designer Michael Scott-Mitchell has perched a moveable glossy platform in the centre of the stage as a focus for action. It tilts up high with a border of curved spikes, and it slopes on a slippery angle of impending doom.
Central to the essence of this new production is the use of digital sets, with video and projection design by Damien Cooper. An enthralling recent addition to Opera Australia’s scenic arsenal, the ebb and flow of such excellent imagery matches the hyper-contemporary style of the static set structures.
Around the digital set design, which alternates between the ornamental and fiercely figurative, Jennifer Irwin’s brilliant costumes swathe all characters in effective shapes and textures.
The use of dark hues as a costume base complements the setand contrasts with the brighter projections. Cio-Cio-San’s angered uncle The Bonze bursting onto the stage with an origami crane on his back is a startling gem of costuming.
The female ensemble members glide around the tilted stage always interestingly and suitably costumed. There is acerbic caricature and sheer beauty in the range of outfits worn. References to period style, geisha life and turn of the century art movements float with sharp comment before our eyes.
This busy yet striking visual smorgasbord aside, the production still drips with beautiful musical moments. Thanks to conductor Massimo Zanetti, the visual impact exists alongside beautifully woven moments of Puccini music. The score unfolds full of fine balance, rich colour and accessible verismo dialogue.
Above : Andeka Gorrotxategi as Pinkerton and Karah Son as Cio-Cio-San. Photo credit : Prudence Upton.
Cio-Cio-San emerges in her contemporary geisha outfit of shiny black PVC bound at the waist with a mess of red cords. Soprano Karah Son takes solid command of the stage from this point on. She is vocally focussed and a believable actor. We delight in her beautifully substantial tone rising from fleeting utterances and more extended vocal moments alike.
Impressive flexibility of character and voice comes from Michael Honeyman in the role of Sharpless. A fine level of vocal chemistry is present in later scenes with an emotionally stretched Butterfly.
Likewise the role of Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton is sung with sweet and pure tone by Andeka Gorrotxategi. He is continually a fine portrait of a uniformed man from the early twentieth century.
Sian Sharp in the role of Butterfly’s attendant Suzuki gives a gutsy performance above, below and on the skew fragment of stage parapet. Her moments on stage emanate with attitude,
strength, considerable humanity and a syrup-like low register to lose yourself in.
This production is Madama Butterfly as few could have typically imagined, but it works. Regarding the introduction of digital set technology, careful checking of the extent to which an opera audience can be overwhelmed visually will be a sensible aim over the next few operas which use it.
For now, opera in Australia has a bold, bright new skin. The goosebumps it gives electrify.
Madama Butterfly plays at the Dame Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House until August 10.
This was a night at the opera where one is just swept along by the lush music and the great silliness of the plot. It is a blt like a Shakespeare comedy except of course the work is by the great team of Gilbert and Sullivan.
This MIKADO has been well directed by Elizabeth Lowrencev with a very fine orchestra conducted by Vincent Colagiuri
Brett Cocker made a very grand and regal entrance late in the play as the Mikado of Japan.
TodayTix, the digital gateway to arts and cultural experiences that launched in Sydney in March, will offer exclusive $45 ‘mobile Rush’ tickets in partnership with Opera Australia for their production of Madama Butterfly at Sydney Opera House from Friday, 28 June.
TodayTix first introduced the mobile Rush ticket technology to Australia by offering exclusive $45 mobile Rush tickets to all performances of Opera Australia’s in-demand production West Side Story on Sydney Harbour. All mobile Rush tickets were claimed within seconds of being released each day, resulting in more than 600 new patrons experiencing the special Harbour production for a fraction of the cost. Now, TodayTix and Opera Australia plan to expand upon that success for Madama Butterfly.Continue reading TODAYTIX OFFERS GREAT DISCOUNT TO MADAMA BUTTERFLY→
After an absence of 12 years, Gilbert and Sullivan’s much loved operetta, THE MIKADO, will make its welcome return to Rockdale Town Hall in a brand new production.
THE MIKADO is arguably the most popular of all of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas. It is set in a mythical Japan and tells the story of the star-crossed lovers Nanki Poo and Yum Yum, the cheap tailor Ko Ko who has been elevated to the Exalted rank of Lord High Executioner, Pooh Bah Lord High Everything Else, Katisha an elderly lady from the Emperor’s court in love with Nanki Poo, and the Mikado himself. The opera is filled with glorious singing from the cast of principals and the ensemble. The wonderful score features some of the most beautiful and popular melodies including Three Little Maidsfrom School, I Have a Little List, and the well-known Tit-Willow.
This new production is being directed by Elizabeth Lowrencev with Musical Direction by Vincent Colagiuri. Brett Crocker will play the part of The Mikado, Daniel Verschuer will play Nanki Poo, Andrew Brunsdon Ko Ko, Gordon Costello Pooh-Bah, Vi King Lim will play Pish-Tush, Kirralee Elliott will play Yum-Yum, Zoe Yalouris will play Pitti-Sing, Imogen Bilinksy will play Peep-Bo and Carli Partridge will play Katisha.
The season will run from the opening night on Saturday 22nd June to Sunday 30th June. Performances are Saturday 22nd June at 7.30pm, Sunday 23rd June at 2pm, Saturday 29th June at 7.30pm and Sunday 30th June at 2pm.
The show will run approximately 3 hours including one 20 minute interval. Duration: Tickets range from $35 to $50. The season will run from the opening night on Saturday 22nd June to Sunday 30th June. Performances are Saturday 22nd June at 7.30pm, Sunday 23rd June at 2pm, Saturday 29th June at 7.30pm and Sunday 30th June at 2pm.
Sydney Arts Guide has one double pass to give away to the opening night. Email email@example.com with The Mikado giveaway in the subject heading. In the body of the email give your main reason why you would like to see this show. The winner will be advised by email with the tickets being available for collection at the Box Office.
Editor’s Note : This promotion has now closed and the winner has been advised.
This is an event that sounds like a perfect thing to do late on a Sunday afternoon. Opera Australia is presenting a concert GREAT OPERA HITS when Opera Australia stars will sing popular arias from some of the world’s greatest operas in a 90 minute concert with one interval. The singers will be accompanied by a pianist.
Highlights will include:
ROSSINI ‘Largo al factotum’ from The Barber of Seville
BIZET Excerpts from Carmen
DELIBES ‘Flower Duet’ from Lakme
BIZET ‘Au fond du temple saint’ duet from The Pearlfishers
VERDI Brindisi from La Traviata
PUCCINI ‘Nessun dorma’ from Turandot
PUCCINI ‘E lucevan le stelle’ from Tosca
The recurring Sunday afternoon concert will take place between July 7 and October 27 (start time of 5pm) so there will be plenty of chances to see the show.
Cultural guide and affordable ticketing app, TodayTix is offering Sydneysiders $54 tickets to the show.
Following seasons in Adelaide, Edinburgh and St Petersburg, Russia, CHAMBERPOTOPERA has returned to Sydney to play in Australia’s foremost Opera venue, the Sydney Opera House.
The big thing about this event is that it takes place not in the main Opera Theatre but the opera took place in the Ladies Bathroom next to the Playhouse Theatre. The premise is that a lot of meaningful interactions take place in women’s public bathrooms so why not make it the setting for a small piece.Continue reading CHAMBER POT OPERA @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE→
The Apollo Opera Collective presents Handel’s Radamisto
The Apollo Opera Collective is an exciting young artist’s opera company committed to showcasing Australia’s best new young voices. Led by Artistic Director Keiren Brandt Sawdy, Assistant Conductor of Pinchgut Opera and a graduate of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s conducting program, AOC aims to provide a much needed platform for talented young artists to develop the expertise to launch their careers. The company is entirely driven by the artists themselves, who work collaboratively on all the different aspects of staging the opera.
After an extremely successful debut performance of Ariodante in February 2018, The Apollo Opera Collective returns to Mary Immaculate Church, Waverley to perform Handel’s masterpiece Radamisto. Directed by Robert Macfarlane, this production of a rarely performed work follows the warring families of Tiridate and Radamisto as they fight for power.
“Radamisto was the first opera Handel composed for the Royal Academy of Music. This was the company that in later years would commission some of Handel’s most famous works, such as Giulio Cesare, Rodelinda and Tamerlano. But before all of them there was Radamisto, a masterpiece of Baroque Opera and a box-office triumph in its day. AOC are thrilled to bring this work to the Sydney stage.” – Keiren Brandt-Sawdy
These performances will be accompanied by the Orchestra of the Sydney Baroque Music Festival, comprising some of Australia’s best young historically informed instrumentalists.
Two performances only. Dates: Friday, April 26 and Saturday, April 27 at 7.30pm
Venue: Mary Immaculate Church, 45A Victoria St, Waverley, NSW 2024