Powerhouse combo director Gale Edwards and designer Brian Thomson (HOSH's Carmen) created this production for Opera Australia's 2011 season – and it has proved a popular hit. Some love La bohème, some loathe it – but there's no doubt that there's plenty of those Puccini earworms (including the famous double-dose back-to-back arias 'Che gelida manina' and 'Mi chiamano Mimi'), and plenty of romance, sex, tragedy and comedy. To that mix, Edwards and Thomson add the sizzle of Weimar Germany (cue topless club girls, red-curtained cabarets, bedazzling frocks, and the best kind of boho threads). This is an eminently accessible, attractive production that will satisfy die-hard romantics, Puccini fans and opera noobs alike. See what else is in the Opera Australia 2017 season.
In our 5-star review of John Bell's Tosca (from its premiere season in 2013) we wrote: "Bell has created a striking production, transposing the action to Nazi-occupied Rome during World War 2, with three magnificent sets that take us from a church to an internment camp. There are some stunning set-pieces; the chorus that closes the first act is a particular highlight, with the men and women of Rome, soldiers and clergy converging in the vestibule of the church in time with Puccini’s striding rhythm, in an exhilarating visual and aural crescendo. This is just excellent stuff, with the kind of compacted, concentrated energy that one expects from the best Shakespeare. If it doesn’t make you fall in love with opera, probably nothing will." From our interview with Sydney's favourite Shakespearen actor and director, John Bell, ahead of his first production for Opera Australia: Composed by Puccini after his wildly popular La bohème, Tosca is a titan in the opera canon now, but it was famously divisive when it premiered in 1900, and in the years following. Even in the ’50s, musicologist Joseph Kernan famously called it a “shabby little shocker.” Director John Bell recounts this anecdote incredulously: “I thought, ‘How can you say that?’ I suppose when it’s done in its original period – with period costumes and all that – it can come across as melodramatic. People associate that kind of costuming and that era with melodrama – and [Tosca] could swing that way.” With this in mi
In Aladdin the Musical, the flying magic carpet really does feel magic. And the dazzling fantasy wish-fulfillment sequence ‘Friend Like Me’ is drenched in glitz, music theatre references, and sleight of hand. It’s dizzying and ambitious – and on opening night, it received a spontaneous standing ovation. Many of the spirited musical numbers – especially ones about adventure, revenge, and the first blush of love – are genuinely engaging. The cast, led by Michael James Scott’s indefatigable Genie, Ainsley Melham’s appealing Aladdin, and Arielle Jacobs’ pure-voiced Jasmine, deliver consistently impressive performances. The rest is more complicated. Disney’s animated Aladdin was released in 1992 in the middle of its feature ‘renaissance period’. It immediately captured young hearts and minds with its sweet and clever music (by Alan Menken) and Robin Williams’ frenetic, winning performance as a powerful genie who helps the hero win the girl. Now that Disney Theatricals is a well-established brand (responsible for transforming Times Square and Broadway into a family-friendly tourist district) it makes sense that they would attempt to transform their Aladdin success into a musical theatre spectacular, with music by Menken (including original numbers but also new songs and songs cut from the film) and a book by Chad Beguelin. But this show is no Lion King. Disney’s original Broadway behemoth had a sense of respect for its source location built into its core, and an alluring digni
Humans have long looked to art to tell us who we are, and theatre can be a particularly potent medium for this kind of soul-searching. Watching a live performance that you can almost reach out and touch gets you up close and personal with a range of emotions, experiences, and opportunities for catharsis: through tears, laughter or even simple self-identification. In Australia, many people have looked to Michael Gow’s Away for these kinds of insights. It’s one of the most popular local plays ever written, a constant on the Australian school syllabus and stages across the country. For its 30 year anniversary, Sydney Theatre Company and Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre have teamed up to present a new production, helmed by Malthouse artistic director Matthew Lutton. Gow’s play shows us an Australia that’s ill at ease with itself. Written in the 1980s and set in the late 1960s, it takes us on a sunny Christmas holiday that’s dark around the edges. Death, war and its ramifications, and xenophobia are always lurking, making their mark on three ordinary families. Harry (Wadih Dona) and Vic (Julia Davis) fled England’s post-war rubble to start a new life in paradise, but their son Tom (Liam Nunan) is terminally ill, and will not have the future they had hoped to provide. Gwen (Heather Mitchell) had her own reaction to the financial hardship World War II: she is thrifty to a fault, following a rigid ‘no treats or surprises’ plan to keep her family – husband Jim (Marco Chiappi) and da
We challenge you to find a bigger tearjerker than this in the opera canon; it's not just the story (based on Alexandre Dumas' popular 1848 novel La Dame aux Camélias) about a courtesan who falls for a young admirer, but sacrifices her chance at happiness for the greater good; it's also Verdi's romantic score. These are why we keep going back to Verdi's opera. This 'old faithful' production by director Elijah Moshinsky, with opulent 19th century design, is also something that audiences keep returning to; it's never long out of circulation for Opera Australia. In 2017 you can see one of three sopranos proven in the role: international star Ermonela Jaho will open the season, followed by Lorina Gore and then Emma Matthews. See what else is in the Opera Australia 2017 season.
With a cast of 32 and a geopolitical narrative, Lucy Kirkwood’s Chimerica is the kind of play you don’t see often in Australia, where arts funding cuts mean we usually see plays of smaller cast sizes in smaller theatres, with less time to develop a work of true scale. Chimerica, however, is big and sweeping – and unapologetically so. The narrative follows an American photojournalist’s search for the near mythological ‘Tank Man’ (a lone figure immortalised in protest by this famous image from the Tiananmen Square massacre) 23 years after he first got the shot. At a higher level, it charts America’s relationship with China, and attempts a ‘psychological profile’ of post-Tiananmen China: a country in which oppressive state and military apparatus seem to operate in the service of Chinese military suppression, and the country’s rapid economic growth. Pivoting between American and Chinese perspectives – and interjecting a British perspective, in the form of Tessa, a consumer research guru investigating the Chinese market on behalf of a credit card company – the play invites us to contemplate basic questions: what is the right side of history? What exactly is the good fight for human rights and human life? Who do we harm when we try to make a difference with our lives and work, and who is harmed by our inaction? Joe (played here by Mark Leonard Winter) is the photographer on a mission; he and his journalist partner Mel (Brent Hill) are facing a near impossible task: there’s no p
It’s 1974, in the heart of Mississippi. Babe, the youngest of the three Magrath sisters, just shot her husband in the stomach. Why? She “didn’t like his looks.” Billed as a Southern gothic tragicomedy, Crimes of the Heart is focused on the lives of three sisters: Lenny (played here by Laura Pike), whose life has been subsumed under caring for her sick grandfather; Meg (Amanda McGregor), who fled their small town for Hollywood and dreams of being a singer; and Babe (Renae Small), the sweetheart would-be killer. The sisters are back in their childhood home after Babe’s arrest. As Babe and her lawyer (Caleb Alloway) work on her case, the sisters face old family secrets. Crimes of the Heart is best known as a 1986 film helmed by Australian director Bruce Beresford and starring Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, and Sissy Spacek, but it began its life as a play by Beth Henley; it picked up a Pulitzer Prize in 1981. The Pulitzer is awarded to distinguished plays “that deal with American life” and for its time the play is reasonably advanced: it features candid discussions of domestic violence, suicide and mental illness, and focuses on the victimisation of women in the American South, and in Western society more broadly. Times have changed since the play and even the film were released. Its bite has dulled over the years and it feels tame rather than revolutionary. Its politics are quaint in the modern world; there are casual references to statutory rape and the worth of women being
They don’t make villains like they used to. Even celebrity baddies in the James Bond franchise rarely seem to be really enjoying themselves, perhaps distracted by Armageddon. Back in Elizabeth I’s day, bad guys on stage put pride and effort into their work, even to the point of gleefully celebrating how much wrongdoing they can get away with. In the 1580s Christopher Marlowe made a business in hyperactive, almost robotic villains; Shakespeare had to compete with them, and with his genius also managed to make these despicable characters human and even sympathetic. Shylock in the comedy The Merchant of Venice is the saddest result, but in The Tragedy of KingRichard III he bestowed the greatest potential for enjoyment. Bell Shakespeare’s Richard 3 tidies up this great sprawling historical drama, keeps the tragedy on its roll, and puts the fun back into its anti-hero lead. To turn a series of real-life historical murders among extended royal families into an entertaining spectator sport requires an actor strong enough to persuade the audience to join in a conspiracy against the other characters and to delight jointly in their suffering. Crucially, in the title role of the physically and morally repulsive Richard, Kate Mulvany’s boyish charm proves irresistible. Even before the famous opening line “Now is the winter of our discontent” is spoken, she has convincingly presented her character in posture and gesture, and we have already signed on to his agenda of dynastic troublema
Imagine losing your career, your reputation and your freedom in the time it took to hold a business meeting. Imagine being defamed in tabloid news. Imagine being sent to a rehab facility when you weren’t suffering from an addiction, and being accused of sharing secrets you had kept staunchly to yourself. And then imagine finding enough belief in humankind to commit a selfless and generous act like donating a kidney. To a man you had never met. To a journalist. Sounds like a fantasy, right? A too-good-to-be true kind of fiction. But this actually happened. Mark Colvin’s Kidney, a new play by Holding the Man scribe Tommy Murphy and currently in its premiere season at Belvoir, is the story of brand manager and Type A careerist Mary-Ellen Field, an Australian expat who counted supermodel Elle Macpherson among her substantial portfolio of clients. It was a gossipy news item about Elle’s private life that sparked Mary-Ellen’s downfall, and it would be years before her apparent confidentiality breach would be recognised as an example of phone hacking – the scandal that swept across the British tabloid media. In the play, Mary-Ellen (played here by Sarah Peirse) is initially difficult to parse – is she an alcoholic? Is she inappropriate, maybe a little delusional, in her quest to clear her name? Is her attachment to Australian journalist Mark Colvin (John Howard) healthy? s their friendship even mutual? It’s difficult to warm up to her, and the first act suffers for it, sitting
In our 5-star review of Gale Edwards' 2013 production of Carmen for the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour series, we described it as "the perfect potion – the glitzy visuals and hyperactive energy of a Broadway musical mixed with world-class opera." It's no wonder it's returning to its harbourside perch at Mrs Macquarie's Point for Autumn 2017. A new cast will take to Brian Thomson's striking stage, including international leads Josè Maria Lo Monaco (as Carmen), Andeka Gorrotxategi (Don José) and Marko Mimica (Escamillo). Read our 5-star review of the 2013 production – then read our guide to doing HOSH like a boss. And get excited. See what else is in the Opera Australia 2017 season.