Struggling to decide what to see? We take you through what’s on offer in 2014 in the Opera Australia Sydney season, complete with cheat notes and talking points for interval.
The ever-heartbreaking La bohème opens the 2014 season for Opera Australia, heralding what the rest of the year has to offer: glitzy costumes, high drama, big emotions and stirring music. In January, Gale Edwards’ sumptuous production of Puccini’s classic returns to the Sydney Opera House stage with its spectacular cabaret-style designs. Newcomers and opera-lovers alike will find themselves swept up in this tale of four penniless artists who dream big dreams and warm themselves on the fires of love (in the absence of fuel or food).
See it if you like: a good cry, Rent the musical
Talking point: Edwards’ production moves the action to 1930s Berlin, a glittering yet decaying world of feather boas and sequins, where artists struggle to survive
Colourful giant puppets bring Mozart’s The Magic Flute to life in an enchanting family-oriented production by Julie Taymor. This production is a condensed version of Mozart’s classic, sung in English to maximise accessibility for families. The story follows a prince on a dangerous adventure that will challenge his ideas about good and evil. It is returning to the Sydney Opera House by popular demand.
See it if you like: magical fantasies, giant puppets, family fun
Talking point: Taymor created this production for The Metropolitan Opera, after making her name designing The Lion King
Long-lost lovers, mistaken identities and the odd culture clash make for an amusing opera in Rossini’s The Turk in Italy. Gabriela Tylesova has designed a colourful world set in a 1950s Italian seaside town for Simon Phillips’ new production of this rarely-performed opera. Expect bikinis and bellinis as some of the world’s best comic performers gather to form the ensemble cast!
See it if you like: La Dolce Vita style, fifties fever, comedy and opera buffa
Talking point: this opera has never been professionally staged in this country.
The dark and beautiful Carmen has been captivating hearts for generations. In this classic production by Francesco Zambello, two Latin firebrands take the lead role: Nancy Fabiola Herrera and Milijana Nikolic. Watch Bizet’s tale of lust and love come to life in this period production wear the women wear corsets and the men ride horses. Even a first-timer will recognise many of the tunes in this popular opera.
See it if you like: thrilling tragedies, bullfighting
Talking point: this production features a live stallion on stage
Eugene Onegin is an opera for those who want to be moved. Based on Alexander Pushkin’s famous novel in verse, the story is a Russian epic involving unrequited love, jealous passions, a violent duel and unfulfilled desires. Coming to Opera Australia direct from the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, this new production is a spectacular realisation of Tchaikovsky’s tragedy.
See it if you like: beautiful music, huge emotions, Anna Karenina
Talking point: Covent Garden’s creative team including Artistic Director Kasper Holten are coming to Australia to stage this beautiful opera.
HANDA OPERA ON SYDNEY HARBOUR
Puccini’s glorious music tells a story of clashing cultures, love and lost hope. In Madama Butterfly, an American visitor takes a Japanese bride, and callously leaves her behind when he returns to his homeland. For her, it’s true love but for him, it’s fantasy. Her despair will break your heart and touch even the most cynical opera-goer. Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour has become the cultural event of the year: staged on the glittering water-top set, looking out to the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s a perfect setting for this tragic tale of paradise lost.
See it if you like: big experiences, heartbreaking arias, Sydney Harbour
Talking point: World-renowned specialists in large-scale theatre design, La Fura dels Baus return to Sydney to stage this production, and have promised to bring out the wider tragedy underpinning Puccini’s classic .
SYDNEY WINTER SEASON
Verdi himself believed he would never write a greater ensemble than the glorious quartet in the last act of Rigoletto. It takes serious vocal power to sing the spectacular music at the heart of his tale of lust and violence, so the cast for Rigoletto is a true melting pot of international artists and Australian stars. This new period production will be directed by Roger Hodgman and designed by Richard Roberts and Tracy Grant Lord.
See it if you like: thriller films, period costumes, spectacular music
Talking point: the all-star cast: Giorgio Caoduro and José Carbó sharing the title role, Gianluca Terranova and Diego Torre playing the Duke and Emma Matthews singing the doomed Gilda.
True love can always inspire passionate hate, and Iago is a brilliant manipulator of both emotions in Otello. Shakespeare’s devastating tale of love and vengeance becomes more passionate when set to Verdi’s beautiful music. This luscious production comes from German director Harry Kupfer.
See it if you like: Shakespeare’s tragedies, heroes and villians
Talking point: Rising young Australian soprano Nicole Car makes her role debut as Desdemona, sharing with audience favourite Tamar Iveri. New Zealand’s famed tenor Simon O’Neill plays the title role.
Italy’s famous Don Juan is given a violent twist in this popular Mozart opera, as Don Giovanni works his lustful way through a small town. The opening notes of the overture warn the audience that the libertine’s days are numbered. Acclaimed Scottish opera director Sir David McVicar comes to Australia to create a new Don Giovanni for the man who had made the role his own: Teddy Tahu Rhodes.
See it if you like: psychological drama, just desserts, famous tunes, Teddy Tahu Rhodes
Talking point: Sir David McVicar is creating a name for himself as one of the world’s best directors. What will he have in store for Don Giovanni? This is the first of three Mozart operas McVicar will take on for Opera Australia in coming years.
A lovestruck labourer and a squatter’s daughter: it could be a Banjo Patterson poem. But it’s actually Simon Phillips’ charming take on Donizetti’s patter piece, The Elixir of Love. A brilliant cast of comic singers including Rachelle Durkin, Aldo Di Toro, Samuel Dundas, Conal Coad and Katherine Wiles unite on stage. Gabriela Tylesova designed the production which is beautifully set in 1915 country Australia.
See it if you like: Don Pasquale, comic opera and historic Australia
Talking point: Watch out for the spectacular soprano entrance: on a corrugated iron horse!
The King and I is a classic musical and this smash-hit production won award after award on Broadway. When an English widow arrives in Siam to teach the children of the King, not everything is as she expected. Wonderful orchestration provides the soundtrack to a tale of blossoming love and cultural understanding.
See it if you like: Rodgers & Hammerstein, period costume, waltzy tunes
Talking point: This Christopher Renshaw production actually premiered in Australia before heading to Broadway to sweep the awards.
Subscriptions are now open for the 2014 season. Single tickets go on sale on September 23.