Samantha Hickey and Andrea Fabi as puppeteers in Opera Australia’s 2019 production of Wozzeck at the Sydney Opera House. 
Production photography by Keith Saunders

William Kentridge’s direction of Alban Berg’s opera WOZZECK which premiered in Salzburg last year was always going to be an anticipated highlight of this year’s Sydney Festival, where it is currently shown as a co-production of a number of opera companies including Opera Australia.

Whilst the work is referred to as an opera, it needs to be approached from a broader perspective, almost a culmination of the Gesamtkunstwerk, in which music forms merely a part of the whole, and not necessarily the most important part.

The atonal thrust of the music, its sound collages, use of Sprechgesang and inclusion of some folk and popular song interludes, even a few flourishes into tonality, function very much like an early version of sampling and soundtrack techniques. This supports the themes of alienation, insanity, and nature’s arbitrariness and inherent violence with Berg himself adapting the libretto from fragments of Buechner’s ‘Woyzeck’, and further inspired by his WW1 experience. Continue reading OPERA AUSTRALIA PRESENTS ‘WOZZECK’ @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE


Opera Australia’s ‘Turandot’. Production photography by Keith Sanders

This was a wonderful opening night of Giacomo Puccini’s ‘Turandot’ performed by Opera Australia at Sydney’s Opera House on Tuesday 15th January 2019. TURANDOT is Puccini’s final opera and one of his most well-known thanks to the unforgettable performance of the aria ‘Nessun Dorma’ by tenor Luciano Pavarotti. Considered by many as Puccini’s most musically adventurous and best known Opera. Sadly Puccini (born 1858) died in 1924 before it was completed. TURANDOT premiered on the 25th April 1926 at La Scala in Milan with the final scenes written by composer Franco Alfano, a successful opera composer in his own right, based the final ending on Puccini’s drafts and sketches.

This year’s revival of Graeme Murphy’s 1990 production leans heavily into the fairy tale and Puccini’s view of early 20th century China which he developed from studying books about old Chinese music and information from his friend who had been the Italian Consul in China at the time. Continue reading OPERA AUSTRALIA PRESENTS ‘TURANDOT’ @ THE JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE



Divas on Demand presented a most exciting production that reimagined the classic story of La Boheme. Under the deft direction of Nathan Gilkes, the Boheme Musetta and Rodolfo are blended with their future selves remembering the past and celebrating the life changing, at times, devastating power of love.

It becomes an immersive event with the audience is led through various spaces of the Independent Theatre – eg the main lobby , the foyer, outside, the cast using the fire escape staircase etc.

Musical director and arranger Wendy Dixon on electronic keyboard has created an excellent score mostly using the main ‘set pieces’ of the much loved opera as but also incorporating for instance The Andrews Sisters hits and also including guitar (Grant Sambells).Also, in another twist, Marcello here becomes Marcella. Continue reading DIVAS ON DEMAND : BOHEME A PIACERE @ INDEPENDENT THEATRE


This is a very exciting production, directed by Matthew Barclay, fresh and vibrant, updated to now and musically and vocally fabulous.

Mozart’s opera DON GIOVANNI is one of the most popular and frequently performed operas in the world. Here, it is a marvellous showcase for the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s terrific vocal and orchestral students . It is slightly abridged to clarify the complicated plot, sung in the original Italian , with surtitles above the stage providing a snappy, witty translation. The pacing of the production was brisk and the narrative clear. Under the direction of maestro Dr Stephen Mould the orchestra was in impressive, glowing form.

This production is transposed to 2018 – the characters here become A list celebrities and there is much use of mobile phones, paparazzi and so on. There are witty visual jokes (for example, the photo shoot at interval, the huge bucket of KFC and the way the Conservatorium is shown in the set designs as Don Giovanni’s castle), and musical ones (the quote from Mozart’s own The Marriage of Figaro in Act 2 for instance).

Costumes by Isabella Andoronos are terrific, with some stunning dresses for Donna Anna and Donna Elvira in particular, while their assistants wear severely cut black and white suits ( and have fun picking out the Batman, Superman and Cleopatra costumes for example in the masked ball in Act 2 ). The staging is set as if it backstage at a film lot or theatre with revolving panels , various clothes racks etc .The statue of the Commendatore is one of several Oscar like statues on plinths.

We follow the last days of the life of a narcissistic, lecherous, hedonistic, filthy rich playboy, convinced he can live beyond the laws of God and man – and in doing so cheat punishment and death. Continue reading DON GIOVANNI IN THE AGE OF CELEBRITY @ THE CON


Featured image: Rockdale Opera Company’s ‘The Gondoliers’ 2017

Rockdale Opera Company’s 70th Anniversary celebrations conclude with a spectacular GALA CONCERT.

International Opera stars Jose Carbo, Barry Ryan OAM and John Bolton-Wood AM, will be joined by Soprano Lisa Cooper, Mezzo-soprano/SBS Presenter Silvia Colloca, principals both past and present, the ROC Ensemble and a Palm Court Orchestra in a celebration of glorious musical highlights from the past seven decades.

This year marks Rockdale Opera Company’s 70th anniversary. Established in 1948, Rockdale is Australia’s oldest continuously operating opera company. We conclude our 70th year with a celebration of the glorious music performed by the Company over the past seven decades. Featuring many past performers, famous and otherwise!

The GALA CONCERT 70th anniversary celebration from Rockdale Opera Company [Facebook]  at Rockdale Town Hall, on Sunday 18 November at 4pm.

Tickets $60, which includes a complimentary souvenir program. Tickets also available at the Box Office.

The Town Hall, on Princes Highway, is within walking distance of Rockdale Station on the Illawarra Line.

Ample parking and easy disabled access.

Refreshments and Bar facilities in the foyer.

Copies of their pictorial souvenir book "Seventy Years at Rockdale Opera Company - A Snapshot 1948 to 2018" will be available for purchase in the foyer.


Tobias. Pic by Dawn Pugh

The latest production from the GILBERT AND SULLIVAN OPERA SYDNEY is the relatively now rarely seen THE GHOSTS OF RUDDIGORE. The tenth of the Savoy Operas by Gilbert and Sullivan it is both typical G&S with its wonderful melodies and biting lyrics, and here is a satire on the Victorian Gothic spooky horror melodrama genre.

It has a silly complicated plot of curses, disguises, ghosts and yes includes witches and a dastardly villain . All of the Baronets of Ruddigore are under a terrible curse called up centuries ago by a witch – each of the Baronets must commit some sort of crime daily, or they will die in terrible agony.

Our hero Robin Oakapple has been living as a farmer for years, trying to find the courage to ask the beautiful village maiden Rose Maybud for her hand, but he is also hiding a secret–he is really Sir Ruthven , the Baronet of Ruddigore, and has been in disguise while his younger brother Despard assumed the title–and the curse. Betrayed by his foster-brother Richard, Robin’s real identity is revealed and he therefore must take on the burden of committing a crime every day in order to appease the curse– and the ghosts of all his ancestors past appear in Act 2. They are not at all happy with his attempt to dodge fulfilling his title and the curse. Will Robin be able to counter the curse and live the honest life he craves? Continue reading GILBERT AND SULLIVAN OPERA SYDNEY PRESENT ‘THE GHOST OF RUDDIGORE’



This is an  opera in two acts by Brian Howard with  libretto by Steven Berkoff, sung in English, adapted from Franz Kafka’s 1915 novella, Metamorphosis.

Tama Matheson’s production had an eleventh hour hiccup with Julie Lea Goodwin falling ill and being replaced by director’s assistant Tabetha McFayden who was excellent.

Mark Thompson’s set design, a platform stage with tiered levels of steel girders, was one of the strongest elements of the production.  The bunting curtains with enlarged cockroaches scurrying around was disturbing.

The performances by  the cast were all quality performances. Simon Lobelson gave a striking performance as Gregor Samsa who wakes up one morning to find out that he has been transformed into a giant insect, to his and his family’s chagrin. Through the production Gregor’s bedroom becomes like his prison as we see him catapult around his room, hang on to the steel bars and sometimes hang off the light in the middle of his room.  He becomes increasingly distressed, even more so as the TB insinuates into his body. At one time he coughs up a tubercular globule of shocking bright red blood. In a later scene, Gregor is furtively hiding behind the top right tier spitting excessive red sputum into a white bedpan.

Adrian  Tamburini plays the priggish Chief Clerk of the merchant company Gregor works for who is disillusioned that he hasn’t turned up at work. He arrives at the family home and ends up leaves in disgust.

Christopher Hillier plays Gregor’s uptight, very conservative, European father who Gregor has a very poor relationship with. Hillier gives a very strong performance.

In one of this opera’s darkest scenes Gregor’s father decides, along with his frumpish wife and forthright daughter, to clear up  Gregor’s bedroom so that they can get  a lodger to help pay the bills after the loss of Gregor’s income. One of the first thing  to go is Gregor’s much cherished writing desk and Gregor is furious that they are capable of doing this to him.

Benjamin Rasheed plays the stout Lodger who is told that he needs to like pets – a reference to Gregor’s transformed state. The family make him a lovely dinner to make him feel like he is at home.   When Gregor sees him he throws a tantrum. The irascible, demanding Lodger flees the scene.

Tabatha McFayden  plays Gregor’s very distressed sister Greta who tries to remain loyal to Gregor but finds it increasingly difficult. Things reach a new low when  Greta plays violin for the new Lodger to try and appease him and Gregor becomes very jealous.

Taryn Fiebig plays Gregor’s anxious, demure, sweet natured, stooped mother. The two women are more torn apart by Gregor’s demise than the father is. The father can’t show emotion  and just paces around the house eating applies.

Through the opera the serving of food especially apples is  a source of comfort, solace and even distraction at times. Food is all important and there is a sense of force feeding going on.

The mother’s effigy with Gregor’s face on it was very effective symbolism as she tries to cling on to how Gregor used to be.

Paul Fitzsimon conducts the Orchestra with great skill and the dark soundscape is another important feature of the production as was John Rayment’s very effective and impactful lighting design.

Mark Thomson’s costume design had all the characters in period costume and accentuated their personalities. In one very character defining scene we see the father button up the brass buttons of his military jacket and then put on a fur lapel overcoat with white kid gloves. Then he goes out on his walk.

Recommended. METAMORPHOSIS plays the Opera Centre, Surry Hills until September 29, 2018. Performances nightly at 7pm.




This image: Graeme Macfarlane as Albazar, Anna Dowsley as Zaida and chorus in Opera Australia’s 2018 production of The Turk in Italy at the Sydney Opera House. Pics Keith Saunders

From Rossini, Italy’s grand master of hilarity comes a rollicking comedy with a magnificent score. THE TURK IN ITALY dazzles  from the lowest bass notes to the impossibly stratospheric level of soprano Stacey Alleaume’s coloratura.

Conductor Andrea Molino heads up a sparkling team  of comedic talents including Paolo Bordogna in his outrageously funny performance as the Turk and the bumbling, silly Warwick Fyfe  as a jealous husband.  Director Simon Phillips playful, tongue in cheek production squeezes every last laugh from Rossini’s  ribald romp.

Gabriela Tylesova’s vivaciously coloured costumes and clever revolving sets are stars in their own right; a bright lollypop on top of a richly creamy parfait. Continue reading OPERA AUSTRALIA’S ‘THE TURK IN ITALY’ @ THE JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE


This image: Graeme Macfarlane as Albazar, Anna Dowsley as Zaida and chorus in Opera Australia’s 2018 production of The Turk in Italy at the Sydney Opera House. Photo credit: Keith Saunders
Featured image: The Opera Australia Chorus in Opera Australia’s 2018 production of The Turk in Italy at the Sydney Opera House. Photo credit: Keith Saunders

THE TURK IN ITALY is not one of Rossini’s best known or best received operas, but this risqué OA production is sure to entertain most. (Just don’t take your kids or your prudish mother-in-law.)

Director Simon Philips premiered this playful retro adaptation in 2014 and returns this year with the same cartoonish set design and candied costumes, as well as much of the original cast.

The plot is by no means serious drama and does not stand up to critical examination. But it is laugh-out-loud funny. This is opera buffa, after all. It is meant to be ridiculous, and is by its’ very nature full of gender and race stereotypes, with not one fully formed, complex character. Continue reading THE TURK IN ITALY – MODERN AUSSIE OPERA


Rockdale Opera Company- Gala 2017 with patron Jose Carbo and Emma Matthews.

Rockdale Opera Company’s 70th Anniversary celebrations continue with Jacques Offenbach’s grand fantasy opera THE TALES OF HOFFMANN.

This is a new fully staged production of the opera with Benjamin Oxley as Hoffmann and Camilla Wright, Georgia Kokkoris and Michaella Zhang as his three loves.

With its amazing Doll Song and the beautiful Barcarolle, this opera is not to be missed!

Rockdale Opera Company’s [Facebook]  THE TALES OF HOFFMANN will play at Rockdale Town Hall, corner Bryant St and Princes H’way Rockdale , 18, 19, 25, 26 August 2018

Copies of their pictorial souvenir book 'Seventy Years at Rockdale Opera Company - A Snapshot 1948 to 2018' will be available for purchase in the foyer.


Above: Ricardo Massi as Radames, Roberto Scandiuzzi as Ramfis and Elena Gabouris as Amneris.                                                                                                                                                                                        Featured image: Amber Wagner as Aida with Ricardo Massi as Radames,                                                  Photo credit: Prudence Upton.

Opera Australia’s current new production of Verdi’s Aida delivers a satisfying amount of traditional drama and tension we hope for in Verdi’s structure and score. The arresting design in this production makes use of a refreshingly new visual element for the opera stage. A more traditional set design is replaced with projection technology onto moveable vertical panels to create and decorate all required scenes.

Musically, Verdi’s score is preserved with immense energy and beautifullyvaried nuance by conductor Andrea Battistoni. In front of the vibrant animation of the video backdrop, arias such as ‘Celeste Aida’ from Riccardo Massi as Radamès indicate early that the calibreof operatic storytelling will be high and as vivid as the set projections from video designer D-Wok in Giò Forma’s fluid set design.

Dramatic focus and stirring atmospheres are constantly supplied from principals and chorus. They deliver intense exchanges in scenes dealing with crises of the heart, countries at war, jealous lovers or jubilant victory. Some very full stage moments are augmented further by extra animated screen figures behind and at the side borders of tableaux. Continue reading OPERA AUSTRALIA : AIDA @ DAME JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE