Opera Australia has a long history of bringing classic musicals to local audiences, but generally they've been faithful and traditional productions (and in some cases literally 60-year-old productions). But Opera Australia is doing something a little different as part of its 2020 Melbourne season, announced today: Fiddler on the Roof performed entirely in Yiddish.
Don't worry, there'll still be English surtitles to guide you through, but this production goes for authenticity above all else. Directed by Oscar and Tony winner Joel Grey (still known best for playing the Emcee in Cabaret), it premiered in New York last year to rave reviews and is currently enjoying a return season due to popular demand.
It's not the only Opera Australia musical that will come to Melbourne in 2020: the previously-announced 30th anniversary national tour of Bran Nue Dae will be at the Comedy Theatre in June.
But for opera fans, the really exciting news is that Opera Australia's much-lauded digital productions are finally making their Melbourne debut. Opera Australia says it's bringing opera into the 21st century with the use of 12 seven-metre tall LED screens, which fly in and out, spin around, and move about the stage in unexpected ways. They've been pretty successful in Sydney (although a few productions have had teething issues with the technology) and will be in Melbourne, starting with Graeme Murphy's production of Madama Butterfly.
Here's the full line-up of what's coming our way.
Melbourne mainstage season 2020
Madama Butterfly (May 6-28)
Conductor: Pier Giorgio Morandi, Director: Graeme Murphy
This production brings Puccini's tragedy crashing into the 21st century with chic, contemporary Japanese-inspired designs. Japanese soprano Hiromi Omura, who is known as one of the world's great Butterflys, will play Cio-Cio San.
Lohengrin (May 16-29)
Conductor: Johannes Fritzsch, Director: Olivier Py
Here's one for the serious opera fan – and we don't just say that because it runs to almost four and a half hours. Wagner's otherworldly romance is coming to Melbourne in a new production directed by Olivier Py and starring British tenor David Butt Philip.
Attila (May 25-30)
Conductor: Renato Palumbo, Director: Davide Livermore
Yes, the King of the Huns. This early Verdi opera is about that Attila, and this is the first time it's being performed in Australia. This production by Davide Livermore uses both projections and massive set pieces (and two actual horses) to tell the story of Attila and the prisoner woman who changes him. Taras Berezhansky stars as Attila alongside Italian soprano Anna Pirozzi as Odabella.
Fiddler on the Roof (Nov 12-Dec 20)
Bock and Harnick
Director: Joel Grey
Performed entirely in Yiddish, this production has been praised as the most authentic and moving version of the beloved musical about Tevye and his five daughters living in a Jewish settlement in Russia.
Bran Nue Dae (Jun 11-Jul 12)
Chi and Kuckles
Director: Andrew Ross
This coming-of-age musical about a young Aboriginal boy in 1960s Western Australia is returning for its 30th anniversary. It will feature a new cast of Australian performers and is playing at the Comedy Theatre.
Rembrandt's Wife (Sep 23-26)
Ford and Smith
Conductor: Warwick Stengards, Director: Tabatha McFadyen
Opera Australia is heading to Malthouse Theatre for another contemporary opera Australian opera. Penned by ABC's The Music Show host Andrew Ford and playwright Sue Smith, this opera visits the famous painter late in his life.
See Opera Australia's full season at opera.org.au