Michael Halliwell

The Ghost Sonata (Opera Australia) 

Michael Halliwell
Monday, 16 September 2019

A few years before he wrote his play The Ghost Sonata (1907), August Strindberg bitterly observed: ‘Life is so horribly ugly, we human beings so abysmally evil, that if a writer were to depict all that he had seen and heard no one could bear to read it ... Breeding and education seem only to mask the beast in us, and virtue is a disguise ...

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Oscar and Lucinda (Sydney Chamber Opera) ★★★★☆

Michael Halliwell
Monday, 29 July 2019

Two new Australian operas within the space of a fortnight is by any measure unusual. They are also operas at both ends of the spectrum in terms of scale. Elena Katz-Chernin’s Whiteley utilised the full resources of the major opera company, Opera Australia, including a large chorus, while Elliot Gyger’s Oscar and Lucinda ...

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Whiteley (Opera Australia) ★★★★

Michael Halliwell
Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Unlike the many films about the lives of artists, operas in which visual artists feature are few, though two of the most popular in the repertoire, Puccini’s Tosca and La Bohème, both have painters as central characters. The lives of artists are often messy affairs and resist convenient shaping into narrative arcs, with the actual creative process difficult to dramatise effectively ...

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The Return of Ulysses (Pinchgut Opera) ★★★★

Michael Halliwell
Friday, 14 June 2019

Some of the fascinating, indeed, frustrating aspects of the operas of Claudio Monteverdi include the lack of certainty in regard to both the authenticity of the various musical sources that have survived, and to exactly how these operas were performed, factors that influence performance choices made today ...

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Salome (Opera Australia) ★★★★

Michael Halliwell
Thursday, 07 March 2019

Alex Ross, at the start of his acclaimed survey of twentieth-century music, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the twentieth century, describes in vivid detail the luminaries gathered for one of the first performances of Richard Strauss’s Salome in Graz on 16 May 1906, five months after the Dresden première ...

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Wozzeck (Opera Australia) ★★★★

Michael Halliwell
Tuesday, 29 January 2019

It is often observed that we live in an age of ‘directors’ opera’, where the name of the director precedes the name of the opera, never mind the composer. Yet there remain relatively few directors who have become indelibly associated with a particular visual style. South African William Kentridge is one ...

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Artaserse (Pinchgut Opera) ★★★★

Michael Halliwell
Friday, 30 November 2018

Géraud Corbiau’s rather schlocky biopic, Farinelli (1994) covers an important phase in the career of this most celebrated singer of the early eighteenth century. The establishment of the Opera of the Nobility in the 1730s, with Niccolò Porpora as the main composer, was a direct challenge to Handel’s ...

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Just as we are unlikely today to think of South Wales when in New South Wales, nor does the existence of the Sydney Opera House does not of itself draw our collective attention towards opera. It is a structure more to be seen than heard; its professed reason for ...

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Metamorphosis (Opera Australia) ★★★★

Michael Halliwell
Thursday, 27 September 2018

'When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.’ It issurely one of the most celebrated, and arresting, opening lines in all literature – very ‘Kafkaesque’, in fact! It was just a matter of time before The Metamorphosis ...

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Dry River Run (Queensland Conservatorium) ★★★1/2

Michael Halliwell
Tuesday, 04 September 2018

Australian operas set in the outback are not uncommon, though urban backgrounds are far more prevalent in contemporary works. Contemporary fiction and cinema, by contrast, often have outback and regional Australia as their setting. Several operas engage with the most enduring myths ...

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