You wouldn’t necessarily expect an opera company to be taking on the music of the Who, but that’s exactly what Victorian Opera is doing in its just-announced 2020 season. The company is staging the first professional Australian production of Tommy at the Palais Theatre, with Acid Queens and Pinball Wizards aplenty.
It makes a fair bit of sense when you consider that Tommy is a rock opera in the truest sense of the term: it’s almost completely sung-through (i.e. no dialogue) and tells a story of epic proportions, as the titular “deaf, dumb and blind” kid rises to superstardom thanks to his prodigious pinball talents.
Otherwise, the company’s 2020 season (which marks its 15th anniversary) is a little more traditionally operatic, with operas by Strauss, Schubert alongside more contemporary work. Here’s what the company has in store.
Salome (Feb 22-27)
By Richard Strauss
Director: Cameron Menzies, Conductor: Richard Mills
Strauss’s short thriller of an opera is based on Oscar Wilde’s play of the same name, telling the bloody story of the young princess who demands John the Baptist’s severed head in exchange for her seductive dance. Victorian Opera veteran Cameron Menzies is directing a new production to be performed by Lithuanian soprano Vida Miknevičiūtė, English tenor Ian Storey, contralto Liane Keegan, bass baritone Daniel Sumegi and tenor James Egglestone. Orchestra Victoria will bring to life Strauss’s lush but frequently unsettling score.
The Who’s Tommy (Aug 14-21)
By Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
Director: Roger Hodgman, Musical director: Laura Tipoki
The Who’s enduring rock opera was turned into a star-studded film back in 1975 (who could forget Elton John’s sky-high boots, or Tina Turner’s turn as the Acid Queen) and finally made it to the stage in 1991. The Victorian Opera version will be by award-winning director Roger Hodgman, and is promising a cast of Australian music’s biggest names.
Die Tote Stadt (Aug 21)
By Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Conductor: Simone Young
One of Australia’s finest conductors, Simone Young, will lead this one-night-only concert of Korngold’s richly cinematic opera about a grieving man and a young woman who exactly resembles his recently dead wife. Soprano Marlis Petersen will appear alongside tenor Michael Schade.
Three Tales (Jun 26-27)
By Daniel Keene, Zac Hurren, Dermot Tutty and Stefan Cassomenos
Director: Jane Davidson, Conductor: Richard Mills
Victorian Opera has been a leader in new Australian operas over its 15 years, and will continue that tradition with this adaptation of Gustave Flaubert’s Three Tales. Celebrated playwright Daniel Keene has written the libretto and a different composer will interpret each of the three stories. Katie Noonan will perform ‘A Simple Heart’, the story of a young maid called Felicité.
Die Freunde von Salamanka (Sep 25-26)
By Franz Schubert
Director: Elizabeth Hill-Cooper, Conductor: Fabian Russell
This light-hearted Schubert rom-com has never been performed in Australia, but will feature a cast of emerging singers, aged 13 to 25.
Yma Sumac: The Peruvian Songbird (Jun 18-20)
By Ali McGregor
Director: Cameron Menzies
Ali McGregor’s Helpmann Award-winning cabaret about the popular Peruvian soprano with a five-octave range and an extraordinarily eclectic output is returning for a season at the Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne.
Margaret Fulton the Musical (Sep 15-19)
By Doug Macleod and Yuri Worontschak
This 2012 musical comedy about the late culinary icon is returning for another season, charting Fulton’s rise to national fame.