Posts Tagged ‘West Australian Opera’
American Record Guide review of Perth Elektra by Robert Markow just appeared in latest magazine online. Key take-aways from the review:
Matthew Lutton’s production overall was praised; “persuasive and compelling.”
Of the women, Elizabeth Campbell’s Klytemnestra considered “the best developed” character. Eva Johanasson as Elektra “hurled forth her lines with gleaming brilliance and power, but there was little color or nuance; the character remained two dimensional.” Orla Boylan’s Chrysothemis was “slightly more lyrical and less forceful, but it was still often difficult to tell the sisters apart.”
Of the men, Richard Greager’s Aegisth was best; “mincing, foppish delivery was entirely appropriate for Aegisth,” In contrast, Daniel Sumegi’s Orestes not liked; “pinched, tremulous voice did him no credit as Orestes.”
As for West Australian Symphony; “a splendid ensemble but it did not realize its potential in Elektra with the lackluster conducting of WAO’s Artistic Director Richard Mills (also one of Australia’s leading composers). Not even the opera’s most volcanic moments, including the recognition scene and Elektra’s dance of triumph, generated much excitement.”
By: James Thompson
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.
The Western Australian Opera has appointed American musician and conductor, Joseph Colaneri to the position of Musical Director effective from the first of July this year. Mr Colaneri succeeds Richard Mills AM who held has the position since 1997. Mr Colaneri was appointed following an extensive international search.
American born, Mr Colaneri is a graduate of New York University and holds a Master of Music degree from Westminster Choir College, at Princeton University, New Jersey. He is the recipient of the 1994 Distinguished Alumni Award from Westminster Choir College. Joseph Colaneri entered the professional field as an organist and choral conductor. Having held a number of sacred music posts, he made his opera debut as Chorus Master of the New Jersey State Opera, and continued his choral-conducting career as Chorus Master of the New York City Opera.
Maestro Colaneri is also in demand as an opera conductor abroad. He made his debut conducting MADAMA BUTTERFLY for the West Australian Opera and has returned to that company several times since. He made his Glimmerglass conducting debut in the Kevin Newbury production of LA CENERENTOLA in 2009 and has conducted Mozart’s three Da Ponte operas, COSI FAN TUTTE, DON GIOVANNI, AND LE NOZZE DI FIGARO at Chautauqua Opera, where he has also conducted productions of DON PASQUALE, MACBETH, WETHER , Carlisle Floyd’s SUSANNAH, as well as all-Verdi and all-Puccini concerts with the Chautauqua Symphony. Maestro Colaneri made his conducting debut at the Portland Opera in Oregon with performances of Frank Corsaro’s production of MADAMA BUTTERFLY returning in subsequent seasons for NORMA and CARMEN. In the spring of 2009 he conducted double bill of SUOR ANGELICA and CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA for the Orlando Opera.
Equally at home on the concert podium, Maestro Colaneri has conducted the Tokyo Philharmonic in a concert program of opera arias and musical theater selections starring Renée Fleming, which was telecast throughout Asia by the NHK. Building on their collaboration at the Met, he conducted Jianyi Zhang and Richard Zeller in an opera highlights program with the National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan in Taipei, and bass Samuel Ramey in an ‘All-Devils concert’ in Orlando, Florida. He also conducted the prestigious 2004 Richard Tucker Gala at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in a celebrated Gay Men’s Health Crisis benefit at Avery Fisher Hall. A regular guest of the Berkshire Choral Festival since 1995, Maestro Colaneri lead a performance of the Verdi’s MESSA DA REQUIEM , which marked the Festival’s 20th anniversary. He made his Canadian conducting debut was with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in performances of Handel’s MESSIAH.
Prior to joining the Metropolitan Opera, Joseph Colaneri was associated with the New York City Opera at Lincoln Center for fifteen years culminating in his appointment, in 1995, as Acting Music Director. He was honored with the company’s Julius Rudel Award during the 1994 season. Beginning with his New York City Opera debut conducting SOUTH PACIFIC, he has since led over 60 performances of IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA, LA BOHEME, CARMEN, RIGOLETTO, TOSCA, LA TRAVIATA, THE NEW MOON and THE MERRY WIDOW. Highlights of his New York City Opera career include the highly acclaimed 1993 world premiere of Hugo Weisgall’s ESTHER , the 1995 American Premiere of the Toshiro Mayuzumi opera LINKAKUJI: THE TEMPLE OF THE GOLDEN PAVILION, and Britten’s parable CURLEW RIVER with performances incorporating Noh theatre elements.
Early in his career Maestro Colaneri served as Music Director of the New York City Opera National Company. In his final season, he cast and led the touring company’s production of LA BOHEME in performances throughout the United States. With the National Company he produced and conducted national touring productions of LA FILLE DU REGIMENT, TOSCA, CARMEN, MADAMA BUTTERFLY, IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA, and LA TRAVIATA. Continuing his work with young artists and audience outreach, Mr. Colaneri frequently conducted productions for the Western Opera Theater, among them LA TRAVIATA, RIGOLETTO, DIE FLEDERMAUS, GIANNI SCHICCHI and SUOR ANGELICA.
With uncommon dedication for an active conductor, Joseph Colaneri continues to thrive in preparing and guiding young vocalists in the early years of their professional careers. This commitment led to his appointment as Director of the Opera Program at Mannes College of Music in New York. Mr. Colaneri enjoys his work with his faculty colleagues as they mold a program best suited to help these emerging artists prepare for the demands of professional careers. He frequently gives master classes with apprentices at companies such as Opera North and Chautauqua Opera and is a regular guest conductor in Graz for concerts at the American Institute for Musical Studies.
Carolyn Chard, General Manager of West Australian Opera, said that the company had built a rapport with Mr Colaneri over a number of years as a visiting conductor. He made his debut conducting MADAMA BUTTERFLY for the West Australian Opera and has returned to the company for productions of LA BOHEME, IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA and TOSCA . Later this year he will conduct MADAMA BUTTERFLY again. While he will continue to conduct with international opera companies he is looking forward to spending significant time in Perth each year working with the team at West Australian Opera and engaging with audiences, donors and the public. Ms Chard said that Mr Colaneri would be in residence to conduct two operas each year for West Australian Opera.
West Australian Opera Board Chairman Warwick Hemsley, said the company was thrilled to have secured the talents of such an outstanding international conductor in this important position and said “Mr Colaneri brings new ideas, international networks and a new perspective on developing singers and audiences”.
Mr Colaneri said, “It‟s an honor for me to join the West Australian Opera as Artistic Director. After several seasons as a guest conductor, I look forward to building on the wonderful relationship I have with the entire company, to bolstering and expanding the repertory, and to collaborating with Perth‟s arts organizations to bring a new perspective the rich cultural life of the city.”
Mr Colaneri will commence in the position on 1 July and will be in residence during September and October this year.
The Opera Insider wishes both the West Australian Opera and Maestro Colaneri sincere congratulations on a marvellous appointment, and best wishes for a long and fruitful collaboration.
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 !!
West Australian Opera has billed their 2012 season as the year of the diva.
West Australian Opera’s ‘Year of the Diva’ showcases the principal female sopranos who will bring to life four of the most iconic and dramatic heroines of opera; Eva Johansson in the title role of ELEKTRA, Emma Matthews in the title role of LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, Kelly Kaduce as Cio-Cio-San in MADAMA BUTTERFLY, suitably complimented by Sara Macliver as the heroine Leïla in THE PEARL FISHERS - this year’s City of Perth’s Opera in the Park.
Operas, dates and casts are below:
His Majesty’s Theatre | 7.30pm | February 8th, 11th, 14th
Set & Costume Designer
Supreme Court Gardens | 8pm | Saturday 18th February
LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR
His Majesty’s Theatre | 7.30pm | July 14th, 17th, 19th, 21st
His Majesty’s Theatre | 7.30pm | October 23rd, 25th, 27th, 30th, November 1st, 3rd
PICTURE: Scott Curry playing the Liszt piano in the Sondershausen Palace in a concert last weekend.
My attention was recently drawn to Opera Insider’s comments regarding my being “let go ” by the “artistic” director of the opera company in Perth.
Without the Insider knowing me (or me knowing him/her), in writing ” It is a sad day when a senior musician feels threatened by a musical colleague he has appointed.”, he has (along with many others in the Australian musical community) shown astute intuition, and hit the nail squarely on the head. The “senior” (I interpret this as meaning a senior citizen rather than someone to be respected) obviously (and not only for me) has a reputation preceding himself as one who does not tolerate anyone who he imagines is challenging his “musicianship”. If one quote may sum up the attitude of this person to other less provincial colleagues than himself, let it be from Tanya Buchdahl Tintner’s magnificent biography of her husband Georg (OUT OF TIME)- the “local timpanist”, as he was at the time, is quoted as calling Tintner “one of those Central European parasites” keeping perfectly good Australians out of a job. Australian he is- whoever said that he was “perfectly good” is not acknowledged.
Having been paid a princely sum to vacate my position, in which I was enjoying the respect of, and the work with, the principals, chorus, other local singers, as well as students and staff at the University of Western Australia, and looking forward to the many concerts that had been offered to me in the months to come, I was able to holiday extensively in “the east” before returning home to Berlin in late May.
The generous payout enabled me to enjoy the early European summer and an abundance of what I’d been missing in that large mining town. Although it’s been a few months since then, the first highlights that immediately come to mind are performances of ELEKTRA (at the Staatsoper, with who must currently be the world’s best exponent of this role, Evelyn Herlitzius; and at the Leipzig opera, with the magnificent Doris Soffel, with whom I’ve had the honor and pleasure of sharing the concert stage on several occasions, stealing the show as Klytämnestra). The Staatskapelle and the Gewandhausorchester played brilliantly, exhibiting their extensive experience in this repertoire. (Perth 2012 ???) I saw the new Berlin productions of MACBETH and SAMSON ET DALILAH, Barenboim playing the Liszt concerti, a fascinating play, COLLABORATION by Ronald Harwood, about the friendship between Richard Strauss and Stefan Zweig, and the subsequent circumstances surrounding the creation of their opera DIE SCHWEIGSAME FRAU. The last opera I caught before the summer break was however in Warsaw, in one of the most superb opera houses I know- Szymanowski’s KING ROGER (in Polish, of course, but with English surtitles !). No visit to Warsaw is complete without going to the Chopin Museum (on my previous trip there it was booked out for days to come), which, since the bicentenary of his birth, has been Disneyfied to within an inch of it’s life. On a more modest scale and well worth the harrowing trip of the 50 or so kilometers west of Warsaw, is his birthhouse in Zelazowa Wola ( a town of 65 inhabitants!). The original house has been tastefully restored but is almost upstaged by the extensive and impressive gardens that surround it. Discreetly positioned Bose speakers emit nocturnes and polonaises from between the shrubberies which, after the stress and noise of Warsaw, was very calming, but for the army of gardeners (who far outnumbered the visitors on the day I was there), on a day to day basis, I imagine to be quite numbing.
It was then back to work, at first at the Lotte Lehmann Academy for young opera singers and then the Lotte Lehmann Week, a solid month of coaching, group teaching, choral conducting and concerts in her birthplace, Perleberg, exactly between Berlin and Hamburg. These courses have been gathering momentum to such an extent, that the town has purchased a150 year-old building on the historical marketplace, and is restoring it for the use of the Academy. I was teaching in the museum (which was the building where Lehmann went to school), using the grand piano that had belonged to her in her in Santa Barbara, California, and that had been donated to the collection of Lehmann memorabilia that is featured there. I was honored to be the first to play it’s first “airing” a few years ago (accompanying Australia’s own Merlyn Quaife, who was teaching there). A Knabe grand, certainly played in Lehmann’s home by the likes of Toscanini, Bruno Walter, Klemperer, Milhaud and Lotte herself, it has a warm and rich sound, and will be completely restored in the near future.
A personal highlight for me was conducting the chorus in the final concert, in which we performed two works by Georg Tintner (Tanya had kindly enabled me access to the yet unpublished scores) from around 1933, and probably not performed since.
Back in Berlin, the season at the Deutsche Oper started with the RING, from which I saw WALKÜRE und SIEGFRIED. I have been seeing this RING regularly since it first appeared in the mid-eighties, and while it might be considered old, it has lost none of it’s initial fascination (dominated by the omnipresent “time-tunnel”), and the ever changing casts are always a good cross-section of what’s important in the Wagnerian scheme of things. Again it was Doris Soffel (jumping in at the last minute as Fricka) who triumphed, and while we’re speaking of world-class, Burkhard Ulrich as Mime is barely to be surpassed. Orchestrally it was in the best hands (considering RHEINGOLD, WALKÜRE and SIEGFRIED were played on three consecutive nights), which should be expected from a house that has Wagner as it’s staple repertoire. (Melbourne 2013 ???)
These evenings were the perfect inspiration for a concert of music by Liszt and Wagner that I played a few days later in the magnificent Riesensaal of the Sondershausen castle (the hall of the giants, housing sixteen massive statues of Greek gods) on the so-called “Liszt piano”, a Bösendorfer built in 1875 (and only completely restored in 2010) that had been played by Liszt on his numerous visits to Sondershausen, the last time shortly before his death. A day after his 200th birthday in October, I’ll be playing more Liszt, this time in Berlin, sharing the stage with the biographer Oliver Hilmes reading from his recently published “Franz Liszt- Biography of a Superstar”.
The coming weeks are an absolute smorgasbord in our two opera houses, and I especially look forward to WOZZECK, FROM THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD, DER ROSENKAVALIER and a new DON CARLO.
Many years ago, a friend in Berlin who had been watching an Australian series on TV called “Neighbours”, asked me rather cautiously if I knew anything about Perth. I said no, just that it was very far away, to which, explaining his curiosity, he added “if a character leaves the series, they either die or move to Perth”. Well, I’m very much back from the dead, and if there is one quote from Tanya Tintner’s book that would refer to my time in that isolated place… Georg Tintner after a church concert in New Zealand in 1943- “These good people really do what they can. But how laughable the whole thing is! How unnecessary for them, what a waste of energy for me…”
Keep up the good work Mr. (Mrs?) Insider,
Best wishes from Berlin,
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.
Management and staff at the West Australian Opera are working with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions towards the production of a major Baroque opera in 2015.
The production is anticipated to be mounted in conjunction with the Perth International Arts Festival. International and Australian experts in Baroque music, drama, dance and visual spectacle will recreate a major Baroque work, with all its emotional impact, for modern Australian audiences.
West Australian Opera’s musical team, will work with researchers from Australia and overseas to ensure not only a cutting-edge production, but major research outcomes produced and publicised through industry internships, masterclasses, an international symposium and public events.
Scott Curry, the recent short lived and respected Head of Music for the West Australian Opera was to have been be actively involved in this project.
It is unclear which opera is being considered for production, or whether the production will be affected by the recent resignation of the West Australian Opera Artistic Director, Richard Mills to take up the same appointment at the Victorian Opera effective from the commencement of 2013.