Dr Johnson famously defined opera as ‘an exotic and irrational entertainment’, and so it proved on the opening night of Opera Australia’s autumn season – at least until the curtain went up. Lights down, photography admonition underway, conductor due any moment, we became aware of a strange incident in the gloom, as a solitary figure – elderly, well-dressed, seated behind the conductor, copious notes in one hand, megaphone in the other – rose to make a statement of some kind. His megaphone technique being rudimentary (perhaps it wasn’t on), little sense could be made of his cause. Genteel chaos ensued as the front row was cleared and various officials spoke to the genial-seeming revolutionary. Finally, after twenty minutes, he was bustled into the wings, to rather uncharitable jeers and catcalls from sections of the audience. Later, during interval, word spread that the agitator was indeed George Dreyfus, the composer, whose grievance with Opera Australia over a commission goes back many decades and is well known to members of the music world.
After this bizarre and indulgent display (so distracting for the performers, and ungenerous coming from a fellow musician), the performance got underway, with the first of two revivals that open this season – Elijah Moshinsky’s production of Rigoletto (★★★½).