Opera Australia Blog

Weekly round-up: Sex, violence and real-life tragedies – do they have a place in modern opera?

Rinat Shaham as Carmen in Opera on Sydney Harbour.  Photo by James Morgan.

Rinat Shaham as Carmen in Opera on Sydney Harbour.
Photo by James Morgan.

Opera on television, a critical smack-down for modern opera and a little Verdi for the composer’s 200th anniversary.

For the Diary

AUSTRALIAN readers have their Sunday afternoons sorted: ABC television is screening Carmen on Sydney Harbour, starring Rinat Shaham as the smouldering title character. Tune in at 2.30pm on Sunday, October 13th to relive the magic.

The production has also been nominated in the NSW Tourism Awards. Cast your vote in the People’s Choice Awards to be in the running for great prizes!

THE STATE Opera of South Australia is bringing “pop-up opera” to Adelaide’s restaurants, shopping centres and galleries in a bid to engage a different audience to those that might come to the theatre. The company is also opening the Opera Conference production of The Force of Destiny tomorrow. Toi toi toi! Tickets here.

Around the Web

  • HERE IS a lovely read about a well-received Ring cycle at the Longborough Festival Opera – proving there’s a place for Wagner in theatres of all sizes and opera companies of all budgets. Look out for one woman’s hilarious misunderstanding of the famous “Ride of the Valkyries”. (In other Ring-related news, the Opera Australia Ring company move into the theatre for rehearsals next week. The countdown to the Melbourne Ring Cycle 2013 is ticking away!)
  • AN ADELAIDE production company is creating an opera based on the real-life cold case of the missing Beaumont children, an undertaking which has touched a nerve in the community. SINGular Productions artistic director Adam Goodburn said the opera tells a story of love and loss. UPDATE: State Opera of South Australia, which is involved in the project, has posted a thoughtful response to concerned Australians here.

DISCUSS: What do you think? Are real life tragedies appropriate material for contemporary opera? Would the reaction be different if it was a play?

  • UK OPERA critic Rupert Christiansen has delivered a smackdown for modern opera productions, deploring the “knee-jerk inclusion of sex and violence” in contemporary stagings of opera. But Christiansen also slams “rubbishy trad [traditional] productions deadened by ruffs, fans and powdered wigs”. His issue actually appears to be with bad directors:
“Stop patronising us and let the music speak!” – Rupert Christiansen, Daily Telegraph

Someone should point out to Christiansen that even two centuries ago, the morally upright would frown upon opera productions for their moral misdemeanours. Verdi’s La traviata was criticised from the get-go as a tale of immorality – and then promptly defended by anyone who had seen Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

“People say the plot’s immoral, but I don’t see that it’s so much worse than many others. Not to speak of Don Giovanni, which as put on the stage is little but rampant lechery!” – George Templeton Strong, 1856

Just for fun

  • Closer to home, Lorina Gore offers up her favourite mudcake recipe in celebration of Verdi’s birthday and Stuart Skelton mixes up a special Verdi-inspired cocktail for the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth.
  • And finally, since it’s Verdi’s birthday week, here’s a little clip to celebrate the composer’s legacy in popular culture: Richard Gere and Julia Roberts meet La traviata in Pretty Woman. {Spoiler alert: this is the end of the film}.


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