This year marks Victorian Opera’s tenth anniversary, and so far, the company has offered highly successful, innovative productions alongside more traditional pieces featuring world-class performers. The VO's 2016 season – launched by artistic director Richard Mills – branches even further out into unfamiliar territory, and opera enthusiasts and lovers of the performing arts have plenty of reasons to get excited.
‘Different dreams’ was the theme of the launch, for good reason: the first production of the year will be Voyage to the Moon (Feb 15-19) which will see director Michael Gow blend Baroque operas into an entertaining pastiche, featuring respected Australian soprano Emma Matthews and leading mezzo Sally-Anne Russell.
A highlight is sure to be Banquet of Secrets (March 1-5), created by Australian author, screenwriter, comedian and producer Steve Vizard and celebrated composer Paul Grabowsky in tune with the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. The show – starring the brilliant Antoinette Halloran, who stole the show in the VO’s recent production of Sweeney Todd – will see four friends sharing a meal live on stage (created by chef Philippe Mouchel) and swapping secrets.
Anyone who encountered the divine voice of Jessica Pratt in the VO’s staging of I Puritaniseveral months ago would need no convincing to see Lucia di Lammermoor (April 12-21), in which she’ll be returning from Europe’s premier opera houses to sing her defining role.
Earlier this year, the Victorian Opera filled the Palais Theatre with Wagner’s dramatic Flying Dutchman, a benchmark work made contemporary with immersive 3D technology. The VO will follow up on this with a production of Laughter and Tears (Aug 13-18), created with Circus Oz with strong elements of Commedia dell’Arte, directed by Olivier Award-winning director Emil Wolk.
3D technology will appear again in 2016, with the Australian premiere of the musical Four Saint in Three Acts (Sep 30-Oct 1) by Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein, performed 82 years after it premiered in Broadway. Staged as a youth opera, the piece will tell the story of Spanish saints in the 16th century. Fifty special guests will also have the opportunity to have dinner with ‘Gertrude Stein’ and her muse Toklas – brought to life by Australian arts innovator Robyn Archer and soprano Merlyn Quaife.
Artistic director Richard Mills has written a new opera for children – The Pied Piper (Jul 28-29)– which will be the next touring project after the success of this year’s Remembrance and 2013’s The Magic Pudding: the Opera. Families are also invited to a retelling of Cinderella (Jul 16).
Says Richard Mills: “2016, a year of different dreams, new operas from old music, new work on traditional themes, gastronomic subjects, evenings of musical nonsense assisted by cutting-edge technologies, blood, murder, laughter and tears: all the ingredients that give our art form a grand and rich power.”
What's on stage in Melbourne?
Read about The Book of Mormon $40 ticket lottery. It can be difficult for Australian audiences to receive any international musical without certain preconceptions: the rumours of greatness tend to wash onto our shores long before the tour has even been announced. When one of the biggest Broadway hits of the millennium rolls into town, the sense of expectation can be dangerously high. The Book of Mormon comes with the kind of ecstatic hype usually found accompanying a messiah. Instead, Elders Price and Cunningham turn up – which is possibly less shattering, but ultimately way more fun. The unlikely genesis of this mega-hit is well documented; suffice to say that Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the brains behind South Park and Team America, made an unholy alliance with Robert Lopez, the creator of dirty puppet porn Avenue Q, to create this monstrous satire of everything. The result is a show as perverse as it is heartfelt, as clever as it is moving. It really is as good as they say. The opening number, ‘Hello’, sets the tone as deftly and memorably as ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’defines the parameters of Oklahoma! The scene is familiar to us all: a bunch of trainee missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints are ringing on doorbells, keen to share the news “of this amazing book”. Their squeaky grins and infectious positivity are so aligned with the traditional image of the Broadway musical that the sparkly vests and tap routines that soon follow feel like a
One of the most fiendishly difficult things to program is a ballet triple bill: three short pieces that speak to each other and also stand alone as individual artistic expressions. The latter requirement is easy; it’s the former that tends to stump programmers. Australian Ballet’s new triple bill, Faster, takes as its overriding theme the idea of the human body as an excellence machine; it explores the point at which organisms reach heights of perfection, and the ways in which a pursuit of personal excellence might contribute to a subsequent lack of connectivity. The result is a triple bill of almost uncanny resonances, of echoes and counter arguments. In short, it makes a complex whole out of disparate and conflicting parts. The opening ballet, despite some spectacular and rousing moments, is the weakest. David Bintley choreographed Faster for the 2012 London Olympics, in collaboration with Australian composer Matthew Hindson and – while it has a driving, insistent quality that means to reference Ancient Greek notions of prowess and valiance – it tends to comes across as hubristic and glib. The final section turns the repetitive, exhausting grammar of fitness into something resembling a communal act, but it treats the concept of physical perfection as an unexamined absolute ideal. Given its genesis as a piece of Olympic propaganda, it’s hard to shake the Riefenstahlian overtones. The final piece is also choreographed by an Englishman, Wayne McGregor, and deals in some ways