Posts Tagged ‘Sydney Opera House’
THE opera theatre at the Sydney Opera House will be renamed in honour of the late Dame Joan Sutherland, fulfilling an election promise by the NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell.
Mr O’Farrell met representatives of Opera Australia and the Opera House in the theatre a few days ago to announce the decision, which follows discussions with Dame Joan’s husband, the pianist and conductor Richard Bonynge, and the rest of her family.
Mr Bonynge, who is in Spain, said in a statement: ”The family are delighted and feel very honoured at the renaming in honour of Dame Joan. It is a splendid day.”
A naming ceremony for the opera theatre is expected to take place in the second half of this year, subject to the availability of Mr Bonynge and their son, Adam, to attend.
Despite the announcement, a long-proposed $1 billion renovation of the Opera House, with a particular focus on the opera theatre, remains stalled.
Mr O’Farrell said the NSW government had been briefed on a proposal and was ”working our way through the usual budget processes”.
There are few singers with the versatility, vocal splendour and stage presence to triumph in repertoire ranging from Puccini to Broadway musicals to the most demanding roles in the operas of Wagner and Strauss. American-born Deborah Voigt is the reigning queen of dramatic sopranos. What’s more, Voigt’s engaging presence extends off-stage – you can follow the down-to-earth-diva on Twitter: @debvoigt.
With a voice that has been described as “at once earthen and gleaming” (New York Times) and a born actor’s ability to inhabit a character, Voigt is in demand by the world’s great opera houses. Her stellar career as one of the world’s foremost Wagnerian sopranos was further adorned by her recent debut as the valkyrie Brunnhilde in the Metropolitan Opera’s new Ring Cycle.
In this rare concert appearance, Voigt reprises some of her most acclaimed roles from Wagner’s epics and Strauss’s decadent masterpiece, SALOME. As Sieglinde, she delivers the ecstatic Act I aria from DIE WALKURE, ‘Du bist der Lenz’ with warmth, intimacy and candour, but it is Isolde’s ravishing Liebestod which is the true test of any soprano’s stamina and emotional intelligence. Voigt performs this hymn to love’s all-consuming power as “a gripping song of transcendence” (Chicago Tribune). Voigt’s “luminous beauty has made her the opera world’s Isolde of choice.” (Chicago Sun-Times).
Voigt’s Salome is the definitive characterisation of opera’s ultimate femme fatale. In her final scene, Salome’s voice soars to the heavens in one of the most exquisitely macabre moments in music. It is a moment that requires fearless intensity, a radiant voice and dead-on dramatic acuity as Voigt animates the body and mind of this alluring and dangerous woman.
A great singer needs a great accompanist, so joining Voigt is her long-time artistic ally, conductor Sir Andrew Davis. Familiar to audiences world-wide from the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms, Davis is currently Music Director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and guest conductor at prestigious houses and of major orchestras on several continents. Davis conducts the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, giving Sydney audiences the unique opportunity of hearing the nation’s grande dame of symphony orchestras in repertoire that showcases their opulent sound and virtuosity. This perfect confluence of talent will make Deborah Voigt with the MSO and Sir Andrew Davis the operatic experience of 2012.
Performances are on the 29th and 30th June in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House.
For further details and to pick tickets go the the Sydney Opera House website here:
What might have been indeed !
The major hall of the “Sydney Opera House” was originally to be a multipurpose opera/concert hall. Adequate seating numbers were unattainable. Under pressure from the ABC, which had a much larger subscriber base than either the then Australian Opera or Australian Ballet and also greater political power, the planned multipurpose hall under the major sails became the Concert Hall. The minor hall, originally for drama productions only, was significantly enlarged to attempt to take opera and ballet productions, and is now called the Opera Theatre. As a result, the Opera Theatre is inadequate to stage large-scale opera and ballet. A theatre, a cinema and a library were also added. These were later changed to two live drama theatres and a smaller theatre “in the round”. These now comprise the Drama Theatre, the Playhouse, and the Studio, respectively. These changes were primarily because of inadequacies in the original competition brief, which did not make it adequately clear how the Opera House was to be used. The layout of the interiors was changed, and the stage machinery, already designed and fitted inside the major hall, was pulled out and largely thrown away.
Utzon had prepared working drawings and plans for the original concepts for the two halls – the multipurpose opera/concert hall for the major hall, and the drama theatre for the minor hall. Following Utzon’s purported “resignation”, or more accurately dismissal by the then NSW Minister for Public Works, Davis Hughes in February of 1966, Hughes claimed Utzon had no plans for the interiors. History now shows this to be untrue. Above is a video of Utzon’s original interiors of the Sydney Opera House researched and animated by Phillip Nobis in 1994. The designs were completed between July 1965 and February 1966.
This video was part of a university thesis by Philip Nobis on Utzon’s Interiors for the Opera House. The video is based on the final scheme that Utzon was working on prior to his exit from the project. For those of us who value and cherish the Opera House, and Utzon’s role in it, we should all be eternally grateful for the work Philip has done on this aspect of Utzon’s work.
Following the Utzon dismissal, the decision was made to alter the function of the two major halls as outlined above and the rest is history. Or is it ? Beginning in the late 1990s, the Sydney Opera House Trust and the NSW Carr Government began to communicate with Jørn Utzon in an attempt to effect a reconciliation and to secure his involvement in future changes to the building. In 1999, he was appointed by the Trust as a design consultant for future work. In 2004, the first interior space rebuilt to an Utzon design was opened, and renamed “The Utzon Room” in his honour. In April 2007, he proposed a major reconstruction of the Opera Theatre. Utzon died on the 29th November 2008. Together with his son Jan Utzon and leading Australian architect, Richard Johnson of Johnson Pilton Walker designs have been prepared for the proposed gutting of the minor hall (currently the Opera Theatre and a major rebuilding of a new and larger opera theatre (see previous article - http://operainsider.info/index.php/sydney-needs-a-new-opera-theatre/ for more details). However, these proposed plans are now said to cost $Billion 1.2 and require 9 years to complete, remain “in confidence” and have never been publicly released.
Currently the National opera company – Opera Australia, based in Sydney, with an International reputation and a budget now at $ 100 Million annually, has to perform in one of the smallest lyric theatres in Australia. Large scale works such as Wagner and Strauss are diverted to Melbourne, operas are planned to be performed with piped music into the Opera Theatre from a neighbouring studio this season (DIE TOTE STADT), and members of one of the finest and the most used orchestras in Australia, are subject to a major risk of industrial deafness from working in the abominable conditions in the pit !
Perhaps the time has come for the Public to see these plans and for Public debate on the value of progressing this work and properly completing Utzon’s masterpiece. Or the alternative of a new opera house if the new plans do not solve once and for all, the inherent problems for performing major opera and ballet in the Sydney Opera House. Australia has a responsibility to maintain and develop this world heritage building as Utzon intended, but also to provide an appropriate lyric theatre or theatres for the National opera in Australia’s major city. The time for action is now.
While Sydney and the NSW Government flounders over making a decision to either do major renovations to the Opera Theatre of the Sydney Opera House, or build a new lyric theatre, Russia and St Petersburg have sufficient confidence in the importance of the arts and Russian culture to build a second lyric theatre for the Mariinsky, currently referred to as the Mariinsky II.
Following an International design competition, the winning design was jettisoned in favour of the above design by Jack Diamond, a principal of the Canadian Firm – Diamond Schmitt. Diamond also designed the highly successful Four Seasons Opera House in Montreal completed only a few years ago. Diamond Schmitt has the following to say about the project:
“To be entrusted with the opportunity to design a cultural centerpiece like the New Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia brings more than design issues to the table. There is the challenge of working at a great distance from the project, coming to understand and collaborating with people who have a different cultural sensibility and not least of all, the weight of carrying forward the tradition of the greats of Russian musical and ballet history. Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Diaghilev are just a few of the names associated with the Mariinsky company for whom Diamond and Schmitt is building its home for the 21st Century under the leadership of maestro Valery Gergiev.
As the new theatre sits adjacent to the original Mariinsky Theatre (1860), a respectful balance of design is required to not upstage its venerable predecessor. Jack Diamond had to find a contemporary expression of the historical principles of the Beaux Arts tradition of St. Petersburg and present them in the proper context with the surroundings. Clearly, this is not to be a design that dominates and draws attention to itself as this would jar with the existing urban scheme of this uniformly attractive city.
The thinking for this performance space is to remove the mystique and exclusiveness that predominates among earlier European concert hall design. By establishing a strong interaction between the street life and the public rooms of the hall, the New Mariinsky becomes more accessible, less intimidating, more transparent and overall a more engaging experience with a heightened discourse between the inside and out, which is a new concept for the Russians. The traditional Piano Nobile public rooms typically found on the second tier of theatres is brought to street level and revealed through glazing.
Another challenge is to introduce a contemporary palette to the theatre. The auditorium has a wood interior rather than traditional plaster and gilt. The aesthetic and acoustical attributes of this design had to be conveyed to the client as a re-interpretation of traditional precepts and represents gaining a new psychological connection with how the room conveys music and performance and the interconnection with the audience. The traditional Tsar’s (or VIP) box is respected in this design, maintained and adapted to co-ordinate with a contemporary aesthetic.
Working in Russia on such a high profile, government-funded, culturally charged assignment brings with it a mix of open economy thinking and entrenched Old School Soviet-era bureaucracy to accommodate.
Structurally, St. Petersburg is built on a swamp, situated as it is on a river delta. The history of building there is fraught with struggle. During the era of Tsar Peter I, who founded the city in 1703, and Catherine the Great, 30,000 lives were lost in building the grand infrastructure. Flooding remained a serious threat until the end of the 19th-century. The New Mariinsky has 800 piles underneath the foundation and three levels of below grade programming, which is highly unusual for the city, but necessary for the services and functionality of the theatre.
There is also the challenge of great expectations to deliver a superior theatre, not only for the stakeholders but also for the public for whom Diamond and Schmitt has been entrusted to elevate the legacy that is the Mariinsky Theatre.”
Meanwhile in Sydney, rumours waft around again concerning the proposed internal rebuilding of the Opera Theatre of the Sydney Opera House. Despite a total lack of financial commitment by any government – either State or Federal, a start date of 2015 is now mooted with a construction period of 9 years and a cost blowout to $Billion 1.2 !!
Perhaps Mr Diamond should be invited to Sydney to design a new opera theatre the National opera company needs and deserves. Rumour has it that senior executives of Opera Australia would prefer a new purpose built lyric theatre rather than risk continued problems with a rebuilt Opera Theatre in the Sydney Opera House which may remain incapable of providing the required space for a completely satisfactory lyric theatre comparable to those in other States.
The NSW Liberal Government is now reviewing the Barangaroo redevelopment. In the coming weeks the government and the Barangaroo developer, Lend Lease, will negotiate amongst other things, moving a proposed hotel from water to land.
The architect Andrew Andersons, a member of the design team for Barangaroo, says that will provide a perfect opportunity to debate the site for a new performance space that he and big theatrical producers say the city needs.
”Now is the moment,” he said. ”If you are going to accommodate a hotel on land, you have to vary the plan, shuffle things around. It’s a great opportunity to review it and put some genuine facilities in there.”
Sydney’s big need is for a new venue with about 2000 seats where large operas and ballets could be staged. Rather than spending about $700 million on ”incremental changes” at the Opera House, Sydney should build a new one from scratch.
Barangaroo was ideal, but not the cultural void in the headland. ”The idea that cultural facilities are in basements is a bit silly,” Mr Anderson said.
Better to put it in the central precinct, between the commercial towers in the south and the headland park in the north.
The musical producer John Frost, agrees that Sydney needs a new venue. However, rather than one at Barangaroo, he would like to see the restoration of the State Theatre and the purchase of adjoining land to allow back-of-house expansion.
The new discussions are a distinct shift in previous plans where the building of a new Lyric Theatre seemed to have dropped off the radar for the Barangaroo Redevelopment. The current discussions also hint that the preference is now for a 2,000 seat Lyric Theatre rather than the smaller theatre of 1,500 to 1,700 proposed by LIVE PERFORMANCE AUSTRALIA, and it seems that preference is being given to a theatre for LARGE SCALE opera and ballet performances rather than musicals.
As discussed in the Opera Insider Opinion article of July 20th:
the demand is really for TWO new Lyric Theatres. The first for large scale opera and ballet and also to decant from the Sydney Opera House if and when the proposed rebuilding of the current Opera Theatre occurs. The second, an additional theatre for musicals so Sydney has parity in theatre numbers with Melbourne for National touring and off-Broadway development of new musicals in Sydney.
At the end of the day, Sydney is now a World City with a burgeoning theatre and arts scene with an audience growth rate calculated at a 5.9% compounded annual growth rate. It is time for additional lyric theatres in Sydney and the redevelopment of the Sydney Opera House Opera Theatre.
Is anyone surprised by the title of this post? Surely not. It has been a recurring topic dating back to the opening of the Opera Theatre in the Sydney Opera House, and more recently over the last 5 years with the plans for the complete demolition of the Opera Theatre followed by the construction of a larger theatre designed with the assistance of Joern Utzon and his son Jan.
With the first production in in the Opera Theatre of Prokofiev’s WAR AND PEACE in 1973, the theatre was found to have a small stage, no wing space, tiny orchestra pit, poor acoustics in both the theatre and from the pit, and insufficient seating.
The Australian Ballet has struggled trying to fit sets constructed for the much larger theatres they use in Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane, has had to have matresses lining the side walls of the stage (no wings) and catchers for dancers leaping off stage to prevent injuries, a pit insufficient to contain the required orchestra for Prokofiev ballets scored for quadruple woodwind, and a smaller audience size producing higher ticket costs in Sydney and insufficient seats to meet ticket demand and expand it’s Sydney audience base.
Opera Australia has had similar problems needing to construct sets that can adapt to the much larger stage of the State Theatre in Melbourne, a pit far too small for the orchestral requirements of the big works of Wagner, Richard Strauss, Berg and Berlioz, a substandard acoustic of both the theatre and the sound from the pit, and insufficient seating in the theatre.
Furthermore, it was revealed in the early 2000′s that members of the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, the primary orchestra used by the Australian Ballet and Opera Australia were at high risk of industrial deafness due to the confined space and loudness of the music they produce in the pit which extends under the stage. If Simone Young did nothing else during her tenure with Opera Australia, her PR machine was able to show us a vision of what operatic programming could and should be like in Australia and more importantly, highlight the deficiencies of the pit size and industrial deafness problems. The pit problems were spectacularly highlighted at the time to the then Premier of NSW, Bob Carr by dragging him personally into the pit to experience the problems for himself. All to know avail as nothing has still been done. To quantitate these deficiencies, consider the following comparison of the major lyric theatres across Australia used by both Opera Australia and the Australian ballet, London and potential alternative theatres available in Sydney:
Lyric Theatre Comparison
Opera pit sizes vary and are surprisingly smaller than expected. The Capitol Theatre in Sydney has the capacity for 110 musicians, Sydney Opera House Opera Theatre 70, State Theatre in Melbourne 70 (it will need to be extended for the 2013 Ring), The Festival Theatre in Adelaide 70 (the Ring Orchestra was extended under the stage), and the Lyric Theatre in Brisbane 90.
Despite these limitations, both National companies have consistently produced excellent productions over the years since 1973, and even many World class performances in spite of these horrific limitations. It speaks volumes of their innovation and absolute mastery of theatrical magic that they have done so.
Over the years various remedies have been applied. Acoustic clouds have come and gone in the theatre to improve the acoustics, the pit has been extended several times under the stage, the lip of the stage has been shortened and the pit wall facing the stalls has been altered to allow more sound through. More radical extension of the pit into the stalls area has previously been though technically impossible as it would involve the removal of large tension cables which run under the front rows of the stalls to stabilise the structure of the largest shells of the Opera Theatre.
Another remedy has been not using the Opera Theatre at all, and mounting productions in either the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House or in another theatre. Starting with a startlingly dramatic and sumptuous AIDA in the Concert Hall in 1975, Opera Australia followed with fully staged and equally brilliant stagings of SALOME, LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, OTELLO, DIE FLEDERMAUS, NORMA, FIDELIO and TRISTAN UND ISOLDE. Occasionally, the Drama Theatre at the Sydney Opera House has been used for chamber and modern repertoire and both the Australian Ballet and Opera Australia have used the Capitol Theatre in Sydney, with Opera Australia presenting DIE MEISTERSINGERS VON NUREMBERG there in 2003.
In the late 1990′s an approach from the NSW Government resulted in a renewed working relationship with the original architect, the late Joern Utzon. In 1999 he was engaged to prepare a set of design principles to act as a guide for all future changes to the building. Following this, together with his son Jan and leading Australian architect, Richard Johnson of Johnson Pilton Walker, several areas of the building have been redesigned and renovated, including the Recital Hall (now called the Utzon Room) and the Western Foyers. The most radical plans however are for the Opera Theatre.
FUTURE OPERA THEATRE RENOVATION
The proposed solution to the inherent major deficiencies of the Opera Theatre are extremely radical. The plan involves gutting most of the current theatre, removing the tension cables supporting the major shell of the Opera Theatre which is now thought to be technically possible, dropping the stage to the level of the loading dock below – which would allow some wing space under the podium level of the theatre, building a new much larger pit, and building a new stalls area at this lower level. The theatre would then become a three tiered theatre with the current stalls becoming the circle and the current circle becoming an upper circle. This would address either totally or in part the inherent problems of inadequate seating, no wing space, inadequate pit size and due to the larger volume of the theatre acoustics should also be improved. Opera Australia and the Australian Ballet have been fully consulted on the plans, the full details of which have not been released as they remain ‘in confidence’.
DEMAND FOR A NEW LYRIC THEATRE FOR COMMERCIAL MUSICALS
There is also a demand for a new lyric theatre for Sydney for the presentation of musicals. Sydney only has the Capitol and Lyric Theatres available for large-scale musical productions compared to three in Melbourne – The Princess, Regent and Her Majesties Theatres. Theatre producers in Australia are keen to see this deficiency rectified to enable better rotation of musicals between the two major capitals, prevent road blocks or a musical missing out on Sydney all together due to lack of a suitable theatre. The problem is made more acute with plans for Australia, and Sydney and Melbourne in particular being a desired site for off-Broadway try-outs of new musicals as we have recently seen with DR ZIVAGO. A submission by Live Performance Australia in October of last year (Chairman – Donald McDonald) presented to the Barangaroo Authority in October of 2010, recommends the construction of a 1,700 seat lyric theatre at the Barangaroo site. The submission also indicates there is strong evidence that the demand for theatre productions is increasing, with a 5.9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in musical theatre attendances throughout Australia from 2004 to 2009. The projected cost is $M 65. The submission also states that this would be sufficient as an alternative venue for both Opera Australia and the Australian Ballet during the years that the Opera Theatre is being renovated/rebuilt, and also be used for long-running musicals for 6-12 months, and shorter ballet or opera seasons for successful productions that could run for longer seasons.
NEW OPERA THEATRES OVERSEAS
Both the Canadian Opera based in Toronto, and the Dallas Opera have had built new opera theatres 3 to 4 years ago. Yes NEW opera theatres are still being built. Both the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto and the Winspear Opera House in Dallas (part of the AT & T Performing Arts Center) have been highly praised, and each built for around $M 40 3 to 4 years ago, and both have in excess of 2,000 seats. Pictures of both theatres are below.
Four Seasons Centre, Toronto
Winspear Opera House, Dallas
The lack of lyric theatres in Sydney has reached a crisis point for a global city. The economic cost to the state of NSW and Sydney is immense with major musicals at least having an estimated $M 100 input into the state economy with a long run. Similar figures exist for opera and ballet. The proposal for one additional lyric theatre of 1,700 seats (recent newspaper articles have seen this figure reduced to 1,500 seats) for Sydney is flawed. Any new lyric theatre usage would be easily mopped up by the musical producers (as well they know) leaving the opera and ballet scratching at nothing for large scale works, and for a temporary home during any future renovation of the Sydney Opera House Opera Theatre. The Australian Ballet in particular needs a larger stage, pit and auditorium similar to the State Theatre at the Victorian Arts Centre for it to really function properly in Sydney, and Opera Australia sorely needs a much larger and similar venue for large scale works such as Wagner, Strauss, Grand Opera and big Verdi works. There is no guarantee that the proposed renovations to the Opera Theatre will occur soon, or even at all, and even if they do they still may never provide Sydney with the lyric theatre both companies need and deserve. If the Opera Theatre renovations are eventually funded, the renovation time will probably extend well past the estimated 3 years considering the complexity of the job and caring for the iconic nature of the building.
What is really needed is TWO new lyric theatres for Sydney. One of 1,500 to 1,700 seats for commercial musicals, and a second with a capacity of at least 2,000 seats, a large pit and stage with appropriate wing space for the Australian Ballet who should leave the Opera Theatre permanently, and Opera Australia for it’s large scale works. The second larger theatre could also be used commercially as well. Opera Australia should not leave the Sydney Opera House due to its name, but continue to present small and medium scale works there. Renovation of the State Theatre in Sydney is not a viable option as the stage is too small (see above) and the eastern wall of the stage recedes drastically towards centre stage. The shape of the State Theatre Stage cannot be altered due to abutting buildings. The Enmore Theatre is similarly unsuitable despite its size as again the stage would have to be considerably extended involving neighbouring buildings and would also require a fly tower. This theatre was built for vaudeville and not opera and parking would be a major problem. A new theatre is the only option.
A golden opportunity exists with the building of the Barangaroo Precinct in Sydney. Initially a new lyric theatre was promised for the area early in the development stage several years ago, but has fallen off the drawing board. It should be restated. In fact both theatres could be built there adjacent to each other sharing storage, office and rehearsal space. This concept would certainly vitalise the area, and make it a vibrant area for night life for this burgeoning global city. In the past commercial theatre entepreneurs have built and owned their own theatres (which is still the case in Melbourne) and funding for a lyric theatre for commercial musicals should be born by producers and/or the Barangaroo Authority. The larger second lyric theatre should be government funded, and is a cheaper option than updating the Opera Theatre (which should still be done) during these times of economic uncertainty.
An opera in four acts by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Guiseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica
Performance on Tuesday, 12th July 2011 in the Opera Theatre of the Sydney Opera House.
Conductor Shao-Chia Lu
Director Gale Edwards
Set Designer Brian Thompson
Costumes Julie Lynch
Lighting John Rayment
Rudolpho Ji-Min Park
Marcello Andrew Jones
Colline David Parker
Schaunard Shane Lowrencev
Benoit John Bolton Wood
Mimi Takesha Meshe Kizart
Musetta Taryn Fiebig
Alcindoro Adrian Tamburini
Parpignol Benjamin Rasheed
Customs Sergeant Malcolm Ede
Customs Officer Clifford Plumpton
Opening to great fanfare (literally) last night, Opera Australia presented the 7th new production in it’s history of Puccini’s classic tear jerker – LA BOHEME, in the Opera Theatre of the Sydney Opera House. The foyers were abuzz with the beautiful people (all slim Mr Terracini), glitterati, opera fans and supporters for the premiere of the much hailed new production that opened in Melbourne earlier this year. The foyer was bathed in purple light, festooned with giant flower arrangements, the red carpet was rolled out, numerous photographers snapped away, canapes were being served, extras from the Cafe Momus scene roamed the foyer as members of the brass section of the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra played fanfares and quadrilles featuring excerpts form the opera. The stage was truly set for a glorious night of magical operatic theatre.
Director Gale Edwards, at pains to break free of the stereotypes associated with many productions of BOHEME set in it’s traditional setting of Paris, and seeking to reinvigorate the work has set it in Berlin in 1929 during the height of the Weimar Republic. A time and place where decadence, poverty and sexual freedom provides the required environment for the hedonistic life style of the bohemians and allows the most romantic of operatic stories to unfold.
The stage was initially covered by an act cloth of a dusky crimson stage curtain with the words “LA BOHEME” spelt out in light globes. At curtain rise the audience was presented with an overly large half octagonal room in disarray and half painted by Marcello with a gigantic mural partially covering the walls of the room, which is also the inside of a spiegeltent. The room is spartan with almost no furniture. Our first Bohemians are Marcello and Rudolpho. Andrew Jones substituting for an ill Jose Carbo as Marcello was vocally and dramatically superb. His presence commanded the whole first scene and his sonorous and rich baritone filled the Opera Theatre with ease. It was hard to believe sitting in the back row of the circle that his voice was not amplified. The young Ji-Min Park, previously a Jette Parker Young Artist with the Royal Opera Covent Garden, was initially a tentative Rudolpho pacing his voice and performance, but opened up his performance and voice to marvellous dramatic effect as the performance progressed. Schaunard was portrayed as a fop, presumably based on his early comments in the libretto about returning from entertaining an older gentleman. This seemed a little jarring to me, but as Anna Russell used to say – “you can do anything in opera, so long as you sing it”! Shane Lowrencev sounded a little out of voice, and not his usual reliable self at the opening. David Parker as Colline proved yet again that he has made the correct decision to take on opera as a full-time career. His more than ample and well rounded voice easily carried through the theatre and he sang an excellent and moving’coat aria’ in the final act.
Needless to say the audience was waiting in high expectation for the heroine of the piece to arrive. Takesha Meshe Kizart certainly did not disappoint. Looking ravishing and singing equally so, she could easily have stolen the show in lesser company. Her rich spinto now sounds like a young Jessie Norman, except with a more beautiful top. The performance definitely picked up with her arrival. ‘Che gelida manina’ and ‘si, mi chiamano Mimi’ were beautifully and effectively sung. The final duet between Kizart and Park, I am sure sent shivers down the spine of everyone in the audience. The final tableau, with the final notes of the duet being sung with the couple almost in silhouette outside, and framed by the large double doors at the back of the set, was novel and extremely theatrical.
The second act transformed initally into a street scene with panels from the octagonal walls of the spiegeltent folding out to create a streetscape then brilliantly transforming yet again to gasps and applause from the audience, into the interior of a Berlin Cabaret coloured in rich crimson and complete with theatre boxes on the octagonal walls. This Cafe Momus scene was richly peopled with topless ‘hostesses’, a lesbian couple in one box and even a Goebels look alike with his entourage in another . The entrance of Musetta and her waltz song were extremely well staged. Taryn Fiebig as Musetta was simply magnetic and a show stopper, as the scene demands. Her glorious voice was rich, warm and honeyed, and her delivery of the waltz song while singing into an old fashioned microphone was electric, concluding with Musetta posed in her silver bejewelled dress in a pose reminiscent of Marlene Dietrich in ‘The Blue Angel’. She has never sounded or acted this well.The act finished with the rousing on stage band, this time performed by an all-women band made up of members from the Nazi Youth Movement leaving an edge to the scene and reminding the audience of the inevitable downfall of the high point of the Bohemian’s existence, but also the coming fall of the Weimar Republic.
Act three, set at the city tollgate during the continued winter and a snow fall, again featured the walls of the spiegeltent, this time filled with wire mesh filling the octagonal panels. The development of the story and characters was well managed and created clear story telling. The progression of the characters and the glorious singing made this probably the most effective act. The final act places the audience back in the Bohemian’s studio. Marcello has finished painting his mural around all the walls. The consumptive Mimi is bought back to them by Musetta who is afraid she is near death from her now obvious consumption. The final scene was again gloriously sung and acted by this well cast and well matched ensemble leading to an agonising death scene.
The smaller roles of Benoit and Alcindoro were also well sung and acted by John Bolton Wood and Adrian Tamburini, particularly John Bolton Wood whose well sung and detailed characterisations are always a highlight of any production.
The final curtain aroused a torrent of cheering and applause, the size of which I have not heard in many years, and causing an almost non-ending string of curtain calls. This was a grand opening of a new production that I am sure will grace stages in Sydney and Melbourne for many years to come. So it should. The production is very opulent and rich. Nothing seems to have been spared on the scenery and exquisite costumes and props, and it is said that Opera Australia has to make $7,000,000 on the production for it to be a success. I have no doubt this will happen. Whether it is better than the landmark previous productions of LA BOHEME from 1970 (directed initially by Bernd Benthaak and designed by Tom Lingwood) or the 1990 Baz Luhrmann directed and Catherine Martin designed production is a moot point. Personally I think the 1970 and 1990 stagings slightly better, but this production is more gloriously sung.
The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra were in top form conducted by Taiwan born conductor Shao-Chia Lu, who paced the opera in true Italianate form.
One final word, this production is stunning – don’t miss it!
The NSW Government has confirmed this week it’s election promise to build a new convention centre for Sydney at a cost of $900 million.
The Sydney International Convention and Entertainment Centre was a pre-election promise of the Coalition. It will be built on the site of the Entertainment Centre car park, after which the Entertainment Centre will be demolished. The concept plan includes seating for up to 12,000 people, and a ”multi-function exhibit hall” of up to 12,000 square metres. It is envisaged the centre will host activities from banquets and conventions to rock concerts and sporting events such as basketball, tennis and boxing.
Expressions of interest will be called in September. It is hoped construction will begin in September 2012 and the project completed in 2015. The Planning Minister, Mr Brad Hazzard, has said it was ”about making Sydney centre stage for international events, invigorating tourism and giving the people of NSW an unrivalled world-class venue”.
Too bad about the Would Heritage listed Sydney Opera House that put Sydney on the world map. Still with major deficiencies in acoustics, pit size, occupational health and safety issues for members of the pit orchestra, audience capacity and well overdue for renewal of backstage facilities that are at the end of the life, there is still no light at the end of the tunnel for a similar amount for a major renovation of the Opera Theatre.
It is the Sydney Opera House that put Sydney centre stage for International events and continues to pump $100 millions of dollars on an annual basis into the State economy. Perhaps the new NSW Government needs to think about that !
The Australian World Orchestra will perform in its inaugural season in August this year, and apart from this great Australian orchestra will feature Simone Young, Andrew Briger, Brett Dean, Cheryl Barker, Elizabeth Campbell, Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Steve Davislim.
One of the most exciting orchestral initiatives in Australia, the Australian World Orchestra’s (AWO) vision is simple: to bring together Australia’s finest classical musicians from around the world to form one of the country’s most electrifying orchestras.
On the weekend of the 26th-29th August 2011 that vision will be realised when over 90 musicians, representing over 45 orchestras, all at the top of their game, will join together at the sydney opera house and riverside theatre, Parramatta to present its inaugural season of four concerts and celebrate the true essence of Australia’s musical talents.
Australian musicians will come home from playing in leading world orchestras such as the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra. They will combine with Australia’s own wonderful local musicians, and be directed by AWO’s Artistic Director and Chief Conductor Alexander Briger (pictured), and Conductors Simone Young and Brett Dean.
When asked about the motivation for creating an all-Australian orchestra, Briger said, “Most Australians are unaware what we have produced in the field of classical music on a world scale, and it’s time to show them. Also many of the musicians haven’t played in Australia since leaving. It’s an opportunity to show the whole of Australia exactly what we have produced in the field of classical music, and to show younger musicians what can be achieved.”
For Briger it has been an experience of discovery too. “It’s been incredible to find so many Australian musicians holding key positions overseas. Bringing all these musicians together, surely the sound will be incredible!”
Central to the concerts is the music, with works from Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Wagner, Sculthorpe and Dean. The first concert, held on Friday 26th August, will be conducted by internationally acclaimed Australian conductor Simone Young. Featured will be one of Young’s orchestral specialties, Wagner’s Prelude and Venusberg Music from Tannhäuser. The concert will also include Australia’s dazzling soloist William Barton on didgeridoo, performing Peter Sculthorpe’s Earth Cry and will conclude with Tchaikovsky’s immense Symphony No. 6 (Pathetique).
The second concert, on saturday 27th August, features Brahms’ majestic Academic Festival Overture, followed by the east coast premiere of Brett Dean’s Vexations & Devotions, performed by the Philharmonia Choirs and Gondwana Voices, and conducted by the composer. The crescendo will come with Beethoven’s mighty Symphony No. 9 (Choral), conducted by Alexander Briger. For this performance the AWO will combine again with the Philharmonia Choirs and with soloists Cheryl Barker, Elizabeth Campbell, Steve Davislim and Teddy Tahu Rhodes.
The third concert, on sunday 28th August, is a matinee family concert, which will feature excerpts of the previous two programmes, along with Mackerras’ Pineapple Poll. The fourth concert, on Monday 29th August at Parramatta Riverside Theatre, is an after school concert aimed at students and the wider community.
The 2011 programme is dedicated to the late Sir Charles Mackerras, who is the inaugural patron of the orchestra. “We’re dedicating these concerts to him because of his extreme interest in the AWO and to celebrate the success of all these amazing Australian musicians, of which he was a forerunner,” said Briger.
All musicians in this orchestra were trained in Australia and feel very strongly about continuing this tradition of excellence in Australian musical education, so another key component of AWO is its youth education Programme. Devised to support music education in Australia, the programme is being offered to a myriad of schools throughout NSW and the ACT, with invites to open rehearsals, master classes and performance opportunities.
Since it’s inception in 2009, AWO has attracted a number of key industry supporters, including Director Baz Luhrmann, who describes the AWO as “one of the most exhilarating projects in our recent history,” Composer Peter Sculthorpe, says “The idea has my whole-hearted and enthusiastic support,” and Artistic Director and Leader of the Australian Chamber Orchestra Richard Tognetti, who says, “to create this musical homecoming is a worthy enterprise and one which will give audiences here in Australia the chance to hear en masse the qualities of our many musical exports.”
AWO’s inaugural season performs in Sydney, between 26th and 29th August 2011. Tickets range from $45 to $189 and are on sale through Sydney Opera House, Parramatta Riverside Theatre and AWO.
Opera Australia has officially launched it’s first HANDA OPERA ON SYDNEY HARBOUR tonight.
The first production will be (as previously hinted in my Opera Australia 2012 Season leaks article in January of this year) Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA. The cast and creatives are as follows:
Opera in 4 Acts by Guiseppe Verdi
Conductor Brian Castles-Onion
Director Francesca Zambello
Choreographer Stephen Baynes
Set Designer Brian Thompson
Costumes Tess Schofield
Lighting John Rayment
Violetta Emma Matthews alternating with Rachel Durkin
Alfredo Ji-Min Park alternating with Gianluca Terranova
Germont Jonathan Summers alternating with Warwick Fyfe
Quoting from Opera Australia’s media release tonight – ‘Fireworks, a harbour stage and a giant chandelier will transform opera in Sydney like never before when Opera Australia presents La Traviata on Sydney Harbour for an exclusive three-week season starting 24 March 2012. It will be the first opera in Australia to be held on a tailor-made stage built over the water off the Royal Botanic Gardens and will be directed and designed especially for this unique outdoor staging. It is the Company’s most ambitious project to date, working in conjunction with Events NSW on behalf of the NSW Government to attract audiences from across the globe to be a part of this uniquely spectacular opera event.’
The concept is similar to the the staging of operas on an offshore island with a large audience watching from seating on the shore on Lake Constance at the Bregenz Festival in Austria.
The $11.5 million production is intended to be a drawcard for international tourists, who comprise about 30 per cent of Opera Australia’s audience at the Opera House, but who have been coming in fewer numbers since the global financial crisis.
Tickets with prices ranging from $85 – $350 with full dining and show packages available, go on sale to the public on 4 July 2011.
Opera on Sydney Harbour is sponsored by Events NSW and Japanese businessman Haruhisa Handa’s International Foundation for Arts and Culture. Dr Handa has previously sponsored the Perth International Arts Festival. The sponsorship is for three years, and a different opera will be staged next year.
Details about the set have been revealed. The floating stage will be 32 metres wide; three times the size of the Opera Theatre stage in Sydney, fireworks will erupt at the climax of the famous “Drinking Song” of Act 1, Violetta will ascend into the sky riding a dazzling chandelier which measures 9.5 metres in diameter , and the orchestra will be situated underneath the stage in a studio to ensure the best possible amplified sound quality.
Opera Australia had set up a specific site for the event which has been up for the last week (but without any detailed content).
For further information see:
or details on the event Facebook site: