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Canberra Today 22°/26° | Tuesday, February 27, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Opera season promises the best and brightest

Opera Australia will present baroque specialists Pinchgut Opera in its first opera at the Joan Sutherland Theatre performing Handel’s “Theodora” in concert.

OPERA lovers are abuzz about the coming Opera Australia summer season at Sydney Opera House, with guest creative director Lindy Hume’s choices under considerable scrutiny.

Hume, previously touted as a desirable appointment to the directorship of the flagship opera company, was invited to put the season together because the final selection as artistic director, Jo Davies, had not yet arrived from the UK.

Aiming to highlight the “virtuosity and scope of Australian talent” while chalking up a respectable list of international guest artists, Hume’s program sets out to follow the current trope of expressing “the potency of opera in contemporary storytelling”.

Of special note in her program is a series of partnerships with Victorian Opera, Pinchgut Opera, Circa and Opera Queensland, as well as a return to the Sydney Festival program from which OA had been missing.

The summer season features four operas written in the 18th century, a “courageous” move as Sir Humphrey Appleby might have said, considering that with the exception of Mozart’s operas, such work has usually been considered to be like caviar to the general public – expensive but not enjoyed. 

According to Hume: “Each of the directors has placed a uniquely Australian stamp on each of these operas.”

Audiences will be presented with some of Australia’s best and brightest, such as artistic director and chief conductor of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra Jessica Cottis, Aussie directors Sarah Giles and Yaron Lifschitz, and singers Samantha Clarke, Caitlin Hulcup, Michael Smallwood, Helen Sherman and NZ baritone Phillip Rhodes.

First up, Cottis will make her OA debut as conductor, with Australian soprano Samantha Clarke singing Violetta, in Sarah Giles’ production of “La Traviata”, a co-production between Opera Queensland, State Opera of SA and WA Opera, and already seen in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. 

One surefire success will be the engagement of Sydney director Kate Gaul, well-known to Canberra audiences from her production of “HMS Pinafore”, who her Sydney Opera House debut will stage a “fantastical” version of “The Magic Flute”, with Austrian-Spanish Teresa Riveiro Böhm conducting. Soprano Stacey Alleaume and musical theatre identity Ben Mingay will feature. 

Joining forces with Queensland’s physical theatre company Circa, OA will present Gluck’s “Orpheus and Eurydice” as part of the Sydney Festival. Directed by Circa’s Yaron Lifschitz, it’s a co-production with Opera Queensland. French countertenor Christophe Dumaux and Australian soprano Cathy-Di Zhan will star.

Directed by Hume herself for Victorian Opera with Canadian-German tenor Michael Schade in the title role, a production of Mozart’s “Idomeneo” will feature projections by video designer David Bergman that draw on the landscape imagery of Tasmanian filmmakers Rummin Productions.

Here’s the caviar. OA will present baroque specialists Pinchgut Opera in its first opera at the Joan Sutherland Theatre performing Handel’s “Theodora” in concert, with American countertenor Christopher Lowrey returning to reprise the role of Didymus for the company.

Just around the corner is Part 2 of the 2024 OA season, curated by Davies. But that’s quite another story. 

Opera Australia summer season, January 2-March 15.

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Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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