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Michael Halliwell

Michael Halliwell

Michael Halliwell studied literature and music at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, at the London Opera Centre, and with Tito Gobbi in Florence. He has sung in Europe, North America, South Africa and Australia and was principal baritone for many years with the Netherlands Opera, the Nürnberg Municipal Opera, and the Hamburg State Opera singing over fifty major operatic roles, including several world premiere productions. He has served as Chair of Vocal Studies and Opera, Pro-Dean and Head of School, and Associate Dean (Research) at the Sydney Conservatorium. He is President of the International Association for Word and Music Studies. His publications include the monographs, Opera and the Novel (Rodopi: 2005); and National Identity on Contemporary Australian Opera: myths reconsidered (Routledge, 2018), as well as many chapters and articles. He still performs regularly and recent CDs include When the Empire Calls (ABC Classics, 2005); O for a Muse of Fire: Australian Shakespeare Settings (Vox Australis, 2013); Amy Woodforde-Finden: The Oriental Song-Cycles (Toccata Classics, 2014); That Bloody Game; Australian WWI Songs (Wirripang, 2015).

Hamlet (Adelaide Festival)

ABR Arts 08 March 2018
It is the fate of nearly all new operas to disappear quickly after an initial run of performances, so it was with much anticipation that Australian audiences had the opportunity to see Brett Dean’s Hamlet, triumphantly premièred at Glyndebourne in June 2017 (I reviewed the opening night for Australian Book Review). The centrepiece of the 2018 Adelaide Festival, the opera has created a real buzz ... (read more)

La Traviata (Opera Australia)

ABR Arts 02 March 2018
It is a particular pleasure for an opera lover, even a hard-bitten critic, to watch a career develop and blossom. Nicole Car, making her role début as Violetta for Opera Australia, is one such singer. Audiences have enjoyed her in a series of important roles, among them Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, Micaëla in Carmen, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, Countess Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, Luisa in V ... (read more)

Michael Halliwell reviews 'The Politics of Opera: A History from Monteverdi to Mozart' by Mitchell Cohen

January–February 2018, no. 398 27 December 2017
A major new exhibition opened at the end of September at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London: Opera: Passion, Power and Politics. The first of the three qualifying terms needs little explanation as a potential subject; as the title of Peter Conrad’s book A Song of Love and Death (1987) has it, opera is popularly seen as the supreme dramatic embodiment of passion in its various forms. The ar ... (read more)

Coronation of Poppea (Pinchgut Opera)

ABR Arts 01 December 2017
The political and sexual machinations on the stage at Angel Place in Sydney, ostensibly depicting an event during the inglorious reign of Emperor Nero in 54–68 CE, might be interpreted in a very contemporary light in terms of politics and society. An opera that represents ruthless political ambition allied to lust, cruelty, corruption, and general amorality, can certainly find any number of pres ... (read more)

Woyzeck In Winter (Landmark Productions / Galway International Arts Festival)

ABR Arts 19 September 2017
The jukebox musical is a fairly recent phenomenon on theatre stages, but has proven to be a popular, and lucrative, method of stringing together a group of popular songs loosely held together by a sometimes attenuated narrative. Mamma Mia! – the collection of ABBA hits that has been running in London since 1999 – is one of the most successful in this genre, but there are many others which expl ... (read more)

Hamlet (Glyndebourne Opera Festival)

ABR Arts 13 June 2017
Three ‘new’ operatic versions of Hamlet in two years: the time is certainly not ‘out of joint’ for Shakespeare. Italian composer and conductor Franco Faccio’s Amleto was successfully premièred in Genoa in 1865, but then had a disastrous performance at La Scala in Milan in 1871. An indisposed tenor playing the murderously challenging title role effectively sabotaged the performance, whic ... (read more)

La Bohème (Opera Australia)

ABR Arts 27 February 2017
The real test of an opera singer is how they sound in an opera theatre. The bane of ‘legitimate’ opera singers’ lives are singers on television talent shows, many of whom describe themselves as ‘opera singers’. They sing the occasional opera aria, frequently transposed into a more comfortable vocal register, but they have never come within cooee of an opera stage. The ultimate operatic t ... (read more)

Porgy and Bess (Sydney Symphony Orchestra)

ABR Arts 28 November 2016
If any work can be dubbed as ‘The Great American Opera’, it is Gershwin’s genre-transgressing masterpiece, Porgy and Bess. It was based on white Southern writer DuBose Heyward’s novel Porgy (1925), as well as on his highly successful stage adaptation of the novel which had been a hit in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Heyward was of Southern ‘aristocratic’ stock, but had strong connect ... (read more)

Sydney Opera House: The Opera (The Eighth Wonder)

ABR Arts 31 October 2016
‘Music defies time but needs its timekeepers. Even beauty must sometimes grasp the grubby helping hand of the real world.’ Dennis Watkins Opera and politics are closely intertwined. The commissioning, composition, and performance of opera have been used as a political instrument in many different contexts, while the actual presentation of opera has often had an overtly political dimension, w ... (read more)

Two productions of 'Così fan tutte' (Opera Australia and Vienna's Volksoper)

ABR Arts 25 July 2016
Mozart's third great collaboration with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte, Così fan tutte, has enjoyed a chequered performance history since its première in the Burgtheater in Vienna in 1790, a year before Mozart's death. Its initial series of performances were interrupted by the death of Emperor Joseph II, and bad luck seemed to dog the opera throughout much of its early performance history. While th ... (read more)
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