Victorian Opera (Melbourne)
Victorian Opera is an opera company based in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The company was founded in 2005 and commenced operations in January 2006 with funding from the Victorian government, and Richard Gill as Artistic Director. The replacement for the VSO quickly acquired an enthusiastic (and generous) support base through their Patrons programme, whose members assist the company on a financial basis annually, as do a growing number of corporate partners.
2006 (inaugural) season
Victorian Opera's first production was Benjamin Britten's Noye's Fludde, performed by the Victorian Youth Opera from 30 June to 2 July 2006. It was a collaboration with the Victorian College of the Arts' School of Production, whose students designed and crewed the show. This was followed by an Opera Gala Concert on 15 July 2006, at Melbourne's Hamer Hall, in which most members of the new company performed, accompanied by Orchestra Victoria under the baton of Richard Gill.
The company's inaugural main stage production was Mozart's Così fan tutte, directed by Jean-Pierre Mignon and presented at Her Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne between 19 and 26 August 2006. The principals were Gary Rowley (Don Alfonso), Christopher Saunders (Ferrando), Christopher Tonkin (Guglielmo), Antoinette Halloran (Fiordiligi), Jacqueline Dark (Dorabella) and Tiffany Speight (Despina).
Bach's Passion According to St. John was performed on 8 September, at St Michael's Uniting Church, Collins Street, Melbourne, and a concert version of Brian Howard's Metamorphosis was performed on 3 November, at Melba Hall, Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne completed the Victorian Opera's first season, which was not only well-received, but also produced an encouraging financial surplus.
The company's second season commenced on 17 February 2007, with a concert presentation at Hamer Hall of the Stravinsky double-bill Les noces and Oedipus Rex, with Richard Gill conducting Orchestra Victoria, and a cast which included most of the coming season's principals and the Victorian Opera Chorus.
Between 1–3 June, the Victorian Youth Opera, again in collaboration with the Victorian College of the Arts School of Production, presented an interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen's immortal story The Snow Queen, by Grahame Dudley and Nick Enright.
A new production of The Love of the Nightingale by Richard Mills and Timberlake Wertenbaker, directed by Lindy Hume, was premiered at Her Majesty's Theatre on 27 and 29 July. Based on the 3000-year-old legend of Philomele and Procne, the explosive drama featured Leanne Kenneally (Philomele), Elizabeth Campbell (Niobe), James Egglestone (Captain/Hippolytus), Adrian McEniery (First Soldier/Pandion), Samuel Dundas (Second Soldier), Sarah Crane (Hero), Sarah Cole (Iris) and Roxanne Hislop (Juno). Once again Richard Gill conducted Orchestra Victoria.
Gluck's enduring and greatest opera Orphée et Eurydice was performed at Her Majesty's Theatre between 6–13 August in the Berlioz version, directed by Stephen Page, with mezzo-soprano Dimity Shepherd as Orphée, Alison Rae Jones (Eurydice) and Jacqueline Porter (L'Amour). The Victorian Opera Chorus and Orchestra Victoria were conducted by Matthew Coorey.
The previous season's acclaimed production of Così fan tutte toured metropolitan and regional Victoria during October and November. Sung in English, with a chamber ensemble drawn from Orchestra Victoria, and conducted by Nicholas Carter, only Gary Rowley (Don Alfonso) and Jacqueline Dark (Dorabella) remained from the original cast, with James Egglestone as Ferrando, Samuel Dundas (Guglielmo), Mylinda Joyce (Fiordiligi) and Jacqueline Porter (Despina).
Although more modest than the previous year, the company once again finished with a financial surplus.
The opening performance of the year was a Gala Concert on 16 February at Hamer Hall. Entitled Puccini ~ The Sacred and Profane, it consisted of the Messa di Gloria, several well-known arias from Puccini operas, and the complete Act II of La bohème.
The season's new contemporary production was the chamber opera Through the Looking Glass by Alan John and Andrew Upton, directed by Michael Kantor, and performed at the Merlyn Theatre, CUB Malthouse, South Melbourne, 17–31 May. The small cast of David Hobson, Dimity Shepherd, Suzanne Johnston, Margaret Haggard, Gary Rowley and Kanen Breen, sang multiple roles, and a small on-stage ensemble was conducted by Richard Gill. (Won 2008 Green Room Award for Best New Opera.)
Monteverdi's baroque work The Coronation of Poppea, directed by Kate Cherry, was presented at the Australian National Academy of Music, South Melbourne Town Hall, 18–26 July. The orchestra, arranged in 17th Century fashion on either side of the performance space were led by Richard Gill, conducting from one of the two harpsichords. Artists performing in one of the earliest of all operas (1643) were: Tiffany Speight (Poppea), countertenors David Hansen (Nerone) and Daniel Goodwin (Ottone), Sally Wilson (Ottavia/La Fortuna), Jacqueline Porter (Drusilla/La Virtù), Paul Hughes (Seneca), Isabel Veale (Arnalta/Nutrice), Adrian McEniery (Luciano/Primo Soldato), Jessica Aszodi (Damigella), Edmond Choo (Liberto), Laurence Meikle (Mercurio/Littore) and Jacob Caine (Secundo Soldato). (The production shared the 2008 Green Room Award for Best Opera with Opera Australia's Arabella, and Tiffany Speight received a Helpmann Award for Best Female Opera Performer in a Principal Role.)
Between 11–21 August, the Donizetti opera The Elixir of Love was presented at the Merlyn Theatre, CUB Malthouse, South Melbourne. Directed by Stephen Medcalf, with Orchestra Victoria conducted by Warwick Stengards, with alternating casts of David Hobson/Roy Best (Nemorino), Antoinette Halloran/Elena Xanthoudakis (Adina), Christopher Tonkin/Samuel Dundas (Sergeant Belcore), Roger Lemke/Roger Howell (Dulcamara) and Danielle Calder (Gianetta).
Rounding off the 2008 season were five performances by the Victorian Youth Opera, when they presented Malcolm Williamson's The Happy Prince, based on the story by Oscar Wilde, between 3–5 October at the Victorian College of the Arts.
The Victorian Opera's 2009 season began on 21 February, with a Gala Concert at Hamer Hall. The programme consisted of Bluebeard's Castle by Béla Bartók, with Grant Smith (Narrator), Andrew Collis (Bluebeard) and Lecia Robertson (Judith); and Carl Orff's Carmina Burana with soloists Joanna Cole (soprano), Daniela Duspara (soprano), Tobias Cole (counter-tenor) and Gary Rowley (baritone). The Victorian Opera Chorus and Orchestra Victoria will be conducted by Richard Gill.
Mozart's Don Giovanni was presented at The National Theatre, St. Kilda, in March, with Richard Gill conducting the first three performances and Nicholas Carter the remaining three. The production was directed by Jean-Pierre Mignon, with baritones Samuel Dundas (Don Giovanni) and Andrew Collis (Leporello); bass baritone Anthony Mackey (Masetto); and bass Steven Gallop (The Commendatore). The opera's lighter-voiced roles were sung by tenor James Egglestone (Don Ottavio) and sopranos Caroline Wenbourne (Donna Anna), Tiffany Speight (Donna Elvira) and Michelle Buscemi (Zerlina). A tour of regional Victoria followed the Melbourne season.
The new Australian work of the 2009 season was the Andrew Ford/Sue Smith chamber opera Rembrandt's Wife, performed at the Merlyn Theatre in April. Directed by Talya Masel and conducted by Richard Gill, the cast consisted of Paul Biencourt (The Pretender); Roxanne Hislop (Geertje Dircx); Jacqueline Porter (Saskia/Hendrickje Stoffels) and Gary Rowley (Rembrandt van Rijn).
The company's first performances at The Arts Centre was between 21–27 July when Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos, directed by James McCaughey, was presented at The Playhouse. Richard Gill conducted Orchestra Victoria, with artists Elizabeth Stannard (Prima Donna/Ariadne); Jacqueline Dark (Composer); Theresa Borg (Zerbinetta); Gary Rowley (Music Master); Adrian McEniery (Dancing Master); Samuel Dundas (Harlequin); John Mac Master (Tenor/Bacchus); Paul Hughes (Wig-maker); Roxanne Hislop (Dryad); Jessica Aszodi (Echo); Melanie Adams (Naiad); Paul Biencourt (Brighella); Jacob Caine (Scaramuccio/Officer); and Anthony Mackey (Truffaldino/Lackey).
The much anticipated Melbourne Recital Centre opened in February 2009, and the company performed Handel's Xerxes in its principal space Elisabeth Murdoch Hall in August. In a co-production with The NBR New Zealand Opera directed by Roger Hodgman, early music expert John O'Donnell conducted a specialised baroque orchestra and a cast including counter-tenor Tobias Cole (Xerxes); mezzo-sopranos Roxanne Hislop (Amastre) and Dimity Shepherd (Arsamene); sopranos Tiffany Speight (Romilda) and Jessica Aszodi (Atalanta); baritone Gary Rowley (Elviro) and bass Steven Gallop (Ariodate).
The season launch included the welcome news of the State Government's $1.5 million boost to the Company's budget which will finance, among other plans, a free concert next summer, supported by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. This brings the Company's annual grant to $3.79 million.
As well as the concert – Opera in the Bowl on 27 February at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl – the company's fifth season included:
A gala concert presentation of The Damnation of Faust by Berlioz on 19 February at Hamer Hall, The Arts Centre. Soloists included Julian Gavin (Faust); Tania Ferris (Marguerite); Pelham Andrews (Mephistophélès); and David Hibbard (Brander). The Victorian Opera Chorus and Orchestra Victoria conducted by Richard Gill.
The first main-stage productions of the year between 10 and 20 March at The Arts Centre, Playhouse, with the double-bill of Wiliam Walton The Bear and Angélique by Jacques Ibert. Directed by Talya Masel and conducted by Ollivier-Philippe Cuneo.
A co-production with Malthouse Theatre of The Threepenny Opera by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht in the Merlyn Theatre between 28 May and 17 June. Directed by Michael Kantor and conducted by Richard Gill.
The Baroque opera Julius Caesar by Handel, presented at the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre, 20–30 July, conducted by Richard Gill and directed by former Australian Ballet principal Stephen Heathcote.
Two world premieres by the Victorian Youth Opera. Firstly, The Parrot Factory a newly commissioned work by Frederick and Mary Davidson, to be performed at the CUB Malthouse Merlyn Theatre 1–5 October. Secondly, The Cockatoos by Sarah de Jong and Sarah Carradine will be presented at the New Ballroom, Trades Hall, 10–12 December.
- Verdi Gala – La traviata / Il trovatore
- The Magic Flute (Mozart)
- How To Kill Your Husband (And Other Handy Household Hints) (Alan John and Timothy Daly from the novel by Kathy Lette)
- Albert Herring (Benjamin Britten)
- Baroque Tripe Bill – The Fight Between Phoebus and Pan (J. S. Bach), The Coffee Cantata (Bach), and The Fight Between Tancredi and Clorinda (Monteverdi)
- The Rake's Progress (Stravinsky)
- The Play of Daniel (the Youth of Beauvais)
- Midnight Son (Gordon Kerry / Louis Nowra) – world premiere
- The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart)
- Double bill – Master Peter's Puppet Show (Manuel de Falla) / What Next? (Elliott Carter)
The 2012 season was Richard Gill's final season as Artistic Director, and will conclude with a Gala concert in his honour on December 19, 2012.
The 2013 season marked the first of Richard Mills as Artistic Director.
- Sleeping Beauty
- Opera on a White Night
- Nixon in China (John Adams)
- Sunday in the Park with George (Stephen Sondheim & James Lapine)
- Maria de Buenos Aires (Piazzolla)
- Puss in Boots (Montsalvatge)
- The Magic Pudding - The Opera
- Rush Hour
- La traviata
- Hansel and Gretel
- Into the Woods
- The Riders (based on the Novel by Tim Winton)
- The Play of Herod
- "Everyday evils live on in timeless classic". The Age. 17 July 2008. Retrieved 17 July 2008.
- "Wives of unquiet desperation". The Australian. 21 July 2008. Retrieved 22 July 2008.
- "The coronation of Poppea". The Age. 21 July 2008. Retrieved 22 July 2008.
- Victorian Opera, official website
- The Arts Centre, Melbourne official website
- John Slavin, The Age, Melbourne, 21 December 2005 regarding plans for the revived Victorian Opera
- Jacqueline Porter, soprano and poster girl
- Opera~Opera article: Celebrating Victorian Opera's first year with Richard Gill, musical director and conductor