Posts Tagged ‘Sydney’
Sydney now has a population just over 4.5 million people, over half the size of both London (7.75 million people) and New York City (8.16 million people). Both London and New York are rich in musical and opera presentations, and regularly present numerous performances of less known or rarely heard operas in concert, rather than staged in the theatre. Consider some of the following examples:
The Concert Orchestra of New York, founded by Eve Queler in 1972, performs annual seasons of operatic rarities in concert at Carnegie Hall. Over the years they have performed many great operatic works unlikely to be staged, such as Meyerbeer’s L’AFRICAINE, ROBERT LE DIABLE and LES HUGENOTS, Lalo’s LE ROI D’Y's, Catalani’s LA WALLY, Strauss’ GUNTRUM, Bellini’s I STRANIERA and IL PIRATA, Massenet’s LE CID and HERODIADE, Boito’s NERONE and Donizetti’s DOM SEBASTIEN to name a few – all with stellar casts. This year the season consists of RIENZI, ADRIANA LECOUVRIER and SIMONE BOCCANEGRA with Placido Domingo.
The Washington Concert Opera who has Australian born Antony Walker as it’s Music Director, will be presenting Verdi’s ATILLA and Saint-Saens SAMSON AND DELILAH in their 2011/2012 season.
In London there are a few smaller concert opera groups, but the majority of operas in concert are staged by several large venues including the presentation by the BBC Proms ( BBC Proms link) of Rossini’s WILLIAM TELL (which included Australian soprano Elana Xanthoudakis as Jemmy), Handel’s RINALDO and the Berlioz arrangement of Weber’s DER FREISCHUTZ during it’s 2011 season. At the Barbican ( Barbican Centre link ) this year opera concerts are Donizetti’s BELISARIO, Knussen’s WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, Handel’s RADAMISTO, Lully’s PHAETON, Britten’s THE TURN OF THE SCREW, Handel’s IMENIO and Stravinsky’s OEDIPUS REX ! Meanwhile across the muddy creek in the Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre (Southbank Centre link) can be heard Verdi’s LA FORZA DEL DESTINO, Fennessy’s children’s opera PASS THE SPOON, Donizetti’s MARIA PADILLA, Weill’s THREEPENNY OPERA, a pastiche opera to Metastasio’s libretto L’OLIMPIADE and Zemlinsky’s FLORENTINE TRAGEDY.
Concert performances of opera in Sydney has been spasmodic and infrequent over the years. Opera Australia has presented concert presentations of all of THE RING operas, PARSIFAL, TURANDOT and RUSALKA over a period of 40 years which have been of excellent quality, superbly cast, performed to full houses and excellently received. Similarly the Sydney Symphony Orchestra has also performed occasional operas in concert, but again spasmodically. 2012 is unusual for Sydney with three operas being performed in concert – the Sydney Symphone Orchestra will perform Tchaikovsky’s PIQUE DAME at the end of this year, The Sydney Philharmonia Choirs will present a sing along concert of Bizet’s CARMEN in June and the Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge Foundation will present Handel’s glorious RODELINDA in concert at the City Recital Hall in October. Lyndon Terracini has expressed the desire for Opera Australia to mount concert performances of PARSIFAL, TRISTAN UND ISOLDE and GUILLAUME TELL at some time in the future.
But is this spasmodic and occasional approach enough ? Given the vagaries of the substandard Opera Theatre in the Sydney Opera House, an ever decreasing number of operas staged annually by Opera Australia, and its ever more conservative programming, does a demand exist for a regular season of operas in concert in Sydney ? And who should stage them ?
Regular seasons of operas in concert in Sydney would give the opera going public a chance to hear unusual or lesser known works that will probably never be staged here, and a chance to hear operas that will also be avoided because of the expense of mounting such large works or their inability to fit into the Opera Theatre. It would also give resident singers not used by Opera Australia greater opportunities to sing, and sing in roles that they have performed overseas and are virtually unknown here.
Perhaps Opera Australia and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra organisations are not the best choices to produce operas in concert, as they are busy with their own heavy programs and commitments.
The suggestion then is – there is probably a deficit in the market for quality concerts of opera, a demand for operas in concert in Sydney and it would be appropriate for the development of a specific company to be formed for the presentation of very high quality annual seasons of operas in concert.
Any takers ?
THE creation of a cultural precinct at Barangaroo and Walsh Bay that would include a new 2000-seat lyric theatre should be an ”utmost priority” for the state government, says a report the government commissioned.
PLANNING SYDNEY’S CULTURAL FACILITIES is the first study in 16 years looking at Sydney’s long-term cultural needs. It was commissioned by the former Labor government and prepared by Rob Brookman, the former general manager of the Sydney Theatre Company, for government agencies including Destination NSW, Tourism NSW, the Barangaroo Delivery Authority and the City of Sydney.
After holding 94 consultations with representatives from the performing arts, museums and galleries, Mr Brookman has compiled a list of Sydney’s cultural needs for the next 15 years.
The last such study was commissioned by the City of Sydney 16 years ago. Since then Sydney has added a recital hall, a lyric theatre at the casino, and the Sydney Theatre, as well as refurbishing the Capital Theatre, Belvoir Street Theatre and the Verbrugghen Hall.
It said the future use of the Domain for cultural events such as Opera in the Park was at risk because of the extremely high costs of staging events which could become uneconomic for the Sydney Festival, and Sydney has missed staging several musical premieres because of a lack of suitable theatre space.
Recommendations and comments in the report include:
* provision of a new Lyric Theatre which would cost about $150 million
* proposed that the new Lyric Theatre should be built in the central zone at Barangaroo – between the commercial towers in the south and new headland in the north – would be ideal for a theatre and a large capacity outdoor venue
* to keep pace with Melbourne and Brisbane, Sydney also needs to build outdoor multi-purpose venues including one that could hold 20,000 people for free and ticketed events, and another for circus tents
* within a 15-year time frame there may well be demand for two new Lyric Theatres
”Sydney has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create something of extraordinary value and this review argues strongly that the conscious development of Barangaroo/Walsh Bay as a cultural precinct should be of the utmost priority,” the report says.
The NSW Minister for the Arts, George Souris is quoted as saying it is too early to say which proposals might be supported, but ”We recognise that there are areas which have been neglected over the past 16 years and need updating and we will be considering the report’s recommendations over the coming months,”
Sydney is the world‟s best festival and event city…and that‟s official, according to the international organisation that judges such matters.
It‟s the second year in a row that the Harbour City has won the International Festivals and Events Association (IFEA) World Festival and Event City Award, which was announced today.
Sydney was deemed the best world‟s best festival and event city for 2011 in the „over one million population‟ category and will accept the award at this year‟s IFEA 56th Annual Convention and Expo in Fort Worth, Texas, USA.
Minister for Tourism and Major Events, George Souris, said it was a source of great pride for Sydney to be named as the world‟s best festival and event city.
“There is no doubt winning this award demonstrates Sydney‟s position as a world leading destination for events and tourism and confirms it as Australia‟s international city.
“Securing major events is a priority for the NSW Government and will help us achieve our goal of doubling tourist expenditure by 2020,” Mr Souris said.
President and CEO of IFEA, Steven Wood Schmader, said the international panel of judges had many great world cities to assess in the category, but decided Sydney stood out from the pack.
“Sydney won due to the community leadership and ongoing, concerted efforts and support to provide a positive local environment that is conducive to and encourages the success and growth of festivals and events,” Mr Schmader said.
This award comes off the back of a string of major event wins since the Liberals and Nationals came to Government in NSW.
Major event wins by Destination NSW for Sydney and NSW, including:
- Harry Potter: the exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum Sydney from November 2011 – March 2012, Sydney exclusive
- Richard III show starring Kevin Spacey at the Lyric Theatre, Sydney in December 2011, exclusive Sydney season
- Sydney is home to first-run musicals, including World Premiere of An Officer and a Gentleman from May 2012, Australian Premiere of ANNIE from January 2012, Australian Premiere The Addams Family from March 2013 and World Premiere of Strictly Ballroom from September 2013
- Tiger Woods to join an all-star line-up at this year‟s Australian Open Golf at The Lakes, Sydney from 10 – 13 November
- The Bledisloe Cup ten year deal, where at least one Bledisloe Cup game will be played in Sydney each year from 2012 to 2021
- Sydney International Rowing Regatta, including the opening rounds of the Samsung World Rowing Cup at Penrith in 2013 and 2014
- The first ever Australian Open of Surfing to be held in Manly in February 2012 in conjunction with Hurley and Billabong
- Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour held annually from March 2012
- Sydney secured three World Cup Qualifier Games in the lead up to the 2014FIFA World Cup
- The Davis Cup World Group Play-off between Australia and Switzerland atRoyal Sydney Golf Club
- 2015 Touch Football World Cup, including range of national and internationalTouch Football events from 2011 – 2015
- 2011 NAB AFL Draft secured for Western Sydney this November
- Australian Open Grand Prix Gold (Badminton) at Darling Harbour in April 2012,moved from Melbourne.NSW Premier, Barry O‟Farrell, said the award yet again proves that Sydney is Australia‟s leading major events and tourist destination.
“We can all be proud of the recognition Sydney has received, placing it in its rightful position as the major events capital of Australia.
“Destination NSW, the state‟s tourism and major events authority, is focused on strengthening the Events Calendar and upholding our position as the number one tourism and events city and state in Australia.
“Sydney is Australia‟s global city and being honoured with such an award will drive even more visitors to our city and state,” he said.
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.