As the summer holidays end and the Sydney Festival wraps up, Sydneysiders contemplate the start of a wealth of subscription series. Despite the struggle to survive and intense competition for audiences and sponsorship, performing arts companies will offer Sydneysiders numerous opportunities for their delectation, ranging from rare one-offs, through to the equivalent of an evening with old friends. In a series of previews, SoundsLikeSydney looks at what’s in store for Sydney’s music lovers in 2012.
Opera Australia is traditionally first off the blocks and has already opened with The Magic Flute, based on the ingenious production by Julie Taymoor (http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/opera/ingenious-rethink-casts-beguiling-spell-20120107-1pp9h.html). Running in parallel is a well loved production of Turandot vividly directed and choreographed by Graeme Murphy (http://soundslikesydney.com.au/reviews/a-stirring-and-insightful-musical-experience-turandot-reviewed/6191.html and http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/opera/timeworn-fable-where-magical-shapes-haunt-the-memory-20120118-1q6d1.html).
In a landmark first for Sydney, Opera Australia will present a 3 week season of La Traviata in Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, in March – April. Directed by Francesca Zambello, this is a bold venture for acoustics and logistics which takes opera out of the theatre and onto a stage on the harbour. Fireworks and a chandelier above the stage against the ready made scenery of the city skyline, harbour bridge and the opera house itself, will frame the alternating cast. Emma Matthews and Rachelle Durkin share the role of Violetta; Gianluca Terranova and Ji-Min Park take the role of Alfredo and Jonathan Summers and Warwick Fyfe alternate in the role of Georgio Germont.
In an otherwise conservative year of programming, Opera Australia presents Erich Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt in July. Following his brilliantly conceived productions of A Streetcar Named Desire and Of Mice and Men, director Bruce Beresford returns with his unique cinematographic perspective to the opera stage in this father and son collaboration (Korngold’s father Julius wrote the libretto under the pseudonym Paul Schott) that enjoyed enormous popularity after its premiere in 1920. It was already the third successful opera for the 20 year old Korngold. Politics and war saw it sidelined (Korngold was Jewish), until recently when the opera was revived. It has enjoyed successful seasons in London at the Royal Opera, Vienna State, San Francisco, Bonn and the Opera Bastille.
In July, Sydney welcomes back soprano Jessica Pratt singing the role of Leila in The Pearlfishers. Pratt is forging a substantial career in Europe, with roles at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden (the Queen of the Night in February 2011), Teatro Fenice, Venice (Miss Lucia in Lucia di Lammamoor), Terme di Caracalla, Rome (Gilda in Rigoletto) and Salerno (Juliette in Romeo et Juliette).
Bass John Wegner too maintains a stellar, award winning transcontinental career that spans Europe and Australia. Recently he appeared in Sydney as Scarpia in Tosca and Claggart in Billy Budd. In October John Wegner sings the role of Jokanaan in Salome with the charismatic Cheryl Barker in the title role – a partnership that holds great promise.
The fledgling Sydney Chamber Opera focusing on 20th and 21st century works, already has an impressive list of productions to its name and in 2012, presents three programmes, of which two are Australian premieres – Philip Glass’ In the Penal Colony in March, and George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill, paired with Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale in July; in November they present Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Lighthouse. Collaborations with directors Imara Savage from Bell Shakespeare (Glass), Sarah Giles from the Sydney Theatre Company (Stravinsky/Benjamin) and Kip Williams (Maxwell Davies) hold the promise of varied and robust drama. Add the artistic punch of contemporary vocal ensemble Halcyon who will join the SCO in The Soldier’s Tale and the company is well on its way to staking its claim in modern opera.
News of Pinchgut Opera’s 2012 production is eagerly awaited. Each year since its inauguration in 2002, it has presented just one Baroque opera at the same time each year, the first weekend in December. This one annual offering has consistently achieved impeccable standards in performance as well as an anthology of acclaimed recordings.
The singers at Rockdale Opera are already preparing for their production of The Gondoliers in April; with The Marriage of Figaro to follow in August and The Man of La Mancha in November.
Pacific Opera present their gala on Friday 30th March at Parliament House, at which they will introduce their Young Artists for 2012.