Classics meet the can-can: Opera Australia’s 2013 season
Can-can dancers, pyrotechnics, hundreds of elderly ladies audibly swooning and the promise of Dancing with the Stars‘ Todd McKenney’s debut with the company — the 2013 Opera Australia season launch wasn’t one for the purists.
But with next year to be packed with a Verdi festival in Sydney, Wagner’s Ring Cycle in Melbourne, a reprisal of La boheme and an Opera on the Harbour production of Carmen, the more traditional opera lovers will also be content.
Artistic director Lyndon Terracini stood in the Sydney Opera House yesterday to announce the line-up to a theatre full of subscribers and journalists.
La Boheme will open in Sydney on New Years Eve. The production played only last year, but Terracini says audiences have been asking for its return.
Sydney’s Verdi festival opens in January with Un ballo in maschera (A Masked Ball), which will also run as part of the Sydney Festival. Un ballo in Maschera is a co-production with Opera Australia and Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, La Monnaie in Brussels and the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet.
“It’s the first time we’ve done a co-production with major international houses where we commission it and we have the world premiere,” Terracini told Crikey. Every second year the premiere of these international productions will be in Australia, as part of a push by Terracini for a stronger international presence for the company. The show will later play in Melbourne.
Sydney’s Verdi festival will also include Il Trovotore, Falstaff, Orpheus In The Underworld (which will feature Todd McKenney in his company debut) and La forza del destino.
The Ring Cycle is the biggest production Opera Australia has done to date; four operas that will run over nine days in Melbourne. Although the production isn’t on until November 2013, most tickets have already sold out, many to individual “ring leaders” who donated large amounts of money to support the project in order to guarantee themselves a decent seat.
Most opera houses do the four individual productions over four years. But Terracini — former director of the Brisbane Festival — “wanted to create a festival feel for it”.
“For us to really connect with people they have to feel it’s an event and it’s really something special to come to,” he told Crikey. He says it’s the biggest risk the company is putting on all year, partly due to the high cost and partly due to the difficult nature of the work and singers needing to be in top form since only “a handful in the world can perform these roles”.
Crikey got a sneak peak at the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra performing Ride of the Valkyries from Wagner’s Ring Cycle, and with an orchestra of 110 performing it next year it should be quite a spectacle.
South Pacific may have first opened in 1949, but 60 years later it’s playing to packed theatres in Sydney and is soon to move to Melbourne. It will return next year with the same cast. “This production is very relevant to our time,” Terracini told Crikey, noting how critical the race and political issues are even today and how well the music stood up over time.
And judging by the sighs and cheers from the audience when Teddy Tahu Rhodes — who plays male lead Emile De Becque — took to the stage yesterday at the launch, it should be popular.
John Bell — of the Bell Shakespeare company — will direct a new production of Tosca, with an expected emphasis on the acting and drama.
Terracini hopes this season connects with audiences, noting that with a $100 million budget, even missing it by 1% can have a severe impact on the company. “There’s a risk with everything you do and you just hope your nose is right because if it’s not you can lose a lot of money very quickly,” he said. “And that’s probably why I don’t sleep much.”
*Crikey travelled to Sydney courtesy of Opera Australia
The details: The 2013 Opera Australia season in Sydney and Melbourne is available on the company website.