Tag Archives: Simon Phillips

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. 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

FEYDEAU FARCE GETS LOTS OF LAUGHS @ THE OPERA HOUSE

French farce at its best via Georges Feydeau’s A FLEA IN MY EAR is currently entertaining audiences at the Sydney Opera House.

Feydeau take us into the world of the the sophisticated, promiscuous French middle class who, on one hand, are doing some serious bed hopping and, on the other hand, are trying to catch their partners out with their infidelities.

The tagline for this Sydney Theatre  Company production  is ‘Let the famously french fun begin’ and that exactly describes how director Simon Phillips and adaptor Andrew Upton’s play it for the romp that it is – for lots of laughs and with great energy. The style is irreverent, in  particular in the ‘digs’ it has at the dour, solemn approach that some theatremakers have. As one characters says at one time, ‘It’s just a play’…Yes, that it might be, but it sure makes for good entertainment.

The  cast is outstanding, their timing and finesse around what is at times a tricky stage impeccable. Favourite performances came from Harry Greenwood  as the harassed, fraught Camille Chandebise and Harriet Dyer as  Raymonde Chandebise.

Production values are excellent. This is the perfect play for a revolve set and Gabriela Tylevsova’s ornate set works a treat as does her exquisite period costumes.

Highly recommended, FLEA IN MY EAR is playing the Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House until 17th December.

Featured photo – Harry Greenwood and David Woods in Sydney Theatre Company’s A Flea in Her Ear. © Brett Boardman.

SYDNEY THEATRE COMPANY LAUNCHES ITS 2017 SEASON WITH SOME SURPRISES

It has been the season for launches and Sydney’s flagship theatre company, the Sydney Theatre Company,  has now chimed in with the announcement of its 2017 season.

Sydney Theatre Company’s Executive Director Patrick McIntyre started proceedings and then handed over to interim Artistic Director Kip Williams announced next years’ program to a packed gathering at the Bar at the End of the Wharf on Thursday night.

Williams has  curated  an intriguing program which is bound to attract a healthy cross-section of theatregoers. There are some exciting and bold choices.

There have not been enough stories coming from our Asian communities that have made it our stages. This makes the STC’s decision to program Disapol Savetsila’s play AUSTRALIAN GRAFFITI  cause for much celebration as indeed was witnessed by the delighted reactions of Lee Lin Chin and her friends when Williams made the announcement.

The  Sydney Theatre Company developed Savetsila’s play in conjunction with Asian Australian arts company Performance 4a and Playwriting Australia and will be directed by Paige Rattray. The play, commissioned by the STC, has been described as exploring ‘the migrant experience from the inside out.” A Thai family who open up a Thai restaurant in a small country town face a  crisis when their place of business is vandalised by graffiti. How cam they survive such a personal and cultural insult?!

Internationally acclaimed filmmaker PJ Hogan, along with his wife Jocelyn Moorehouse were on hand to hear the announcement that Hogan’s breakthrough film is coming back as a stage play, what’s more a musical.  Hogan has come up with a new book for the musical  and brings Muriel and her friends up to the present day. Simon Phillips will direct  and the music and lyrics come via award winning singer-songwriters Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall.

Williams will direct three productions during the year including a Caryl Churchill play CLOUD NINE which will star one of our finest young actors, Harry Greenwood. A big fan of Churchill’s work, Williams believes audiences will engage deeply with this work which explores how our need as human beings need to give ourselves specific  identities limits our ability to achieve true authenticity.

There will be a fresh revival of Michael Gow’s classic AWAY, directed by brilliant young director Matthew Lutton and starring Heather Mitchell, and a new adaptation by Andrew Upton  of Anton Chekhov’s masterpiece THREE SISTERS, again directed by Williams, starring one of Australia’s brightest young actresses, Eryn Jean Norvill.

The years’ international production  will be the Headlong, Nottingham Playhouse and Almeida Theatre production of George Orwell’s classic novel 1984 with a stage adaptation by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan. Sydney audiences will see the original production as directed by Icke and Macmillan but with a new Australian cast.

At the gathering Williams also announced that Imara Savage has been appointed as the STC’s new Resident Director taking over from Sarah Goodes who has moved across to the Melbourne Theatre Company. Savage will direct two plays in 2017, Colm Toibin’s THE TESTAMENT OF MARY starring Alison Whyte and Moira Bufini’s DINNER with a cast including Bruce Spence and Brandon Burke.

For the full details about STC’s 2017 season visit http://www.sydneytheatre.com.au.

For your enjoyment, here are some pics  taken by Guide photographer Ben Apfelbaum at a very well attended launch.

 

 

The Elixir of Love

Conal Coad as Dulcamara and Aldo Di Toro as Nemorino. Photo by Lisa Tomasetti
Conal Coad as Dulcamara and Aldo Di Toro as Nemorino. Photo by Lisa Tomasetti

This comic opera gem by Donizetti is being performed in a rollicking revival production by Opera Australia. Simon Phillips’ direction of the opera buffa is set in rural Australia in 1915, complete with typical soldiers and civilians. It manages to maintain all tensions, humour and spontaneity of the original Italian scenes.

Whilst period colloquialisms enliven the surtitles, as well as horses, sheep, cows and chickens being omnipresent, Donizetti’s music and characters are never compromised. The colourful set and props reflect Australia’s traditional and modern relationship to corrugated iron. High-quality traditional singing and acting emerge from a cartoon-like twentieth century packaging.

This cast is capable of offering strong personas in line with classic opera buffa characters. Successful solo patter singing and energetic work in groups from duet through to full ensemble help the action gallop along. From an initial side-saddle entry Rachelle Durkin’s Adina continues to be a suitably bold sheila who also demonstrates what bel canto singing is all about. She is radiating in the fabulous freshness of Gabriela Tylesova’s costume design. Continue reading The Elixir of Love

THE TURK IN ITALY

Emma Matthews as Fionella in Opera Australia's THE TURK IN MAY. Pic Lisa Tomasetti
Emma Matthews as Fionella in Opera Australia’s THE TURK IN ITALY. Pics Lisa Tomasetti

It is hard to believe that this is the bicentenary of the first production of this work, and that it has been rarely performed.  An absolute musical and visual treat, a hilarious blaze of slapstick and colour, ‘The Turk  in Italy’ by Rossini with its original Italian libretto by Felice Romani has been spectacularly re-imagined for the 21st century by a brilliant creative team .

It is musically superb .The Australian Opera and Ballet orchestra under the wickedly delightful and exuberant conducting of maestro Andrea Molino is in fine form and the singing is fabulous.

This is one production where close attention must be paid to the very contemporary subtitles by Simon Philips (at times very witty but they can also be vulgar, but always much fun).

No choreographer is credited, but the chorus have a wonderful time in a medley of very tightly set 1960’s-ish style dances (sort of think ‘Grease’ in a way) particularly in Act 2 with the multiple Elvises and Marilyns . And the extended opening at the beach with its bathing beauties and clumsy men, all put to the overture is magnificent.

The set is very Italy 1960’s, a revolve within a revolve, featuring a red and white Cafe Geronio, and the busy kitchen and penthouse and curved grassy knolls .One can imagine that there is a Vespa just parked around the corner and Prosdocimo will bring the cocktails and expressos shortly..

Samuel Dundas as Prosdocimo , aka ‘the poet’ , in this production dressed  as a frantic waiter, seeking inspiration for his play ,is the central figure that skilfully , wittily holds the opera together in a terrific , scintillating performance as he  carefully parodies, observes and at times manipulates the goings on of the people he deals with and serves . The trio for him and Geronio and Selim, as just one example, is tremendous.

This is a seaside town in summer and as can be expected tourist foreigners arrive by the boatload. One brings a band of gypsies and circus acrobats led by swarthy, scruffy Albazar (Graeme Macfarlane), who arrive almost simultaneously as a shipload of Turks ,  their head honcho being Pasha Selim. Selim was delightfully played and tremendously sung by Paolo Bordogna who gives a fabulous performance as the somewhat ridiculous yet macho and ‘hot’ primping poseur channelling at first The Artist Formerly Known as Prince and then Elvis who tries to get into bed with the local temptress Fiorilla.

As sad, lovesick Zaida, ( Selim’s first love who had been sold into slavery in the backstory and escaped)  Anna Dowsley is magnificent She sings gloriously and looks as if she stepped out of a Picasso painting.

As Narcisso , Geronio’s ‘friend’ who is desperately in love with Fiorilla, Luciano Botelho has a strong, flexible  tenor voice and brings the house down particularly with his second act aria when he is changing in the bathing shed.

Emma Matthews as Fiorilla steals the show from her first joyous, exuberant entrance. She sings divinely, is a fantastic comic actress, and has us enthralled from her first appearance singing of the joys of love . At the start she is flighty, flirty and determined to have a very good time however this changes in Act 2 and her enforced moral u-turn with her big show stopping aria where she gloriously lets rip with a dazzling technical display that ravishes as she decides to return to the arms of Geronio .

Conal Coad as Geronio, her far older sugar-daddy husband has a whale of a time imitating his late middle-aged pomposity. Coad gives a masterly demonstration of buffo style, his distinctive bass always serving the text and yet also capable of some pretty nifty very fast breathless patter, quite G & S in style. The duet for Geronio and the Turk, for example , where the latter tries to haggle unsuccessfully to buy the former’s wife, is delightful and leads to a comic duel with lots of sight gags incorporating each protagonist’s national drinks , ice on delicate areas , lemons as bitter hand weapons, and a soda syphon that ends up all over Prosdocimo.

As I overheard another audience member say at the end ‘very silly, but absolutely wonderful ‘ Hear hear. Book now, if you haven’t already, before it sells out.  Opera Australia have brought us this delicious gelato of a very fresh and vibrant version, – go on , treat yourself.

Running time 3 hours (approx) including an interval

Opera Australia’s The Turk in Italy, directed by Simon Phillips,  is at the Sydney Opera House various dates in rep until February 12 and then plays Arts Centre Melbourne, May 1-13.

ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD

Toby Schmitz, Christopher Stollery and Tim Minchin.  Pic Heidrun Lohr
Toby Schmitz, Christopher Stollery and Tim Minchin. Pic Heidrun Lohr

Many talents contribute to the making of a fine play, and in ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD which opened to an enthusiastic full house at the Sydney Theatre Company last Saturday, those talents were clearly visible.

The production was seamless, Simon Phillips’s direction flawless, the set both perfectly functional and satisfyingly inventive, the sound effects appropriate and the lighting (and, at all the right moments, the total darkness) effective.

As for the actors, all the cast were excellent and gave consummate performances. The stand-out ones, because of their major roles, were Tim Minchin as Rosencrantz, Toby Schmitz as Guildenstern, and Ewen Leslie as the Player. The play is long (about two and a half hours), and one has to admire their ability to memorise so many lines. Because the play is, in effect, a “three-hander”, its success, or otherwise, rides squarely on their shoulders. It can be stated, without reservation, that each meets that challenge adeptly. Indeed, for a large part of the play, Schmitz and Minchin are on the stage alone yet, by their actions, voices and timing- they seem to fill it.

Nevertheless, none of the above is truly memorable unless the play itself is a good one. History tells us that Tom Stoppard’s play must be very good, as it has been performed innumerable times all over the world since its premiere in 1966. Certainly it is replete with one-liners, puns and wit, and these all drew much laughter. But it must be said that without a knowledge of HAMLET you would not have any idea about the storyline, and even with that knowledge there were long periods where you would be equally lost.

 It is an existential play, outwardly hugely comic, and inwardly very sad. If you do not like this unique combination, then the fine exercise of all the aforesaid talents still won’t make watching this play a totally enjoyable experience. However if you do like that mix, then this production is truly great theatre.

This Sydney Theatre Company and Commonwealth Bank production of ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD, directed by Simon Phillips, opened at the Sydney Theatre, 22 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay on Saturday August 10 and is playing until Saturday September 14, 2013.