From the opening dramatic chords we know we are in for an emotional roller-coaster ride in this gripping revival of the Elijah Moshinksy production of RIGOLETTO for Opera Australia , first seen in 1991 .
Updated a bit, it is set in Italy in the 1950’s or thereabouts so think Fellini’s ‘La Dolce Vita’ … the land of omerta, hidden secrets, revenge, curses, disguised identities and powerful ( if very restricting ) familial love.
Above : Giorgio Carduro as Enrico and John Longmuir as Arturo with the Opera Australia chorus. Photo: Prudence Upton Featured image : Jessica Pratt as Lucia and Michael Fabiano as Edgardo. Photo credit: Prudence Upton.
Opera Australia’s current production of the Italian opera Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti is a focussed and brooding affair. It is a triumph of the genre’s potential for tension and emotional tortures packaged in a visual, vocal and atmospheric spectacle. This is a co-production with Houston Grand Opera, where it was first performed in 2011, and Teatro La Fenice. The opera is performed in a revival production with hypnotic tableaux and a rich musical interaction between orchestra and powerhouse voices.
It is a dark and dramatically delectable serving up of Donizetti’s streamlined retelling of the grisly tale of feuding Scottish clans and a manipulated female caught in the centre of family machinations. Such ominous themes and tales are taken from Sir Walter Scott’s novel ‘The Bride of Lammermoor’ from 1819. Salvatore Cammarano’s opera libretto was first heard in Donizetti’s work in 1835 and are here chillingly realised on our 2018 stage. Continue reading OPERA AUSTRALIA : LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR @ THE DAME JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE→
Above: Warwick Fyfe as Sancho Panza with ensemble members. Featured image: Elena Maximova with cast as Dulcinea (La Belle Dulcinee). Photo credit: Prudence Upton
Massenet’s setting of the Don Quixote tale and legend brings to Sydney a new production for Opera Australia and a unique version of this popular story. Here, themes of the deluded ‘knight’ from La Mancha as an outsider and the fatal pains of love unrequited are brought to the fore in the place of excessive ridicule of the title character. The results are charming, elegant and atmospheric. This opera explores human emotion alongside the comedy. Continue reading DON QUICHOTTE @ THE DAME JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE→
Lush ,lavish and opulent this is a superb revival of the glorious 1994 production by Elijah Moshinksy and there was great excitement as it marked Nicole Car’s debut in the role of Violetta.
Shocking and scandalous at the time of its 1853 premiere, the now classic tale of poor Violetta and Alfredo, of Consumption and thwarted true love is based on a Dumas novel. Moshinsky , Yeargan and Hall set it in 1877 – so think bustles rather than crinolines and the start of the ‘Belle Epoque’. Yeargan’s designs are themed around the seasons. Continue reading OPERA AUSTRALIA LA TRAVIATA→
It is a challenge to present a modern public with something of a soap-operetta like The Merry Widow. This light work profiles gender, marriage and loyalty to a small state very specifically and in a contrasting way to our contemporary approach.
Ringside seats to one of the greatest shows on earth are hard to come by but Opera Australia has some of the best in town, when they take over both the Joan Sutherland Theatre and the Concert Hall in the Sydney Opera House to stage two sensational performances right in the middle of the action. Continue reading OPERA AUSTRALIA’S NYE GLITZ AND GLAMOUR→
This joyous, frothy operetta is a sheer delight. Robert Andrew Greene’s TWO WEDDINGS ONE BRIDE is adapted from Charles Lecocq’s 1874 classic operetta Girofle-Girofla. Musically it blends some of the most famous and beautiful songs of the operetta repertoire (Strauss, Offenbach, Lehar, Kalman, Lecocq, Stolz ) yet at times it sounds like Mozart, Verdi or even Gilbert and Sullivan.
There is a lush Oriental minimal set design by Owen Phillips – looking as if it could be for The Abduction From The Seraglio or some such – and stunning costumes by Tim Chappel. Andrew Hallsworth’s choreography is inventive and the small cast of five perform with great comic timing.
This is a new production by Michael Gow and there have been some changes that make it an intriguing version. The music has been preserved as have the key plot ideas however the characters have been changed to provide them with more realistic and believable motivations. The opera is set in colonial Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) of the 1860’s.
One can nitpick about aspects of this Opera- the rather hurried and sloppy libretto , and especially the dramatic structure of the plot- where most of the major events in the story happen off-stage, and the crucial turning point is at the start Act 2, which means there is not much plot development or action for the remainder of the other two acts. As well, much of the story revolves around the villagers’ Hinduism, yet Ceylon has been a mostly Buddhist nation for the last millennium. As well, the opera is set in the supposedly seaside city of Kandy, which is in reality in the centre of the island, not near the sea – but that is 19th century Romantic opera for you! Continue reading OPERA AUSTRALIA PRESENTS THE PEARL FISHERS @ JOAN SUTHERLAND AUDITORIUM→
This major highlight of the 2016 Sydney Festival is a must see. Based on the acclaimed picture book by John Marsden and Shaun Tan, and the winner of several Helpmann Awards, THE RABBITS, adapted and directed by John Sheedy with score by Kate Miller-Hendke and libretto by Lally Katz, is a combined production between Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company.
There are no exact references in the book to time and place, but the visual cues give the game away, with the play clearly set in Australia.
THE RABBITS tells a parable of out of control colonisation seen through the eyes of the Indigenous population, the Marsupials, and the disastrous impact of the Rabbits- the colonising British.
There were some stand-out scenes in including a disturbing ensemble number where the Rabbits get the Marsupials drunk, and a sombre march sequence where the Rabbits begin by destroying the landscape and end by abducting the children…
Composer and performer Kate Miller-Heidke in collaboration with Iain Grandage has devised a score that blends late 20th-century classical music with many other musical strands and influences, including interesting percussive effects and music ranging from music hall to electronic. The small band on stage was excellent and interacted, at one point, with the rest of the cast. Continue reading THE RABBITS @ ROSLYN PACKER THEATRE→
This production of Don Carlos is the 1884 four-act version and is an extremely impressive revival of the magnificent 1999 Elijah Moshinsky staging. It is the biggest production by Opera Australia since the recent Ring Cycle in Melbourne and at one point features over two hundred people on stage.
Verdi’s classic tragedy of the ‘fallen woman’, LA TRAVIATA, is enjoying a revival in Sydney via the lush realism of director Elijah Moshinsky’s 1994 version. The motifs of fragility, sacrifice and disintegration emerge from the striking detail of the salon scenes and effectively contrasted desolate locations.
Michael Yeargan’s four highly contrasted sets remain design achievements which are a treat for newcomers and former fans alike. The costuming created by Peter J Hall for both formal party scenes and domestic life complement each striking backdrop.