Enter a world of fantasy in Victorian Opera’s transfixing new production of Respighi’s The Sleeping Beauty, featuring 27 life-sized puppets, at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Playhouse from 11-18 March.

Composed by Ottorino Respighi (The Pines of Rome, The Fountains of Rome), this rarely-performed opera was first staged in Rome in 1922 for one of Italy’s leading marionette puppet theatres; a smash hit, it toured the world to countries including Australia. The production traditionally featured singers performing from the orchestra pit while puppeteers performed the action on stage.

Awakened by the bold imagination of director Nancy Black (Master Peter’s Puppet ShowFour Saints in Three Acts), this production positions singers and puppeteers side by side as a community gathers to retell a classic tale, drawing upon their respective storytelling skills.

“It’s not just a happy, sweet, little sentimental fairy tale, it’s actually a story of resilience and hope. It has something familiar to it and something that’s very strange. I want to engage the audience’s imagination; they’ll watch things transform,” says Black. Watch an extended interview about the production.

Marionette puppets will be replaced with 27 life-sized puppets, spectacularly realised by puppet designer Joe Blanck (Walking with DinosaursKing Kong). Blanck also co-set designs with Ben Cobham (Ghost WifeBluebottle Designs), with lighting design by Phillip Lethlean (Sweeney Todd).

Victorian Opera’s Head of Music Phoebe Briggs conducts Orchestra Victoria and a cast of Australia’s most talented emerging and established singers, including Jacqueline Porter, Liane Keegan, Carlos E. Bárcenas, Zoe Drummond and Shakira Tsindos.

Reflecting on the work, Briggs notes: “Respighi described the opera as an innocent mockery of contemporary melodrama. It’s full of drama, humour and emotion. He was a very clever orchestrator and could create so many different sounds from a relatively small group of instruments. I love hearing the different colours and textures of the orchestra and can’t wait to see how they match the characterisation of the puppeteers and singers.”

After its season at Arts Centre Melbourne, The Sleeping Beauty will travel to Hobart in association with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra as part of Victorian Opera’s ongoing commitment to staging opera in Tasmania; a commitment made possible by The Australia Council for the Arts.

Audiences will fall in love with this transfixing production of The Sleeping Beauty.



11, 14, 15, 17 March 2017, 7:30pm
18 March, 1:00pm
Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse

Bookings: 1300 182 183 or online at artscentremelbourne.com.au


Creative Team

Composer: Ottorino Respighi
Librettist: Gian Bistolfi

Conductor: Phoebe Briggs
Director: Nancy Black
Puppet Design & Construction: Joe Blanck
Co-Set Designers: Ben Cobham & Joe Blanck
Lighting Design: Phillip Lethlean
Choreographic Consultant: Michelle Heaven


The Nightingale: Zoe Drummond
The Cuckoo: Shakira Tsindos
The Frog: Kirilie Blythman
The Ambassador: Timothy Newton
The Blue Fairy: Elizabeth Barrow
The Jester: Timothy Reynolds
The Green Fairy: Juel Riggall
The King: Raphael Wong
The Queen: Sally Wilson
The Old Lady: Liane Keegan
The Princess: Jaqueline Porter
The Cat: Sally Wilson
The Spindle: Kirilie Blythman
A Woodcutter: Stephen Marsh
The Duchess: Liane Keegan
The Prince: Carlos E. Bárcenas
Mister Dollar: Timothy Reynolds
A Villager: Tomas Dalton


Christian Bagin
Vincent Crowley
Nadine Dimitievitch
Hamish Fletcher
Kaira Hachefa
Michelle Heaven
Neal Holmes

Orchestra Victoria