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The Update - October 24, 2017

ABR Arts 24 October 2017

The Update - October 24, 2017

ABR Arts 24 October 2017

 AA 24 Oct

Recent ABR Arts reviews

Arts Highlights of the Year

What were your highlights of the year? Soon you will be able to read what the ABR critics loved. To celebrate the year’s memorable plays, films, concerts, operas, ballets, television and exhibitions, we have invited twenty-six critics and arts professionals to nominate some personal favourites. Contributors will include Rosalind Appleby, Robyn Archer, Ian Dickson, Harry Windsor, Anwen Crawford, Andrew Ford, Michael Halliwell, Tony Grybowski, Susan Lever, Brian McFarlane, Peter Rose, Leo Schofield, and Andrea Goldsmith. Arts Highlights of the Year appears in our November issue (available on the 1st)

Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy

Many contributors to Arts Highlights of the Year have nominated the Glyndebourne production of Handel’s Saul and the revival of The Secret River. Leo Schofield – who also lauded the rather more polarising Richard III from Lars Eidinger – remarked, ‘The once-great Adelaide Festival has finally its mojo back.’

If the 2017 Festival was good, the 2018 one promises to be even better, so it was terrific to learn, just as we were going to press, that Joint Artistic Directors Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy will direct two further Festivals, culminating in 2021. What a coup for Adelaide – and for lovers of adventurous and spectacular theatre of all kinds.

The Update Rachel Healy Barrie Kosky Neil Armfield at the 2017 Adelaide Festival photograph by William YangRachel Healy, Barrie Kosky, and Neil Armfield at the 2017 Adelaide Festival (photograph by William Yang)


2018 Adelaide Festival

The Adelaide Festival will run from 2 to 18 March, with four world premières and fourteen Australian premières. There are highlights aplenty. Brett Dean’s Hamlet, first seen at Glyndebourne and directed by Neil Armfield, is already much anticipated – and selling fast, ABR Arts understands (there are only three performances).

Adelaide will finally see Ex Machina’s The Far Side of the Moon. Previously staged in forty-five cities around the world, Far Side is considered one of the greatest works by Robert Lepage.

Four very different divas dominate the program: Grace Jones, returning to Adelaide after thirty-six years; Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, Kate Miller-Heidke (joining the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra), and the great Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, who will give two recitals.

Grace Jones Fremantle Park 17 4 2011 5648773026Grace Jones (photograph by Stuart Stevestos, Wikimedia Commons)


Theatrical highlights include a revival of Simon Stone’s Belvoir production of Seneca’s Thyestes and Patricia Cornelius’s In the Club, to be directed by Geordie Brookman for the State Theatre of South Australia. Full program details are now available on the Adelaide Festival website

Shostakovich and Ashkenazy

Lovers of Dmitri Shostakovich will be kept busy in mid-November when Vladimir Ashkenazy returns to conduct two separate programs over six evenings. They feature two of the Russian composer’s most celebrated symphonies – the Fifth and the Eighth – one exultant, the other, done well, quite shattering.

The first program (November 10, 11, 13) features the Passacaglia from the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, the Violin Concerto No. 1 performed by Ray Chen, and the Leningrad Symphony. The second program (November 215, 17, 18) includes the Cello Concerto No. 1 (played by Daniel Müller-Schott) and the mighty Eighth Symphony. For more information, visit the Sydney Symphony Orchestra website.

Roberto Devereux – Melbourne Opera

Last year the Metropolitan Opera House performed Donizetti’s royal trilogy in quick succession, with Sondra Radvanovsky playing all three queens – quite a feat. (Currently Ms Radvanovsky is being heard in the title-role of Bellini’s Norma at the Met: Ian Dickson has just reviewed it for ABR Arts.)

Melbourne Opera – rather smaller than the Met – has taken a little longer with these three characterful bel canto operas. Following Mary Stuart in 2015 and Anna Bolena in 2016, the company will perform Roberto Devereux, Donizetti’s 1837 opera about Elizabeth and Essex – one of the great romantic dramas of the Tudor queen’s long reign.

Rosamund Illing was to play Elizabeth, but Helena Dix will now sing the role between engagements at the Met. Henry Choo, always fine, will sing the role of Essex. Greg Hocking and Raymond Lawrence will conduct the five performances, from November 11 to 25 (the latter of them at Monash University after an initial season at the Athenaeum Theatre.)

Courtesy of Melbourne Opera, we have two double passes to the second performance of Roberto Devereux (14 November) for new or renewing subscribers. For more information, see our giveaways section below.

Katie Noonan and Michael Leunig

Singer–songwriter Katie Noonan and her band Elixir will team up with cartoonist Michael Leunig and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra for a spoken word, improvisation, and live drawing performance at the Sydney Opera House on 2–4 November 2017.

Katie NoonanKatie Noonan and Elixir


‘With the music we make in Elixir, I felt [Michael Leunig’s] words would be the perfect fit for our similarly contemplative and intimate world ... it has been a match made in heaven,’ said Kate Noonan.

For more information, visit the SSO’s website.

Mapping Melbourne 2017

Multicultural Arts Victoria has announced the 2017 program for Mapping Melbourne, a series of arts events celebrating Asian-Australian identity. Established and emerging artists from countries including China, India, Vietnam, and Indonesia will present theatre, exhibitions, dance, and multi-media workshops in fourteen venues across Melbourne. Mapping Melbourne will launch at the MPavilion venue at Queen Victoria Gardens, St Kilda Road on Thursday, 30 November 2017, 6–9 pm.

Russian Revolution and Anton Chekhov

The Russian Revolution is all the rage this October. Professor Mark Edele’s centenary lecture at the University of Melbourne drew in a huge audience last week. His review essay ‘Why should you care about the Russian Revolution?’, which was published in the October issue of ABR, is now open access on ABR Online.

Now comes Tchekov at the House of Special Purpose, a production at Melbourne’s La Mama Theatre about the final summer of Nicholas II and his family – the last of the Romanovs. Written by R. Johns, with reference to Chekov’s Three Sisters, and directed by Russian-born actor Alex Menglet, the focus of this production is on the daughters of the murdered tsar. Tchekov at the House of Special Purpose will run from 25 October to 5 November 2017 at La Mama Courthouse.

Russian Imperial Family 1913 ABR ArtsNicholas II with family (left to right) Olga, Maria, Nicholas II, Alexandra Fyodorovna, Anastasia, Alexei, and Tatiana. (Wikimedia Commons)


Hewing more closely to Chekov’s work will be the upcoming Sydney Theatre Company production of Three Sisters, directed by Kip Williams. Andrew Upton’s adaptation will delve into the lives of the central characters Irina, Masha, and Olga and will bring a more contemporary sensibility to Chekov’s classic. STC’s Three Sisters will be performed at the Sydney Opera House from 6 November to 16 December 2017, and Ian Dickson will review it for ABR Arts.

Birdcage Thursdays at fortyfivedownstairs

La Mama Theatre has joined forces with support service ‘For the Crowded House’, to produce Birdcage Thursdays, a play that candidly discusses and destigmatises hoarding.

Birdcage Thursdays

Belongings pile up as an ageing mother resists her adult daughter every step of the way towards an important inspection. Performed in the round to a rhythm of telephone calls, bird sounds, lawn bowls, and dance moves, Birdcage Thursdays is physical theatre which candidly reveals some of the underlying trauma of hoarding, a serious mental health issue. Sandra Fiona Long wrote the play in consultation with a specialist from 'For the Crowded House', and drew on her own family’s experience with hoarding. Birdcage Thursdays will be playing at fortyfivedownstairs from 2 to 12 November 2017.

Thanks to fortyfivedownstairs, we are giving away two double passes to Birdcage Thursdays on Saturday, 4 November 2017. For more details see our giveaways section below.

Thirty years of Boomalli

In 1987, a group of ten artists from New South Wales began their own ‘urban’ artist co-operative in response to the lack of progress in Aboriginal affairs since the 1967 referendum. The Boomalli Aboriginal Arts Co-operative’s founding members (The ‘Boomalli Ten’) were diverse in terms of age, gender, and artistic training. They were: Bronwyn Bancroft, Euphemia Bostock, Brenda L. Croft, Fiona Foley, Fernanda Martins, Arone Raymond Meeks, Tracey Moffatt, Avril Quaill, Michael Riley, and Jeffrey Samuels.

Founding Members of Boomalli Aborginal Arts Co operative known as the Boomalli Ten ABR ArtsThe Boomalli Ten


‘Their art used western school technologies, concepts and metaphors to tell their same but different Aboriginal history and personal struggles and triumphs. They were Aboriginal, and they were artists, and would not be denied their recognition, voice or place in history,’ said Djon Mundine, who will be curating a thirty year anniversary exhibition showcasing works by the Boomalli Ten on Friday, 3 November 2017 at the Boomalli Gallery in Leichardt, Sydney.

Riccardo Muti to conduct the Australian World Orchestra

Italian maestro Riccardo Muti will return to Australian for the first time in fifteen years to conduct three concerts for the Australian World Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House and Arts Centre Melbourne in May 2018.

Riccardo Muti ABR ArtsRiccardo Muti‘We are absolutely delighted that Maestro Riccardo Muti will conduct the AWO in 2018. There’s a huge sense of anticipation from the musicians about performing with this great conductor,’ said AWO’s Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Alexander Briger.

Among the many honours he has garnered over a stellar career, Muti has led the many of the world’s chief orchestras, and is currently Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. For concert dates and more information, visit the AWO website.


Loving VincentThanks to Melbourne Opera, we have two double passes to the second performance of Roberto Devereux on Tuesday,14 November 2017 at the Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne. Thanks to fortyfivedownstairs, we are giving away two double passes to Birdcage Thursdays on Saturday, 4 November 2017 at fortyfivedownstairs, Melbourne. Thanks to Madman Entertainment, we are giving away ten double passes to Loving Vincent, the world's first fully oil painted feature film (in cinemas November 2).

To be eligible for these giveaways, you must be a current or new paid subscriber to the print edition of ABR or to ABR Online. To be in the running please email Grace Chang at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your full name and contact details. Preference is given to subscribers who have not received a giveaway in recent months.

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