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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).

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)

Cloudstreet (State Opera of South Australia)

ABR Arts 16 May 2016
If any contemporary Australian novel can be said to be canonical, or perhaps even 'the great Australian novel', then it must be Tim Winton's Cloudstreet. Published in 1991, it soon acquired a devoted following and elevated Winton into the top rank of Australian writers. Voted the most popular Australian novel in ABR's Favourite Australian Novel poll in 2009, it has won considerable critical acclai ... (read more)

The Pearlfishers (Opera Australia)

ABR Arts 18 January 2016
'One-hit' operas litter the repertoire. One thinks of the aria 'Ebben? Ne andrò lontana', which every soprano worth her salt has sung in concert and many have recorded. The aria was the thread running through the cult move, Diva (1981), sung in a concert scene in the film by the soprano Wilhelmenia Fernandez, not a particularly well-known singer. The eminently better-known Kiri Te Kanawa sang the ... (read more)

Winterreise (Sydney Festival)

ABR Arts 08 January 2016
The protagonist of Thomas Mann's great novel, The Magic Mountain (1924), Hans Castorp, goes into battle, and almost certainly his death, at the end of the book singing 'Der Lindenbaum' from Schubert's song cycle, Winterreise: The song meant a great deal to him, a whole world ... His fate might have been different if his disposition had not been so highly susceptible to the charms of the emotional ... (read more)

L'Amant jaloux (Pinchgut Opera)

ABR Arts 04 December 2015
The 'anxiety of influence' is just as pertinent to music as it is to all the arts. Scholars have claimed that Mozart was strongly influenced in the composition of Le nozze di Figaro (1786), by André Grétry's (1741–1813) L'Amant jaloux (The Jealous Lover, or False Appearances) (1778). The musical and dramatic genius of Mozart suffuses every note of the score of Figaro, but it is perhaps the bri ... (read more)

Michael Halliwell reviews 'Charles Mackerras' edited by Nigel Simeone and John Tyrrell

December 2015, no. 377 26 November 2015
Ask any opera singer from the last fifty or more years who their favourite conductor is, and a substantial number would plumb for Charles Mackerras if they had enjoyed the privilege of working with him. There were always more flamboyant conductors – Karajan, Bernstein, Abbado, and others spring to mind – and certainly many enjoyed more immediate name recognition from the general public than Ma ... (read more)

Audra McDonald sings Broadway (Sydney Symphony Orchestra)

ABR Arts 06 November 2015
In 2012 Stephen Sondheim reacted rather unexpectedly to a new production entitled 'The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess'. The original show, which itself has undergone multiple transformations since its première in 1935, was somewhat rewritten, incorporating new scenes, additional dialogue, revised orchestrations, the insertion of new biographical details, as well as the creation of a more 'upbeat' endi ... (read more)

Michael Halliwell reviews 'The Rabbits' (Opera Australia/Barking Gecko Theatre Company)

ABR Arts 12 October 2015
Australia is being overrun by a rabbit phenomenon, but not of the annoying, four-legged variety. It’s The Rabbits: the opera, the musical, the song cycle, or what? Does it matter? Premièred to highly positive reviews at the Perth Festival in February this year, it has now reached the Melbourne Festival. Some have seen in the success of this work the possible salvation of opera in Australi ... (read more)

'The Marriage of Figaro' (Opera Australia)

ABR Arts 24 August 2015
British director, Nicholas Hytner, remarking on its indestructibility, once observed that one could set The Marriage of Figaro on the moon as long as the doors were in the right place. In fact, not such a strange idea, as Mozart’s great contemporary, Joseph Haydn, had set his opera Il mondo della luna (‘The World on the Moon’) exactly there. ... (read more)