Richard Gill has the announced the program for his final year at the helm of Victorian Opera.
A hallmark of the company has been the commission of new works, and 2012 will see a seventh commission on stage. Given that other Australian opera companies, as well as many around the world, are inclined to play it safe with popular favourites of late this is indeed an achievement to celebrate.
VO also places importance on education for school age students, as well as providing affordable tickets for young people to experience opera.
Gill proclaimed that he is “bucking the trend by having no theme this year.” He went on to point out that the season “is bookended with classicism.”
The first of these classics is Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, which will be performed at the Playhouse, the Arts Centre in March. Gill shared a recollection that listening to The Rake’s Progress reminded him of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. Researching the opera, he felt vindicated to learn that Stravinsky listened to Cosi fan tutte frequently while composing The Rake’s Progress. Further to this, the themes of The Rake’s Progress, where the girls forgive the men, redress the themes of Cosi fan tutte. John Bell will direct a cast that includes ANdrew Collis (pictured), Tiffany Speight and Roxanne Hislop.
At Easter, VO will present a youth opera: The Play of Daniel. This is actually a medieval miracle work, a style that was the forerunner of opera. Investigating a venue at the State Library, Gill was delighted to discover that the Library was to host Love & Devotion, an exhibition of illuminated Persian manuscripts, which will be the backdrop for the performances. Newcomer Greg Eldridge will direct, with VCA graduates Mel Page and Peter Darby designing sets/costumes and lighting.
In May, VO returns to the Merlyn Theatre at the CUB Malthouse for the world premiere of Midnight Son. Librettist Louis Nowra will direct his work, which is set against the backdrop of suburban Melbourne. Working with composer Gordon Kerry, Nowra has explored how passion and obsession can morally blind otherwise normal people, who lose control of their lives with devastating consequences. Gill described the work as Stephen Sondheim meets Benjamin Britten. Antoinette Halloran (pictured) and Dimity Shepherd feature in the cast.
Gill said that he would do all four popular Mozart operas in his time at VO and he is set to complete this cycle with The Marriage of Figaro in July/August at the Playhouse, the Arts Centre. Acclaimed Director Jean-Pierre Mignon will lead a cast of VO favourites including Andrew Collis, Jacqueline Porter, Dimity Shepherd (pictured) and Roxanne Hislop, with Tiffany Speight making her debut in the role of Countess Almaviva. Bass-baritone David Woloszko will return from London to play Dr Bartolo.
When Gill contacted composer Elliot Carter about pairing his opera What Next? in a double bill with Master Peter’s Puppet Show, he was pleased to find that Carter had already had the same idea. The pair are well matched in that Master Peter’s Puppet Show, based on Don Quixote, ends in tragedy while What Next? begins with tragedy and moves on from there as six people try to recall who they are after a car crash. Black Hole Theatre’s Nancy Black will direct the double bill, to be staged at Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre. Master Peter will be played by Carlos Barcenas (pictured)
The year will end with a Gala Concert at Hamer Hall, which will feature a program Gill (pictured) described as “deeply unchallenging”. The program has not been fully finalized but is to include the coronation scene from Boris Godunov, the act two duet and act three trio from Der Rosenkavelier and the closing scene from Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg. Gill also presented his amusing idea for a 15-minute piece he has cheekily called The Ringlet, which would be all the significant moments of the four operas of Wagner’s Ring Cycle.
Gill gave a preview of a couple of other projects in the pipeline. An upcoming original work will be an opera on the life of Mayakovsky, to be composed by Michael Smetanin with a libretto by Alison Croggon. Gill described his delight in discovering Croggon: “Finding librettists is seriously tough. They are few and far between. I know a librettist when I see one and Alison is a librettist.”
VO will present a January pantomime of Cinderella at Her Majesty’s Theatre featuring Suzanne Johnston as Tickety Boo. There will be a sing-a-long section, give-away prizes and even two specially themed ice cream flavours for sale.
Subscriptions for Victorian Opera’s 2012 season are on sale now, with single tickets available from 1 December 2011.