Tag Archives: Erin Helyard


Celebrating twenty years of performances, Pinchgut Opera brings us another superb production directed by Mitchell Butel , gloriously sung and with a lush, exquisite performance by the Orchestra of the Antipodes led by Erin Helyard on chamber organ and harpsichord. The Orchestra was streamlined with Baroque harp intrepidly performed by Hannah Lane, Laura Vaughan on viola da gamba and lirone, and Simon Martyn-Ellis on theorbo. 

This production was filmed at the City Recital Hall in May 2021.

THE LOVES OF APOLLO AND DAFNE, his second opera, was written in 1640 by Francesco Cavalli with lyrics by Giovanni Francesco Busenello .Cavalli moved to Venice, Italy, when a schoolboy and was a pupil of Montiverdi .During the 17th century Cavalli was regarded as a major opera composer who wrote over 30 works,  but his music fell into obscurity in the 18th and 19th centuries until roughly the 1950’s.

This is the third Cavalli opera Pinchgut have presented (after Ormindo in 2009, and then Giasone in 2013). It is still rare to see performances of Cavalli’s operas today.

Under Butel’s direction this performance is presented as set right now, bright, colourful and energetic, with mobile phones, computers etc and giving the work a fascinating completely new ‘ twist’ and appearance making it very relevant to today. The designs by Jeremy Allen (set and costumes) and lighting by Damien Cooper are splendid. There are many doublings (even quadrupling) of roles by most of the cast in this fresh, vivid performance.  Continue reading PINCHGUT OPERA : THE LOVES OF APOLLO AND DAFNE


The live audience was ecstatic with thunderous applause for Pinchgut’s magnificent, finely burnished and lushly detailed performance of Monteverdi’s VESPERS. Fortunately you can catch it online at the moment until 1 May, 2021.

Written in 1610, Monteverdi’s VESPERS (Vespro della Beata Vergine ) is now rarely heard. Monteverdi (1567 – 1643) was comfortable with both Baroque and Renaissance music and is regarded as one of the great composers. He wrote music for the church, temporal works and among other things, opera as well. In his Vespers, Monteverdi energetically transformed ‘traditional’ Renaissance polyphony into strikingly advanced styles. 

Musically and vocally the performance was polished, precise and superb, the Orchestra of the Antipodes including some now uncommon Baroque instruments. Hannah Lane  exquisitely played on the harp throughout and there was a theorbo, (Simon Martyn-Ellis ) cornetti (Matthew Manchester and John Foster) and sackbuts (Ros Jorgensen, Nigel Crocker and Brett Page), amongst others. Continue reading PINCHGUT’S OPERA : MONTEVERDI’S ‘VESPERS’ @ CITY RECITAL HALL


A most delightful Christmas pudding of a rich, varied and thoroughly enjoyable performance, elegantly cultivated yet refined and articulate.

At a reduced capacity City Recital Hall, with lights like stars , wonderful Pinchgut under the enthusiastic direction of Erin Helyard brought us Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s midnight mass for Christmas with added musical interludes by Boismortier and Chédeville. Charpentier’s work is based on 10 “noëls,” popular Christmas tunes (carols) of the era, each one as a section of the liturgy: ( eg the Credo ,the Gloria, Kyrie ) . It was composed around 1690, probably for the Jesuits Church of Saint-Louis in Paris where he was maître de musique. Continue reading PINCHGUT OPERA : MESSE DE MINUIT @ CITY RECITAL HALL


The film was born out of restrictions imposed on the performing arts by COVID-19 – in particular, the ban on public performances for much of 2020 – and features an all- Australian cast and creative team. It is somewhat startling but oh so exquisite and refined musically with glorious performances of the almost forgotten madrigals of Barbara Strozzi.

Barbara Strozzi was an Italian composer and singer of 17th century Venice who published eight volumes of music during her lifetime. The illegitimate daughter of a noble Venetian poet, who encouraged her to pursue her talents by studying with the acclaimed opera composer Cavalli, Strozzi was one of the few female composers of her time to write under her own name.

The music for A DELICATE FIRE was selected from Strozzi’s Opus 1, her first book of madrigals, published in 1644. The lyrics are by her poet father, Giulio Strozzi and are meditations on the diversity, exaltation, sorrows and delights of love, inspired by a quote from Sappho. Continue reading PINCHGUT OPERA : A DELICATE FIRE


This is a Baroque opera set in ancient Roman times , yet has been updated to now in a chilling , menacing production at times countered by lyrical , exquisite music.The atmosphere of the set is dark and bleak ( almost like a construction site, or bombed out war zone, with large plastic panels , ladders and scaffolding ) and there is a menacing atmosphere of war and violence throughout .Body bags wrapped in plastic hang ominously and are at various times hauled up and down. There are chalk outlines of people on the back wall which are possibly graffiti , or perhaps hinting at ghosts of the fallen. Costumes are also contemporary including camouflage gear, balaclavas and guns. The overall effect is darkly monochromatic but there are dramatic uses of red.

At the time of writing Vivaldi was at the peak of his career and FARNACE was regarded as one of his great triumphs. Continue reading PINCHGUT OPERA : VIVALDI’S FARNACE @ CITY RECITAL HALL

Australian Chamber Orchestra : Intimate Bach


A magnificent , many layered concert that had this reviewer in raptures at times .It was also full of contrasting but associated sounds .At times aspiring to be futuristic it is also a glorious celebration of Bach ( and Dean’s ) music. Richard Tognetti, Erin Helyard, Brett Dean and ACO Principal Cello, Timo-Veikko Valve are all featured .
The stage as the audience enters is set with a delicate candle, harpsichord and organ.

The concert opens with Tognetti’s spellbinding performance of BACH’s Sonata No.2 in A minor for solo violin, BWV1003: III. Andante that was haunting and compelling , powerful and hypnotic.

Bachs Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord No.2 in A major, BWV1015 15 I. Dolce II. Allegro III. Andante un poco IV. Presto followed .The work is a trio sonata , the first movement soaring and flowing with delicate celestial music played by Helyard on the organ , Tognetti on violin which changed to a discussion between the two. The second movement was brisk , crisp and precise with Helyard on harpsichord and Timo-Veikko Valve on cello .The third movement , circular and floating, – with Helyard with one hand on the chamber organ , the other on the harpsichord , all three performers exchanging thoughts .Tognetti led the discussion though , like a showy tenor . The final movement ( Helyard back on harpsichord) had an explosive opening and was bustling and thrumming to the dynamic conclusion.

The trio were joined by violist Atte Kilpeläinen for segments from Bach’s Three-Part Inventions, or Sinfonias, for keyboard interspersed with Gyorgy Kurtag Signs, Games and Messages: Hommage à J.S.B. 2 .The atmosphere of the single candle light ( with the glowing screens of the performer’s tablets) was drastically changed with the use of a vertical flaring fluorescent light, that identified the Kurtag sections .There was also a piece by Marin Marais’ – Sonnerie de Sainte-Geneviève, given a most vivacious , robust performance with rather boisterous cello . The music ranged from swooping and swirling , bubbling and circling , to infectious dance rhythms, fiery, sharp percussive segments all leading to the cascading , rippling yearning achingly eloquent conclusion , Bach’s Chorale Prelude “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ”, BWV639 3.

Very atmospheric , Brett Dean’s Approach (Prelude to a Canon) was first after interval , its Australian premiere , a commission by the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra , with Atte Kilpeläinen leading , Hellyard on harpsichord and cellists Valve, Julian Thompson and Melissa Barnard, and Maxime Bibeau on bass .At times it was sharp and spiky , trembling and oscillating , other times scampering , building to a crescendo then a softer , quieter end , lead by Dean and Kilpeläinen , the others quivering underneath.

The final work was Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.6 in B-flat major, BWV1051 14 I. [Allegro] II. Adagio ma non tanto III. Allegro notable for the major viola parts and absence of violins.
The first movement was crisp, cold and very precise almost like intergalactic sounds beamed from a satellite disc.The second movement was tender , lyrical and eager with Helyard moving between organ and harpsichord , Kilpeläinen and Dean interlacing their melodies.The final movement was sprightly almost dancelike in its melody, with fast and furious violas , the cellos and double basses far more restrained.

While perhaps there were few performers on stage , this was an intrepid , gargantuan performance.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra’s INTIMATE BACH tours nationally 19-30 October 2019
Running time two hours including interval


A thrilling , dazzling concert that had the audience cheering at the end. A single chance to hear special guest Valer Sabadus, who is well established within the ranks of the world’s top countertenors. Sabadus shot to international fame in 2012 with his outstanding interpretation of the role of Semira in Leonardo Vinci’s opera Artaserse at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, Opéra Royal de Versailles, Theater an der Wien in Vienna and the Concertgebouw Amsterdam. He has since enjoyed rave reviews and engagements throughout Europe in both opera and concert repertoire.

Erin Helyard conducted and led the Orchestra of the Antipodes who were in magnificent form.

Tall dark and handsome Sabadus was astonishing and charismatic and in fine glowing form with a powerful, burnished top register.

First we heard the Orchestra play Caldara‘s rich, flowing,  thoughtful yet festive Introduction to his La morte d’Abel beginning with soft violins and building to the entire Orchestra .

Then Valer appeared for Caldara’s Quel buon pastor son io from La morte d’Abel with its shimmering strings in the Orchestra backing his ravishing tone and his passionate voice that leapt and soared .His sustained notes throughout the entire concert were amazing yet precisely controlled.

Handel’s Gran tonante, Giove immenso from Parnasso in Festa was a bubbling display of virtuoso coloratura fireworks , leaping and darting with the Orchestra on pulsating strings in a circular melody acting as a dramatic accompaniment.

Next was the Orchestra in Hasse’s Overture to Cajo Fabrizio with its galloping scurrying opening and strident horns. Rich, slower strings limpidly flowed stating a different melody. The two melodies are taken and passed around the Orchestra leading to a brisk lilting circular, almost waltz like pulsating yet abrupt finish.

Handel Scherza infida from Ariodante ebbed and flowed, melancholic and passionate. Valer was limpid and pure in voice but volcanic underneath at times in a rich multi layered performance..

Handel ‘s Venti, Turbini from Rinaldo had a flurried Orchestral opening , Valer shooting off shark spiky coloratura in a tumbling, leaping, dazzling display that was staccato and dynamic leading to the triumphant conclusion. .

Hasse ‘s Overture to Didone abbandonata opened the second half with its emphatic horns and scurrying, gliding strings.

Then came Vivaldi’s Vedrò con mio diletto from Giustino with its throbbing strings underlay saw  Valer dazzle in glorious form with his amazing, sustained notes.

Vivaldi ‘s Lo seguitai felice from L’Olimpiade featured bright flurries from the strings and a fast , staccato performance by Valer .

Hasse’s Overture to Senocrita ( Op 4. No2 .) was at first dynamic then became more reflective and at a slower tempo , finishing with sliding, circular melodies from the skittish strings.

Porpora ‘s Dolci, fresche aurette from Polifemo was delicate , gentle and fluid.with Valer in fine voice darting and tumbling, while Porpora’s Senti il fato from Polifemo was dramatic and powerful with explosive coloratura from Valer – another bravura showpiece.

There was tumultuous applause and the encore was from Handel’s Xerxes – Ombra mai fu, achingly lyrical and extraordinarily passionate.

Valer Sabadus with Pinchgut Opera was a special once only performance at the City Recital Hall 25 August 2019


Australian Haydn Ensemble: Haydn’s Bravura @ Utzon Room Sydney Opera House

Soprano Celeste Lazarenko sang Haydn and Mozart.
Soprano Celeste Lazarenko sang Haydn and Mozart.

An energetic and enlightened example of a concert format from the late 18th century was welcomed heartily by the crowd attending HAYDN’S BRAVURA. The collaboration between the artistic director of the Australian Haydn Ensemble (AHE), Skye McIntosh and musical director Erin Helyard was dynamic as they led the ensemble with informed resolve and joyous music making in the Sydney Opera House’s Utzon Room.

In late eighteenth century style, this programme added continuo layers to embellish set standard formats such as the string quartet. Also, the Symphony No 102 by Joseph Haydn was not performed as a whole or even in order. Other music was interspersed between the movements in a ‘mash-up’ style to provide events with even more variety. Continue reading Australian Haydn Ensemble: Haydn’s Bravura @ Utzon Room Sydney Opera House

Pinchgut Opera Presents Bajazet @ The City Recital Hall

Emily Edmonds as Asteria and Hadleigh Adams as Bajazet in Pinchgut Opera's production of BAJAZET.
Emily Edmonds as Asteria and Hadleigh Adams as Bajazet in Pinchgut Opera’s production of BAJAZET.

The latest treasure to be given a southern hemisphere premiere by Pinchgut Opera is Vivaldi’s BAJAZET. Conductor Erin Helyard maintains momentum throughout this lengthy opera written in 1735 with his precise energy, and detailed gestures.

From a time before copyright and performing right laws, this pastiche, or ‘pasticcio’ opera has popular borrowed arias of the time inserted in between Vivaldi’s own music.

Pinchgut Opera’s accomplished early music cast embellish repeats in the large aria structures with fine ornamentation as they sing Giacomelli, Hasse, Broschi as well as Vivaldi’s music from previous works. Continue reading Pinchgut Opera Presents Bajazet @ The City Recital Hall