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
When it was announced that Julie Andrews was going to direct a production of My Fair Lady in Australia, lifelong fans started salivating immediately. When she explained that it would be an exact replica of the original 1956 Broadway production in which she starred and made her name, doubts began to creep in. Could you possibly recreate the magic and allure of what was at the time the greatest musical theatre success story ever? And even if you could, why would you? What could a hoary old production, trapped in amber, have to say to modern audiences, even those primed for nostalgia?The answers are surprisingly multi-layered, even contradictory. It is, of course, impossible to know exactly how faithful the production is moment by moment without a time machine and a photographic memory, but certainly the sets (Oliver Smith) and costumes (Cecil Beaton) are verifiably precise, and the choreography breaks its back to seem authentic. My Fair Lady had several runs, on the West End and in revivals, and this 60th anniversary production aims to collate all that the designers learnt along the way. It means we have a gorgeous period motorcar that was intended for, but never appeared in, a scene on the road to Ascot. It means we get details, in both the scenic and lighting design, that have been augmented and refined, according to the production’s evolution. If that constitutes a replica, then maybe the concept isn’t so absurd.Lerner and Loewe’s musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s