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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).

'Awakening Shadow: The indefatigable Sydney Chamber Opera' by Michael Halliwell

ABR Arts 03 October 2022
Understandably, the focal point of musical interest in Sydney in recent months has been Bennelong Point, more specifically the newly revamped Concert Hall at the Opera House. Central here has been the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under the new leadership of Simone Young, offering a series of wide-ranging and exhilarating concerts. But there has been other music making. Sydney’s indefatigable Sydney ... (read more)

‘Bo Skovhus and Brahms’ German Requiem: SSO serves up a Viennese feast’ by Michael Halliwell

ABR Arts 09 August 2022
Over the years, the demise of the solo art song recital has often been predicted, yet the format lives on, sometimes reflecting new approaches and variations on tried and tested practices, but generally remaining within the parameters of a singer and pianist in evening wear on an empty stage. It evolved from informal house concerts in Europe in the late eighteenth century, probably reaching its ... (read more)

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

ABR Arts 09 May 2022
‘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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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