Opera Australia Blog

Weekly roundup: Ring cycle reviews, Britten’s birthday and the future of Opera

Dominica Matthews, Jane Ede & Lorina Gore as The Rhinemaidens with the Sea of Humanity in Opera Australia's The Melbourne Ring Cycle 2013.  Photo by Jeff Busby

Dominica Matthews, Jane Ede & Lorina Gore as The Rhinemaidens with the Sea of Humanity in Opera Australia’s The Melbourne Ring Cycle 2013.
Photo by Jeff Busby

Melbourne has been overtaken by a slight Wagnerian fever this week. With the premiere of Opera Australia’s first Ring cycle on Monday, Wagner nuts and first-timers have come out of the woodwork and the sheer buzz is fascinating.

Also, Ring cycle reviews, some great Britten pieces in honour of the composer’s birthday and a must-read article on the future of opera (it’s fascinating).

  • Get a glimpse of some of the social media buzz (just from those using the official hashtag #melbournering) here.
  • If you’re yet to see a glimpse of the (until-now) secret design aesthetic for the Ring, click on these links to see photo galleries of Das Rheingold and Die Walküre.
  • For some context, it’s worth revisiting this article where Neil Armfield explains his vision for the epic cycle. Alice Babidge talks about her costume designs here.
  • Reviews are coming in thick and fast and so far, the audience response has been rapturous. If you’d like to read more, follow these links:

Das RheingoldSydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Australian, The Herald Sun, The Daily ReviewCrikey, The Guardian, Limelight

Die WalküreSydney Morning Herald, The Age, Crikey, The Daily Review, The Guardian, Limelight, The Australian

For the Diary

Ingrid Tufts worked with local illustrators to create her beautiful Ring-inspired hand-thrown coffee beakers

Ingrid Tufts worked with local illustrators to create her beautiful Ring-inspired hand-thrown coffee beakers

  • A pop-up shop with a difference has sprung up in the Arts Centre Melbourne to celebrate the arrival of the Ring cycle, and with a bunch of Melbourne designers involved, it’s well worth a visit. Read more here.
  • There’s still a chance to hear the Opera Australia Chorus in Concert as part of the Melbourne Ring Festival.
  • A limited number of tickets to Mazda Opera in the Bowl will be available at the gate on Saturday. Gates open at 4pm, and there’s plenty of fun to be had. Some beloved Opera Australia artists will sing the opera classics while a 400-strong mass of community choirs will perform with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

There will be #operadressups and plenty of fun to be had, plus we’ve got a prize for the best picnic on the night! (Trust me, that’s a competition worth entering.)

This short video takes a look at Community Choirs and the joy of hundreds of voices in concert.

  • ABC Classic FM will broadcast Opera Australia’s 2013 production of Albert Herring on Sunday night. It’s a beautiful work sung by a talented ensemble cast and played by a chamber group of the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra.

Around the web

A 1968 publicity shot of Benjamin Britten, taken for High Fidelity magazine. Public Domain

A 1968 publicity shot of Benjamin Britten, taken for High Fidelity magazine.
Public Domain.

  • It’s Benjamin Britten’s birthday today, so we revisit this wonderful audio interview with the author Ronald Blythe as he remembers Britten. The Spectator investigates the darker side of Benjamin Britten here, and the New York Times reviews a biography of the man himself (it’s a nice read).
  • Opera Australia has picked up an Australian Event Award for Yarrabah! The Musical, a community project that touched the hearts of everyone that worked on it. Read more here.
  • When the New York City Opera filed for bankruptcy last month, there was plenty of speculation about what went wrong and fear about the future of classical music. Jeremy Polacek thinks he has the answer, and it’s a really good read.

Under the headline “Anna Nicole Smith killed the New York City Opera”, Polacek argues the company is responsible for its own demise.

He also addresses the bigger problem opera faces in today’s society – in beautiful prose.

“The real problem is our phobia of unblunted emotion. We seldom admit to being moved, stirred, or crushed by art. Rather, we’re more apt to ridicule something for being overly emotional or mock someone who is. We tightly seal off our feelings—insulated by a thick coat of irony—and avoid bearing big, overt desires and reactions. Opera is our opposite, a sentimental, exaggerated doppelganger. Characters in opera don’t share their feelings so much as disgorge them. Performances teem with huge, unburdened emotions. To an audience ironically allergic to such unalloyed sentiment, opera can seem a most strange, outlandish thing. We’re turning away from opera because we don’t always understand it.”

It’s a must read. Full article here.

  • Over in the UK, opera commentator Rupert Christiansen argues that “opera is not ready to lie down and die just yet”. Read his piece here.

Just for fun

  • Leonardo Da Vinci invented a musical instrument. 500 years later, we’re hearing it for the first time.
  • 12 things no one ever told you about learning a musical instrument.

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