It looks like WA Opera will be leaving its comfort zone in 2016. Instead of a season full of the big three (Puccini, Verdi, and Mozart) as we’ve seen over the last couple of years, Artistic Director Brad Cohen has programmed a season full of uncommon selections with a distinctly West Australian sensibility in mind.
In the company’s media statement regarding the program, WA Opera confirms its commitment to a kind of seachange, or at the very least an intention to broaden its scope in terms of new work, new productions and WA artists.
“West Australian Opera’s 2016 Season will deliver an exhilarating program transporting audiences on a flight of adventure with classic operas and a new Australian work. West Australian Opera has a commitment to nurturing Australian artists and each production will highlight Australian artists, locally and nationally or Australian artists working on international stages.”
Artistic Director Brad Cohen further elaborates on the motivations for his choices on his personal blog (which I believe is available to readers who have signed up to received WAO’s enews mailing list here):
“It was very important to me that, in my first programmed season, West Australian Opera increased the vigour and variety of our offering to you, our audience. There are three principal ways of achieving this: new works, new productions of existing works, and casting. I’m proud that our 2016 season ticks all of these boxes, in abundance. In fact, as I hoped would be possible, every production in 2016 has something significantly new about it. “
Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi
Saturday Feb 6 2016 – FREE EVENT
It’s Puccini, but it’s his final completed opera, and one that WAO has never presented. Sitting at a run time of just over an hour, WAO hopes to make Opera in the Park more attractive for families and an even greater section of Perth’s summer funseekers.
Cohen says, “This opera will delight audiences of all ages with highlights including the famous aria ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ which I suspect everyone will know and love. This is a one-act opera with no interval so we hope that this will encourage even more people to experience opera in the park, under the summer sky, free of charge.”
Have a listen to this famous aria sung by the great Maria Callas:
13, 14, 15, 16 April 2016
Cohen says, “Based on Tim Winton‘s novel, and composed by Iain Grandage [libretto by Alison Croggon], The Riders has a strong West Australian profile, and I hope that it will take its place alongside Batavia as one of WA’s flagship operas. The cast features West Australian artists, and Iain will be embedded in the preparation and production process. This production inaugurates another of my programming strands as Artistic Director – the telling of distinctively Australian stories through song.”
The work originally premiered at Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre in 2014, commissioned and presented by Victorian Opera. There were a few quibbles noted in some of the reviews of this adaptation, but as with any new work, it might need more than one outing to get the formula just right.
Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love
15, 16, 19, 21, 23 July 2016
This may be one of the most performed opera classics (#13 on Operabase), but WAO will present Simon Phillips‘ version, that “boasts a strong Australiana theme with warm colour hues of the outback and rustic corrugated iron structures.”
Cohen says, “I conducted this production for Opera Australia in 2006, but in 2016 I am delighted to welcome Stuart Stratford, newly-appointed Music Director of Scottish Opera, to the podium. My WA friends and colleagues Rachelle Durkin and Aldo di Toro are joined by Jose Carbo and the baritone Marco Nistico (making his Australian debut), and I can guarantee that together they will create a riot on stage.”
I look forward especially to seeing Ms. Durkin take the stage again, after seeing her wonderful performance in La boheme in 2013. She was indeed a riot, and here’s a link to my review of that production for Australian Stage:
Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers
25, 27, 29 October and 1, 3, 5 November 2016
Again, we’re looking at one of the most well-known opera composers, but this isn’t Carmen (and let’s not bring up last year’s controversial decision to drop Carmen from the 2015 season…). In fact, this opera, which Bizet wrote when he was a mere 25 years old, doesn’t even hit the top 50 most performed.
“Again, the Australian-ness of our work is expressed through a regional sensibility – the production is set in a period of the nineteenth century European imperial presence, in what is now Sri Lanka. Emma Matthews, our magnificent West Australian lyric soprano, is complemented by a young cast which includes WAO Mentored Artist Sam Roberts-Smith as Zurga. The orchestral and vocal beauty of Bizet’s score lies very close to my heart, and I am delighted to bring the 2016 season to a close as its conductor,” says Cohen.
Subscriptions will be on sale from 30 October 2015 and single tickets from 11 November 2015 on WA Opera’s website.
Don’t forget there is still one more production left in the 2015 season: Gounod’s Faust which runs 29, 31 October and 3, 5, 7 November.
Once again, I highly recommend Brad Cohen’s newsletter, so do yourselves a favour and sign up for all the latest news and events from West Australian Opera, and have a read of what Cohen has to say about each production in the year ahead.