ABR Arts Opera

La Bohème 

Peter Rose
Tuesday, 07 January 2020

Gale Edwards’s production of La Bohème is back for an extended summer season – sixteen performances no less. This production has been filling theatres since its creation in 2011. It may not run for as long as Franco Zeffirelli’s 1981 extravaganza, still an annual fixture at the Metropolitan Opera, but it probably has another good decade to go. Revived here by Liesel Badorrek, it works considerably better in the tiny Joan Sutherland Theatre than it did in the State Theatre in 2018; the latter is too palatial for bohemian confinement and privations.

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Ian Dickson
Friday, 06 December 2019

Always read the fine print. At the base of the program for Pinchgut Opera’s production of Antonio Vivaldi’s Farnace (1727) it reads: ‘The edition of Farnace used in these performances is by Renzo Bez and Diego Fasolis, adapted with insertion arias selected by Erin Helyard.’ Translated this means that what the audience is watching is a version of the opera in which many of the arias are replaced by more popular ones from Vivaldi’s large number of other vocal works – Farnace plus Vivaldi’s greatest hits, as it were.

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Hansel and Gretel 

Michael Shmith
Friday, 29 November 2019

This charming, persuasive, and glowing concert performance of Hansel and Gretel, part of Andrew Davis’s final Melbourne Symphony Orchestra season before he steps down as chief conductor, more than proved (if proof is required) what an outstanding opera conductor he is. Maybe, in future seasons, when Davis returns as the orchestra’s conductor laureate, there will be more: perhaps Berg’s Lulu, another of the maestro’s favourite operas, which the MSO would perform magnificently.

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Peter Rose
Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Reviewing the recent production of Madama Butterfly in Adelaide, I dwelt on Giacomo Puccini’s ceaseless search for new subjects between operas and how he considered everything from a Zola novel to the historical Marie Antoinette before settling on the story of Cio-Cio San.

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Madama Butterfly 

Peter Rose
Monday, 18 November 2019

With certain artists – the luminaries, the abiders – it’s tempting to assign a kind of inevitability to their oeuvres. The musicals of Cole Porter, the satires of Jane Austen, the exiguous poems of T.S. Eliot have a kind of perfection that make them seem nonchalant. But here we run the risk of overlooking the sheer chanciness of most artistic careers – not to mention the false starts and tribulations.

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Nina Stemme Returns 

Peter Rose
Wednesday, 06 November 2019

Three years ago, almost to the day, the great Swedish soprano Nina Stemme made her Australian début – in Hobart, a little unexpectedly. Joining her was Stuart Skelton, with whom she had just performed in Mariusz Treliński’s production of Tristan und Isolde at the Metropolitan Opera – a sombre, martial, digital creation that divided critics and audiences alike (‘overdetermined darkness and cynicism’ was one complaint) but which this reviewer found coherent and ungimmicky.

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The Selfish Giant 

Peter Tregear
Monday, 21 October 2019

‘Victorian’ may have become for us a byword for hypocrisy and repression, but it’s not hard to find literature of the day that plays against this grain. The Victorian fairy tale is certainly one place where authors did find ways covertly to explore challenging social themes, albeit under the cover of the prescription ‘for children’.

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William Yeoman
Monday, 21 October 2019

In a much-cited letter to Francesco Maria Piave, his librettist for Macbeth, Verdi wrote, ‘This tragedy is one of the greatest creations of the human spirit. If we can’t do something great with it, let us at least try to do something out of the ordinary.’ As it happens, they did do something laudable with the Scottish Play ...

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Rob Holdsworth
Thursday, 19 September 2019

Norma, Bellini’s 1831 two-act tragedy, includes one of opera’s grand soprano roles. Requiring great vocal and acting ability, the role is up there with Lady Macbeth, Brünnhilde, and Turandot. An outstanding Norma arrives infrequently. Rosa Ponsel ...

The Ghost Sonata 

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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