Posts Tagged ‘Richard Mills’
MIETTA SONG COMPETITION WELCOMES INTERNATIONAL JUDGING PANEL
The Judging Panel for the 2012 Mietta Song Competition (MSC) has been announced.
Chaired by Emeritus Professor Mel Waters, the international panel includes Australian German-based tenor, John Heuzenroeder; Australian mezzo soprano Suzanne Johnston; and, American Australian-based pianist Dr Elyane Laussade.
The Mietta Song Competition particularly welcomes back alumni John Heuzenroeder. John was the winner of the 1996 Mietta Song Recital Award and returns home to Melbourne especially for the competition. A current member of the Cologne Opera Company (Germany), John will also be giving a special ‘Winners’ Masterclass’ on Monday, July 23rd at 2 pm at the Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash University.
This year, the Mietta Song Competition takes place on Saturday 21st July and Sunday 22nd July at the Iwaki Auditorium, Southbank. Bookings are now open.
The semifinalists for 2012 include sopranos Hannah Dahlenburg (VIC), Susannah Lawergren (NSW), Qestra Mulqueeny (NSW) and Siobhan Stagg (VIC); Mezzo-sopranos Emily Edmonds (NSW), Charlotte Betts-Dean (VIC) and Selena Pettifer (VIC) and tenor Brenton Spiteri (VIC).
The 2012 MSC Ambassador is Australian composer and conductor Richard Mills, AM.
Emeritus Professor Mel Waters is one of Australia’s foremost musicians and educators. Formerly Director of Music and Principal Organist at Adelaide’s St Francis Xavier Cathedral, and more recently Director and Dean of the Melba Conservatorium in Melbourne, he is now Director of Music and Organist at St John’s Anglican Church Toorak.
John Heuzenroeder is currently engaged at the Cologne Opera, Germany. With the company he has appeared in The Turn of the Screw (Britten) L’Incorinazione di Poppea (Monteverdi) The Abduction from the Seraglio (Mozart) Die Meistersinger (Wagner). 2012 roles include Oronte: Alcina and Jacquino: Fidelio. Other repertoire: title roles of Werther and Candide; Tom Rakewell: The Rake´s Progress, Tamino: Die Zauberflöte and Don Ottavio: Don Giovanni (Opera Australia), the Novice: Billy Budd (for which he was nominated for a Green Room Award.
Suzanne Johnston’s career encompasses the prestigious European Festivals of Glyndebourne and Salzburg, as well as Australia’s major opera companies. Her repertory includes the title roles in Carmen, Der Rosenkavalier, L’Incoronazione di Poppea, The Gypsy Princess, Pericole, My Fair Lady, Hansel (Hansel and Gretel) as well as Orlofsky (Die Fledermaus), Rosina (Barber of Seville) Secretary (The Consul), Hermia (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), The Fox (Cunning Little Vixen).
Since arriving in Australia, American pianist Dr Elyane Laussade has appeared in the MSO’s Metropolis Festival with Marcus Stenz and has been featured many times by ABC Classic FM and 3MBS in studio recordings and live broadcasts. She performed St. Saens’ Carnival of the Animals with the MSO in Hamer Hall with pianist Benjamin Martin under the baton of Anthony Ingliss and performed De Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in the Myer Bowl.
Mietta Song Competition 21 – 22nd July 2012 Iwaki Auditorium, Southbank Boulevard, South Bank
Semi-finals Saturday July 21st @ 11 am & 2 pm $35, $30
Finals Sunday July 22nd @ 2 pm $40, $35 Weekend Pass $70, $60
Conductor and composer Richard Mills AM has been appointed the 2012 Mietta Song Competition (MSC) Ambassador.
“Richard Mills is one of Australia’s most distinguished musical figures. As a highly sought after conductor, composer and artistic director, Richard brings his illustrious experience to the competition. We are honoured that he has agreed to support the Competition”, MSC Chair, Noel Turnbull said.
Richard Mills said: “I am thrilled to accept this honour. Song is very close to my compositional heart having written many songs as well as a series of 5 song cycles as part of the Ian Potter Foundation Fellowship.”
“The Mietta Song Competition and I already share a wonderful relationship. In 2011, MSC presented my song cycle Songlines of the Heart’s Desire at the Windsor Hotel. It was a very special event for me.”
Richard is a musical polymath of the highest distinction. From 1997 – 2012 he was Artistic Director of the West Australian Opera and in 2008 was Musica Viva’s Composer of the Year. In 2013, he will become the Artistic Director of Victoria Opera and will be the Musical Director of Wagner’s The Ring Cycle for Opera Australia in Melbourne. Richard conducts all the major orchestras in Australia and regularly performs in major Australian Festivals. He is one of the few Australian composers who have been commissioned to write operas for main stage performances in Australia. His operas include Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (Victoria State Opera), Batavia (Opera Australia) and Love of the Nightingale (UWA Perth International Festival).
Richard Mills will officially launch the 2012 Mietta Song Competition on Wednesday, June 20th at 4.30 pm at Commes. He will also be available for interviews and photos at the event.
Richard Mills’ appointment follows on from the 2010 MSC Ambassador, Robyn Archer AO.
Opera in One Act by Richard Strauss
Libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, after Sophocles
Performance on Saturday, 11th February 2012 at His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth Western Australia.
A co-production of West Australian Opera, ThinIce, Perth International Arts Festival and Opera Australia.
Conductor Richard Mills
Director Matthew Lutton
Set and Costume Designer Zoe Atkinson
Lighting Designer Paul Jackson
Repetiteur Andrea Katz
Elektra Eva Johansson
Chrysothemis Orla Boylan
Klytamnestra Elizabeth Campbell
Orest Daniel Sumegi
Aegisth Richard Greager
Orest’s Tutor Jame’s Clayton
Confidante Sarah-Janet Brittenden
Trainbearer Lucy Mervik
Young Servant Samuel Sakkar
Old Servant Ryan Sharp
Overseer Merlyn Quaiffe
First Maid Bernadette Lucarnus
Second Maid Donna Friedl
Third Maid Fiona Campbell
Fourth Maid Harriett O’Shannessy
Fifth Maid Jennifer Barrington
Agamemnon James Berlyn
Sacrificial Victim Shirley van Sanden
With the West Australian Opera Chorus and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.
To say this opera production was a most anticipated event would be an understatement. In this part of the world any new production of ELEKTRA is a RARE event. This was a red carpet event for both the West Australian Opera and the Perth International Arts Festival, and a red carpet was indeed laid out on the footpath outside the theatre. The anticipation and excitement was partially satisfied by this production. Performed in the beautiful, Edwardian His Majesty’s Theatre (built in 1904 during the Western Australian gold rush). Performances of this bloody tale of obsession and matricide is the last thing you would expect in this enchanting theatre. But see it we did.
Hofmannsthal based the libretto on Sophocles Greek tragedy of the ancient King of Mycenae and protagonist in the Troy war, Agamemnon. Before the action commences, Agamemnon’s brother, Aegisth, has brutally stabbed him to death in his bath, his wife Klytamnestra has hacked his dead body to pieces with an axe, his wife and brother are now joined and Aegisth is the new King. His son Orest, the rightful heir to the thrown has been banished, leaving his sisters Elektra and Chrysothemis alone at the palace. Elektra is obsessed with revenging her father’s death and tries to enlist her weak and vacillating sister in aiding her in killing Aegisth and her mother Klytemnestra. The palace and Klytemnestra are diseased. Klytemnestra thinks a sacrifice to the Gods will cure all ills but cannot decide on an appropriate animal to sacrifice. Elektra taunts her hinting to her that her death is near. Orest, presumed to be dead, returns to the palace and reveals himself to Elektra, who wasted and dishevelled is unrecognisable. Little discussion is needed. Orest ascends the stairs to the palace and kills his mother Klytemnestra amidst a cacophony of screams. Aegisth enters and is ushered up into the palace where he meets a similar fate. Elektra’s revenge is now complete, her purpose in life has now ended. Elektra, in an ecstatic dance of triumph, falls dead in front of her horror-stricken attendants.
The opera, designed by Australian Zoe Atkinson was set in a grimy cell with a narrow and claustrophobic stairway climbing upstairs at the back left hand side of the stage and some low windows on the side walls. Costumes were modern a la Target, with Elektra dressed in an ill-fitting skirt and hoody (hasn’t she been dressed like this before in another production ?). Chrysothemis was also dressed in a budget dress and slip and Orest also entered wearing a hoody (Target must have had a sale). The only glamour, if that is required for this gruesome tale of matricide and murder, was the glamorous, satin-like, cream pant-suit worn by a bald Klytemnestra (presumably her pyjamas), with gaudy drop diamond ear rings trailing almost to her neck and the biggest cluster of diamond rings I have ever seen. Aegisth sauntered onto the stage wearing camel coloured slacks, a mustard, fine woollen pullover, sunnies and a shock of white hair beautifully brushed back, causing some mirth in the audience.
The production was in the hands of the young and impressive Australian director, Matthew Lutton. This was only his second opera production – the other was Miroslav Srnka’s chamber opera MAKE NO NOISE staged in the Pavillion 21 Mini Opera Space of the Bavarian State Opera. Lutton’s production was very faithful to the opera, and even many of Strauss and Hofmannsthals’ stage directions, but he added his own modern twist to the production with his much publicised concept bringing a startling visual intensity to the music, by allowing the audience to enter into the world of Elektra’s dreams and desires. The opera is essentially ‘seen’ through Elektra’s eyes, thus enhancing the psychological drama of the work. At the rise of the curtain, the maids equipped with a mop and dish rags are poised on the lip of the stage to the left as directed by Strauss, but wait, at the back of the stage facing the wall is an intruder, virtually naked with jaundiced skin. The cue for Lutton’s concept is taken from Elektra’s opening monologue, ‘Allein ! Weh, Ganz allein’, the mysterious figure slowly turns around when she sings ‘so you return, with slow relentless step, unlooked for, stand you there, with vengeful eyes’. When Elektra, after a few more phrases sings ‘Let me behold you, leave me not this day alone ! But as your want is, like a shadow, from the wall’s recesses come to greet your child ! Father ! Agamemnon ! Your day approaches’. With this, the figure slowly tears of his jaundiced skin revealing a body as black as night, and as requested he does not leave her this day – chilling stuff ! At times during the course of the opera the spirit of Agamemnon would slowly and deliberately make his way to Elektra or Klytemnestra to place his arms around them in an embrace, but never touching them.
Little was made of the opening Maids scene until the arrival of the Overseer, played by Merlyn Quaife, who provided the mostly inexperienced Maids (2 were making their premier major opera debut) with a stunning example of vocal acting and German pronunciation. The confrontation between Elektra and her sister Chrysothemis, (the butt of all her pent up anger) was very physical with Elektra pushing her around in her rage. The entrance of Klytemnestra was accompanied by her confidante and another young woman additional to the usual performers. After her contemplation of the necessity of a sacrifice to appease the Gods and heal her ailing body (and that of the palace), she turns to the seated girl and proceeds to scalp her with a knife, leaving a large, bloody head wound, then proceeds to wear the scalp as a wig. A missed opportunity was the confrontation scene between Elektra and her mother with both on opposite sides of the stage, Elektra sitting astride a reversed chair and little interaction between them. Before Klytemnestra’s murder, the spirit of Agamemnon slowly turns and outstretches his arm to indicate the axe leaning against the back wall. Elektra spends some time in stripping it of a rubber coating in preparation for the avenging murders. With the murder of her mother, accompanied by a cacophony of high pitched and long screams, Elektra drops the forgotten axe to the floor with a loud bang and a cloud of dust rises from the stage where it lands. Aegisth entrance as previously mentioned provoked fleeting mirth from the audience which broke the dramatic tension, but perhaps this was Lutton’s intention with this pathetic and risible character. With the final scene a dance of death for Elektra was replaced by the spirit of Agamemnon slowly moving to centre stage, to have blood as black as Indian ink slowly trickle over him while water oozed down the walls of the set. When the centre of the stage was filled with a large black pool, Agamemnon slowly descended and dissolved into the pool during the final bars of music, finally avenged and at peace, as Elektra intended.
Vocally the major principals were all phenomenal. West Australian Opera was both very wise and lucky to obtain the services of such an excellent exponent of Elektra in Eva Johansson. Vocally she remains in her prime with a voluminous and thrilling sound, some exquisite piano singing that had the audience holding it’s collective breath, and a crazed interpretation of the role. No less thrilling was the performance of Irish singer, Orla Boylan, making her role debut as Chrysothemis. The voice is large, well controlled and with a beautiful tone – another Elektra possibly in the making. Ms Boylan succinctly portrayed all the frailty of this character, and obtained much pathos while revealing to a disgusted Elektra her desire to leave the palace, lead a normal life, and eventually have children. The Klytemnestra of Elizabeth Campbell was also superbly sung by this experienced singer. She was suitably pathetic, cold and self-obscessed – just keep her away from the knives. Daniel Sumegi was vividly strong as Orest, and vocally secure with a highly resonant and ringing account of the role. His tone was smooth as silk without a hint of roughness. John Greager made the most of his smaller but critical role of Aegisth. Proving he should never consider retirement, he almost stopped the show with his entrance and stage presence, and his voice remains secure for these big and important character roles. The smaller roles sung by a largely inexperienced team were well sung, but one wonders whether a more experienced team would have aided this production a lot more.
The West Australian Symphony Orchestra was slightly expanded to 84 musicians for the production and was packed into a large pit, most of which projected far underneath the stage. The Strauss reduction of the score, reducing the orchestral numbers from the original 120 was used (Strauss knew the value of having his works widely performed and happily wrote the orchestral reduction himself for smaller theatres). The full complement of 24 violins separated into three groups was maintained, two thirds of the required violas for the full orchestration were present – again divided into three groups. The strings were completed with 10 cellos and 8 double basses. The original quota of 8 horns was reduced to 5 and the optional second harp was not used. Apart from some minor incoordination of the strings early in the piece, and a similar episode of incoordination of the brass in the final scenes – both in extremely complex sections of the score, the orchestral playing was exceptional. Unfortunately, the climaxes of the score remained muted due to a combination of burying the orchestra under the stage, the inevitable use of the reduced orchestration in this small theatre, and the conducting. This problem was evident from the opening, with the initial playing of the Agamemnon chord by the full orchestra, which failed to produce the desired hair raising effect.
Conducted by Richard Mills, this Elektra was drawn out from the usual playing time of around 90 minutes to 110 minutes, hampering the dramatic flow of the work, failing to produce the rapid outbursts of orchestral sound following quieter sections of singing, and lacking the marvellous ebb and flow of rhythm characteristic of Strauss works. I suspect the slower times placed an additional strain on the principal singers. At times, this work which is usually a battle of big and thrilling sounds between singers and orchestra, sounded more like a chamber opera.
This adventurous staging by the West Australian Opera with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra was quite expertly presented despite some flaws. The well dressed audience was quite generous with it’s applause, yet never produced an ecstatic response or a chorus of bravos.
Despite a well thought out production with some exceptional scenes, this Elektra in the final analysis failed to provide that feeling of revulsion, the hackles standing on the back of the neck, gooseflesh and a pounding heart rate, which any great performance of ELEKTRA should.
Preparations are well underway for the opening of the Western Australian premiere of Richard Strauss’ blood-fest opera ELEKTRA in under 4 weeks.
Elektra is the most gripping one hundred minutes in opera.
Elektra gives us one of Western civilisation’s greatest stories of fanatical love and revenge. A tour de force that drives performers and orchestra to their limit. It was the first collaboration between Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, one of the most important composer-librettist partnerships in operatic history. It remains a unique work as powerful today as in its first performance in Dresden in 1909.
Director Matthew Lutton’s new production plans to bring startling visual intensity to the music, allowing the audience to enter into the world of Elektra’s dreams and desires. She has seen her father murdered, the city around her is cursed, and she longs for justice. Matthew Lutton, designer Zoe Atkinson and members of the creative team discuss their vision of the work in the video below.
The ELEKTRA cast includes International and Australian stars Eva Johansson, Orla Boylan, Daniel Sumegi, Elizabeth Campbell and Richard Greager. Richard Mills will conduct the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra in his last outing before the RING in Melbourne in November of 2013.
The production is a co-production of the West Australian Opera, ThinIce, Perth International Arts Festival and Opera Australia. A future east coast presentation by Opera Australia is planned.
Performances are at His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth on February 8th, 11th and 14th.
If you don’t live in Perth – beg, borrow or steal a jet ticket. Just don’t miss it !!
THE LOVE OF THE NIGHTINGALE
Opera in 2 Acts by Richard Mills
Libretto by Timberlake Wertenbaker
Performance on Saturday, 29th October in the Opera Theatre of the Sydney Opera House.
Conductor Richard Mills
Director Tamu Matheson
Designer Dan Potra
Original Costume Designer Kate Hawley
Lighting Nigel Levings
Assistant Conductor Anthony Legge
Philomele Emma Matthews
Procne Anke Hoppner
Tereus Richard Anderson
Niobe/Nurse/Narrator Elizabeth Campbell
Captain/Hippolytus/Narrator David Corcoran
Soldier/King Pandion Andrew Brunsdon
Itys Oliver Brunsdon
Aphrodite Taryn Fiebig
Echo Sharon Prero
Hero Natalie Jones
Helen/Phaedra Annabelle Chaffey
Iris/Female Chorus Sian Pendry
June/Queen Dominica Matthews
The arts have a long tradition of shaping our society and an important part to play in our future. They help define and negotiate who we are, what we believe in, what we value, and what we aspire to. For thousands of years Man has devised myths. Some theories propose that myths began as allegories for natural phenomena, and philosophical and moral concepts. One of the foremost functions of myth is to establish models for behaviour. It is no surprise then that myths have served as an important source material in the arts, particularly theatre and opera. The first 2 hundred years of opera was rich in the retelling of ancient myths for these very reasons, and the ability of opera to express the many layers of meaning, complexity and emotion that the spoken word in drama can’t. How refreshing to see a modern retelling of this legend from Ovid’s METAMORPHOSES.
Librettist, Timberlake Westernbaker , based her libretto on her play, THE LOVE OF THE NIGHTINGALE which was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and published in 1989 . It is an adaptation of the ancient Greek legend of the rape of Philomela by her brother-in-law Tereus, and the gruesome revenge undertaken by Philomela and her sister Procne. The play and the opera take a feminist look at the ancient tale, while exploring the nature and causes of violence. Westernbaker instinctively feels that violence stems from being silenced. She states “Not being able to express something, even anger, not to be listened to, what is left but physical violence”. Unfortunately, abuse of power, violence, war and torture remain terrible, unresolved fears and worries in this modern world.
It is this rich history, themes and the opportunity to compose music for a virtuosic female ensemble that attracted Mills to composing this work.
In the opera, the King of Athens, Pandion I, fights a war with Thebes over land. The King of Thrace, Tereus, helps Pandion and liberates Athens, and in return, Pandion allows Tereus to marry his daughter Procne. Tereus and Procne return to Thrace. While in Thrace, Procne struggles to adjust to life, as her maidens have completely different ideas to her, so she asks Tereus to return to Athens and bring her sister, Philomele, to come and see her, as she is the only one who understands her.
Tereus returns and takes Philomele on his ship and returns to Thrace. On the way, Philomele falls in love with the captain of the ship. He in turn falls in love with her. Tereus convinces himself that he has fallen in love with Philomele and kills the captain. In order to make her weak and vulnerable, Tereus informs Philomele untruthfully that Procne has died while trying to see whether her sister is coming. He eventually rapes Philomele and due to her determination to rebel and inform her sister, who she has worked out by now is not dead, he cuts out her tongue.
Tereus informs Procne that Philomele was drowned on the journey. Five years pass.
Philomele has been working making dolls for 5 years, and has seen nobody except the king, and Niobe (her servant). Niobe takes her to the annual Bachann/Dionysian festival, which is the only day of the year in which the women can act madly and drink. Philomele performs a re-enactment of the rape using her puppets that she has made. Procne recognises Philomele and horrified, swears revenge. Procne, Philomele and the women ritually slaughter Procne and Tereus’ son, Itys. In a fantastical metamorphosis, the gods turn all three into birds – Procne into a swallow, Tereus into a hoopoe, and Philomele into a nightingale.
As Philomele – a role specifically composed for her, Emma Matthews has added yet another masterfully sung and acted role to her considerable list of operatic achievements. Moving from lyricism, sweetness and naivety in her initial duet with Procne, which sets the tone of their close bond, to the dramatic outbursts when she realises her sister, Procne is alive, leading up to her rape, Ms Matthews proves bel canto traditions and style remain alive, and have a valid place – even in modern opera. She also displayed strong dramatic acting and vocalism which surpassed her achievements in her other varied roles. The depth of emotion she was able to encompass reached a sublime level in her nightingale vocalise and the pathos of the puppet dumb show during the all female bacchanal.
No less effective was Anke Hoppner as Procne. In a more dramatic role with more dramatic music, her voice hinting at her Turandot next year, she too spanned an enormous emotional and dramatic range most effectively and convincingly.
Richard Anderson, so often cast in smaller roles for many years, was finally able to prove his metal as Tereus. He was physically and sexually potent and threatening, and sang with a smooth and resonant bass. This was a stunning performance. David Corcoran sang multiple roles as the Captain, Hyppolytus and the narrator all with excellent effect, as did the stalwart mezzo soprano , Elizabeth Campbell as Niobe, Nurse and narrator. a tastefully bare-breasted Taryn Fiebig as aphrodite looked and sounded ethereal, but the role seemed a little intrusive.
A VERY fine bevy of excellent female principals was provided for the recurring female ensembles and a few solos. This was luxurious casting indeed, and did full justice to the rich harmonic ensembles that punctuated the work. In fact I couldn’t help but feel that Richard Mills was his own worst enemy with several ensembles and duets that were so beautiful to listen to, that one felt short-changed when they seemed all to brief. The opera moved rapidly through 22 different scenes, which to my mind prevent a fuller musical development of some of the material.
The composition was rich in beautiful sonorities played by the orchestra, some memorable solos – particularly the song of the nightingale delivered so ravishingly by Emma Matthews and stunning, albeit brief, ensembles and choruses. The flow of the work was taught and highly dramatic ,ending in a sublime apotheosis. So nice to see modern composers moving away from the jarring music of the Second Viennese School and its aftermath (with the exception of Berg’s masterworks Wozzeck and Lulu).
The production was simple, using mobile platforms that were moved to define acting areas for different scenes, evocative projections at the rear of the stage and some large sliding walls also at the rear. Particularly well staged scenes were the sixth scene of the first act, where King Pandion and Tereus discuss Philomele’s journey to Thrace during a performance of the tragedy of Hippolytus and Phaedra (shades of Hamlet), and Act II scene 6 when Philomele pantomimes her rape using her puppets. At times one was left a little bewildered with the story telling. I am not sure whether that was due to the complexity of the story, the large array of scenes, deficiencies in the libretto or directorial lapses.
The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra played well under the expert guidance, and initially over-fastidious conducting of the composer, as did the on-stage singers.
Overall, a highly dramatic opera, cast to kill, with some exquisite music.
Apologies for the delay in posting this review. Problems with the website have prevented postings for a few weeks.
Picture: Richard Mills – RING conductor and Musical Director
Hot on the heels of Lyndon Terracini presenting his vision for the staging of Wagner’s epic DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN and the associated Ring Festival in Melbourne in November/December 2013 to the Wagner Society in NSW last Sunday, Opera Australia presented a discussion of their plans this evening in the Joan Sutherland Studio of the Opera Centre in Strawberry Hills, to a packed audience of Patrons, Subscribers and persons of interest (i.e. cashed up) this evening.
The format was a ‘Q and A’ chaired by Opera Australia Director of Development, Nicholas Selman, a tall, suave young man with a splendid voice reminiscent of ABC Classic FM radio announcer Charles Southward. After an introduction explaining the development of this enormous project, details of the financing of the RING, and further details of the enormous rehearsal schedule for singers, the RING orchestra and stage rehearsals – which was truly boggling, he directed questions to Opera Australia Artistic Director and the RING conductor and musical director, Richard Mills. Richard Mills is currently in Sydney conducting his opera, THE LOVE OF THE NIGHTINGALE, which had its full dress rehearsal earlier today (several members of the audience from the dress rehearsal were present at the presentation and reported both the opera and performance were excellent).
Many of the details announced have been previously reported on the Opera Insider 4 days ago.
However, several addition members of the RING cast were announced, including Miriam Gordon Stewart as Sieglinde, Richard Berkeley-Steele as Loge, and Deborah Humble as Erda and Waltraute. Further castings are said to be awaiting signed contracts, but I suspect Opera Australia is content to drip feed details of the cast slowly to increase interest and excitement leading up to the launch of ticket sales in early 2012.
Richard Mills spent some time explaining the enormity of the musical preparation, details of the rehearsal schedule, and preparation of the orchestra. Opera Australia will be using a new performance score of the work and will be preparing their own orchestral parts. Richard seemed only too acutely aware of the huge task before him, and has shelved all conducting and composition commitments until the RING is over with the exception of ELEKTRA with the Western Australian Opera early next year. He is both humbled to be part of this collaborative project and pleased to be part of the first RING in Australia to be presented by an all Australian team of director, designer and conductor. Richard Mills obviously has the complete confidence of Lyndon Terracini for the task.
The designer, Robert Cousins and director, Neil Armfield will be presenting preliminary concepts and designs to Opera Australia hopefully in mid-November.
Final dates for the performances are yet to be set.
Lyndon Terracini is very hopeful that the series of performances will be video reorder for later cinema screening and DVD release, but to prevent recording of the performances interfering with the enjoyment by the audience, he is considering recording earlier stage and dress rehearsals if possible.
Ticket costs have been finalised and are very reasonable considering the size and cost of the productions. Ticket prices for a complete RING Cycle are as follows:
Premium Reserve $2,000 per person per cycle
A Reserve $1,600 per person per cycle
B Reserve $1,200 per person per cycle
C Reserve $1,000 per person per cycle
D Reserve $600 per person per cycle
To assist meet the financial target for staging the RING, a sponsorship program was launched at the event.
Sponsors will be titled RING LEADERS. Sponsorships range from a Bronze Leader for a donation of $1,500, Sliver Leader for $3,000, Gold Leader for $6,000, Diamond Leader for $12,000 and a Platinum Leader for donations in excess of $25,000.
In return for being sponsor, OPERA LEADERS will receive a range of benefits (depending on their level of support) including an invitation to a Gala Dinner, Insight Events, invitation to the Rimg Lounge, invitations to cast events, a technical talk with the designer and technical director, a back-stage tour, a meet the creative team event, attend stage rehearsals, and ‘unique encounters’ with Lyndon Terracini and Adrian Collette – the mind boggles !
Ticket sales will open in three waves. RING LEADERS will be offered tickets first, later Patrons and subscribers and later still tickets will be released for general sale to the Public.
A substantial number of tickets will be quarantined for sale to overseas guests and opera tourists, but similarly a substantial number of tickets will also be quarantined for sale to Australian opera goers.
As each exciting new announcement was made another wine glass fell shattering on the floor from the hands of an excited audience member. Mine didn’t, I was not going to waste good champagne at a champagne event in the history of Opera Australia.
The RING journey continues and is sure to be THE topic of conversation amongst all musical lovers and opera goers in Australia for the next 2 years.
In a packed room at the Goethe-Institut in Woollahra, Sydney, Artistic Director of Opera Australia, Lyndon Terracini provided members of The Wagner Society (NSW) with an update on plans for staging Wagner’s epic DER RING DES NIEBELUNGEN in Melbourne in 2013.
The discussion was a Special Event planned by The Wagner Society for its October meeting. The meeting commenced at 12.30 pm with the viewing of a video of the second half (Acts 3,4 and 5) of the 2010 Deutsche Oper production of RIENZI. For the screening around 25 members were present, but when the appointed hour (2 o’clock) came for the presentation by Mr Terracini, the audience rapidly swelled to around 100 eager Wagnerites.
Lyndon Terracini, a delightful raconteur, was in a relaxed yet ebullient mood and delivered a very exciting overview of some of the proposed plans for the Melbourne RING.
His vision is for Opera Australia to take its place as a truly International opera company by finally performing a well overdue series of RING Cycles. This will not only benefit the demands of the opera going public, which has felt short changed by the infrequent performance of Wagner operas, but also to place the company, its artists, creatives,and orchestral musicians on a track leading to regular performances of these works, to extend them, and take them to the next level. He hopes the RING productions will be able to be repeated in RING Festivals in Melbourne every 3 years. The 2013 RING will hopefully be repeated in 2016 and 2019 before considering a new production. Accordingly, he feels it is of particular importance that the new RING will be a staging that will last the test of time, and will be eminently suitable for repeated stagings. This will be a no gimmick RING !
Accordingly after much deliberation, Neil Armfield was chosen for his excellent ability to clearly tell the narrative of a work, as has been proven time and again with his work with the company, including his productions of TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, PETER GRIMES and his Janacek cycle.
He explained his appointment of Richard Mills as conductor of the RING at some length. Mr Mills has been a controversial appointment for the RING gig, due to a lack of experience conducting Wagner. However, Richard Mills worked with Lyndon Terracini in presenting a concert performance of Wagner’s TRISTAN UND ISOLDE for the 2005 Brisbane Festival. The Australian Youth Orchestra was used featuring various soloists, including John Treleaven, Lisa Gasteen, Bruce Martin, Bernadette Cullen, David Wakeham, Barry Ryan, Jaewoo Kim, and Lionel Theunissen. The performance was a great success and won a Helpman Award that year. Terracini feels that as he is also a composer, he views music with different eyes to a conductor, and has a greater sense for pacing works and preparing an orchestra for performance.
Terracini also hopes that the development of a RING Orchestra (consisting of a core of players from Orchestra Victoria, the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra and elite members of other major orchestras on leave to participate in this extraordinary music) will also lead to a long term culture and excellence in performing Wagner’s works. The State Theatre at the Victorian Arts Centre which is set to have major renovations, will have its orchestra pit enlarged to take the orchestra of 110 players required.
Participation of many of the current roster of singers is also viewed as a long term project to develop a culture and increased expertise in these works. Some younger singers will cover and rehearse major roles such as Wotan as an intensive learning experience for future years and their development.
In short, it is all about setting the ground work for an impetus, culture and performance excellence in staging Wagner’s RING and other works for the long term.
Although he was reticent to name the designer, the film and theatre designer, Robert Cousins is working closely with Neil Armfield and the staging has been thought through to mid-SIEGFRIED at this time.
Casting already announced includes English soprano Susan Bullock as Brunnhilde, Finnish bass-baritone Juha Uusitalo as Wotan, American Heldentenor Gary Lehman as Siegfried and Australian Helden baritone John Wegner as Alberich. It will come as no surprise to learn that Australian and Internationally renowned helden tenor – Stuart Skelton will be singing Siegmund (probably the worst kept secret in opera circles). No other casting was offered and surprisingly was not requested from this particularly excited and well informed audience. Opera Insider believes Daniel Sumegi has also been cast as Hagen and Fasolt.
The RING FESTIVAL
With financial assistance and enthusiastic collaboration, Victorian Events and Tourism will assist in a true Arts Festival supporting the RING and the music of Wagner.
Proposed activities includes:
* films about Wagner and the RING, including outdoor films at the Edge
* seminars on the RING and the music of Wagner
* pre-performance talks
* RING dinners
* a discussion on Wagner and his views on Jews
* brass bands marching through the streets of Melbourne playing music by Wagner
* performances of cut-down RINGS
* the use of a Spiegeltent as a ‘Festspielhaus’ at the front of the State Theatre as the centre for the Festival activities
* performances of music associated with Wagner by other composers
* concert performances of Wagner’s DIE FEEN and Marschner’s DER VAMPYR
At this stage the Wagner Festival is all about Melbourne. Activities are also planned for Sydney, but are not developed at this time.
It was made quite clear that sadly, but quite appropriately Melbourne will be the site of large scale opera and Wagner by Opera Australia until such time as Sydney has an appropriate, large scale lyric theatre similar to the State Theatre in Melbourne and the lyric theatres in Adelaide and Brisbane. Sydney opera fans will have to travel to Melbourne to see performances of the RING, Richard Strauss’ ELEKTRA planned for 2014 and a planned future production of LOHENGRIN.
Some respite may be in store for Sydney with Lyndon Terracini and Opera Australia seriously considering occasional concert performances of opera. A particular project on which Terracini is very keen, is a concert performance of Wagner’s PARSIFAL on Easter Sunday some time in the future. The performance is already out for 2012, but may happen in 2013 or 2014. Concert performances of TRISTAN UND ISOLDE and Rossini’s GUILLAUME TELL are also under consideration.
All up, the presentation and discussion were very informative and extremely entertaining, and the audience was very appreciative of Lyndon’s candour.
As enthusiasm and excitement mount, final casting details for the Melbourne RING will be announced later this year when tickets go on sale.
Eva Johansson is to sing the title role in the 2012 production of Richard Strauss ELEKTRA for the Perth International Arts Festival in a Thin Ice/West Australian Opera/Opera Australia co-production.
Eva Johansson is a Danish dramatic soprano. She studied with the Copenhagen Opera Academy . She debuted with the Danish Royal Theatre in 1982 as the Countess in Mozart’s LE NOZZE DI FIGARO. She then went on to sing ELEKTRA, SALOME and Donna Anna in DON GIOVANNI. In 1988 she was invited to sing at the Deutsche Oper Berlin by Götz Friedrich, and has has had a long association with them ever since.
She has sung at the Bayreuth Festival playing Elsa in LOHENGRIN, Freia in DAS RHEINGOLD and Sieglinde in DIE WALKURE.
Her debut with the Metropolitan Opera came in 1998 when she played Eva in DIE MEISTERSINGER von NURNBERG.
As a dramatic soprano, Eva Johansson has concentrated on the operas of Wagner and Strauss - notably playing Senta in THE FLYING DUTCHMAN, Elisabeth in TANNHAUSER, Isolde in TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, Brünhilde in both DIE WALKURE and GOTTERDAMMERUNG, the Empress in DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN and the title roles of ELEKTRA, SALOME and ARIADNE AUF NAXOS.
She has sung in Israel, Spain, France, Austria, England, and Japan, with conductors such as Claudio Abbado, Bernard Haitink, James Levine, Daniel Barenboim, Christian Thielemann, Valery Gergiyev, Simon Rattle and Christoph von Dohnanyi.
In 2001 she was honoured with the title of Berlin Kammersängerin. She is featured on the DVD of the Opernhaus Zurich production of ELEKTRA, conducted by Christoph von Dohnanyi.
The cast for ELEKTRA is as follows:
Director Matthew Lutton
Conductor Richard Mills
Elektra Eva Johansson
Chrysothemis Orla Boylan
Klytaemnestra Elizabeth Campbell
Orest Daniel Sumegi
Aegisth Richard Greager
Scott Curry is a Brisbane born Australian pianist, vocal coach and conductor. He studied piano with the Schnabel pupil Nancy Weir at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music. He moved to Berlin 30 years ago and worked there at the University of the Arts. He has also taught at the Lotte Lehmann Academy and the Sydney Conservatorium. He has appeared in concert and worked with internationally acclaimed singers such as Doris Soffel, Jochen Kowalski, David Wakeham, William Matteuzzi, Merlyn Quaife and Anke Höppner. In Australia he has worked with Queensland Opera and State Opera of South Australia and performed at the Melbourne and Barossa Festivals.
As soloist, Lied pianist and chamber musician he has appeared at the Berlin State Opera, the Dresden Festival for Contemporary Music, the Berlin Festwochen and concertized on the Liszt piano in Bayreuth. He has conducted Baroque and contemporary repertoire at the Stuttgart State Opera, the Komische Oper Berlin, the Düsseldorf 6 Days of Opera Festival, the Rheinsberg Music Academy, the Herrenhausen Festival, the Berlin Chamber Opera as well as the German première of Prokofiev’s Maddalena, the Berlin première of Händel’s Amadigi di Gaula and the European première of Gordon Kerry’s Medea. As director of musical studies, repetiteur and chorus master he has worked on about 80 different operas in Germany and Austria.
Scott was appointed as the new Head of Music for the West Australian Opera with great fanfare in July of 2010. He returned to Australia to take up this appointment after living in Germany for 30 years, hoping to work with singers and share his extensive knowledge of German opera. West Australian Opera’s Artistic Director, Richard Mills said at the time of his appointment “We feel fortunate to have secured Scott as the company’s Head of Music. His musical skills and expert knowledge of operatic repertoire will be highly valued in this unique position.” . The Weekend Australian‘s Perth music critic, Mark Coughlan, said he had hoped Curry would help raise the musical standards at WA Opera.
Scott was heavily involved in the collaboration between the Western Australian Opera and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions production of a major Baroque opera for the Perth International Arts Festival in 2015 (see article on the proposed production from the 31st May 2011 on this site).
3 months into his probationary period he was acrimoniously ‘let go’ by the Artistic Director, Richard Mills in an operatic drama befitting of Wagner himself.
Curry had offered to help Mills prepare his work with Elektra and the Ring cycle, which Mills is due to conduct in a $16 million production for Opera Australia. One observer has suggested Curry may have assumed too much importance at the Western Australian Opera.
Scott is quoted as saying that he had a wonderful time in Perth with people who were grateful for what he was doing. He returned to Berlin at the end of May this year to work with musicians who appreciate him.
His departure leaves a significant gap for the Western Australian Opera, especially with Richard Mills being so busy with his composing and conducting commitments. It is a sad day when a senior musician feels threatened by a musical colleague he has appointed.
Another fine Australian musician sadly lost to our shores.