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).

‘Voss and The Turn of the Screw: Two outstanding adaptations of literary classics’ by Michael Halliwell

ABR Arts 09 May 2022
‘Voss and The Turn of the Screw: Two outstanding adaptations of literary classics’ by Michael Halliwell
‘What we do not know the air will tell us’(Laura Trevelyan in Voss) In the program for the première of Voss in Adelaide in 1986, David Malouf observed: No libretto can reproduce the novel from which it is drawn. A novel, especially a great one, is itself: unique, irreplaceable. The best a libretto can do is reproduce the experience of the book in a new and radically different form, al ... (read more)

‘La Juive: Halévy’s rare and controversial opera’ by Michael Halliwell

ABR Arts 11 March 2022
‘La Juive: Halévy’s rare and controversial opera’ by Michael Halliwell
To say that Fromental Halévy’s opera La Juive (The Jewess) is a problematic work is a gross understatement. From the time of its successful première at the Paris Opéra in 1835 – it is one of the finest examples of French Grand Opera – it has been surrounded by controversy, periods of neglect, particularly during the 1930s, and even outright banning; its subject matter has been found confr ... (read more)

‘Otello’: A welcome revival of Harry Kupfer’s production

ABR Arts 21 February 2022
‘Otello’: A welcome revival of Harry Kupfer’s production
Devotees of Giuseppe Verdi often suggest that the composer’s version of Shakespeare’s Othello is ‘greater’ than the original; a fruitless assertion, but indicative of the esteem in which Verdi’s penultimate opera is held. After Aida (1871), Verdi was enjoying the life of a gentleman farmer. Italian opera of the 1870s and 1880s, however, was facing something of a crisis, threatened by the ... (read more)

Ernani (Opera Australia)

ABR Arts 04 February 2021
Ernani (Opera Australia)
George Bernard Shaw tartly suggested that ‘the chief glory of Victor Hugo as a stage poet was to have provided libretti for Verdi’. Hugo’s fifteen dramas are not well known in the English-speaking world and live on mainly through the many operatic reincarnations of the plays. Most prominent in popular culture, though, is the adaptation of Hugo’s novel Les Misérables, the blockbuster music ... (read more)

Michael Halliwell reviews 'Wagnerism: Art and politics in the shadow of music' by Alex Ross

January–February 2021, no. 428 16 December 2020
Michael Halliwell reviews 'Wagnerism: Art and politics in the shadow of music' by Alex Ross
Graz, 16 May 1906. Richard Strauss is conducting his scandalous, recently premièred opera, Salome. The expectant audience includes Giacomo Puccini, Arnold Schoenberg, Gustav and Alma Mahler, Alexander von Zemlinsky, Alban Berg, and, slipping surreptitiously into a cheap seat, possibly a certain Adolf Hitler, having borrowed money from relatives for the trip from Vienna. So begins Alex Ross’s ex ... (read more)

Messe De Minuit (Pinchgut Opera)

ABR Arts 07 December 2020
Messe De Minuit (Pinchgut Opera)
Hooray, operatic activity in Sydney is back! Well, perhaps not quite, but performances by one of Australia’s most vibrant companies, Pinchgut Opera, occurred over the weekend. Worldwide operatic activity abruptly ceased in March when Covid-19 struck, and has only recently tentatively emerged from this enforced hibernation. Opera Australia is slated to reopen early in 2021, sooner than many other ... (read more)

Attila (Opera Australia)

ABR Arts 13 March 2020
Attila (Opera Australia)
The fearsome figure of Attila the Hun (406–53 CE) has always had a bad press, yet in Verdi’s opera of 1846 he emerges as the most sympathetic and nuanced character of a group of three other rather unlikeable, two-dimensional principals, all of whom plot his final demise. During the course of the opera, Attila emerges as a somewhat naïve, trusting character, and shows great respect for his avo ... (read more)

The Ghost Sonata (Opera Australia)

ABR Arts 16 September 2019
The Ghost Sonata (Opera Australia)
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. Life is so cynical that only a swine can be happy in it . ... (read more)

Oscar and Lucinda (Sydney Chamber Opera)

ABR Arts 29 July 2019
Oscar and Lucinda (Sydney Chamber Opera)
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 Kats-Chernin’s Whiteley utilised the full resources of the major opera company, Opera Australia, including a large chorus, while Elliott Gyger’s Oscar and Lucinda is presented by the highly innovative Sydney-based company, Sydney Chambe ... (read more)

Whiteley (Opera Australia)

ABR Arts 16 July 2019
Whiteley (Opera Australia)
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. The new fil ... (read more)
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