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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).

Attila (Opera Australia)

ABR Arts 13 March 2020
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
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
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
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)

The Return of Ulysses (Pinchgut Opera)

ABR Arts 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. Orfeo, the earliest of his operas, and which has a secure place in the opera repertoire, is ... (read more)

Salome (Opera Australia)

ABR Arts 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. At this performance, conducted by Strauss, prominent musical figures present included Gust ... (read more)

Wozzeck (Opera Australia)

ABR Arts 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: his productions are immediately recognisable and he has established an outstanding caree ... (read more)

Artaserse (Pinchgut Opera)

ABR Arts 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 (second) Royal Academy of Music, Farinelli, the celebrated castrato singer, was drafted as th ... (read more)

Metamorphosis (Opera Australia)

ABR Arts 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 is surely 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 (Die Verwandlung), this profoundly unsettling novella by Franz Kafka, found its way into dramat ... (read more)

Dry River Run (Queensland Conservatorium)

ABR Arts 04 September 2018
Australian operas set in the outback are not uncommon, though urban backgrounds are far more prevalent in recent works. Contemporary fiction and cinema, by contrast, often have outback and regional Australia as their setting. Several operas engage with the most enduring myths of the mysterious centre; most significantly in Richard Meale and David Malouf’s adaptation of Patrick White’s novel Vo ... (read more)