3 Talks by Richard Mills

Our Artistic Director presents fun-filled and fact-filled insights into aspects of opera not often discussed and its development over the centuries. These entertaining, hour-long talks are for anyone with any interest in history, music and art.

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Carlos E. Bárcenas as Arnold in Victorian Opera's production of William Tell. Photo: Jeff Busby, for Victorian Opera.

The History of the Tenor Voice

Friday 1 March, 6:30pm

The tenor is one of the iconic voices of opera, as well as an iconic image of opera – the romantic, dashing tenor who always falls in love, sometimes dies for love – but in many ways it is the most unnatural voice. Although it is beautiful to listen to and has a great literature written for it, the modern operatic tenor is a relatively recent phenomenon.

This talk will trace the beginnings of the tenor voice from the Baroque period, and through its development in the 18th century, to 19th century Italy, where it became established as a voice type. We will visit some of the great singers of the past (for example Enrico Caruso and Jussi Björling) and famous Australian tenors (like Don Smith) to see where the current superstars (tenors like Jonas Kaufmann) derive their heritage, and explore the legacy of the modern super tenor.

This event will be hosted by 'Australia's best loved soprano' Antoinette Halloran, a favourite with Victorian Opera audiences and celebrated across the country for her captivating performances. With her typical wit and flair, who better to discus the tenor voice than a saucy soprano?

Tickets: $15, including post-talk refreshments. Venue: Horti Hall, 31 Victoria Street, Melbourne. Following this talk will be a naming ceremony for the hall and an official reception with refreshments.

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Richard Mills conducts The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. Photo: Jeff Busby, for Victorian Opera.

The Orchestra in Opera

Friday 15 March, 6:30pm

The orchestra in opera becomes a character in its own right. From the early beginnings of the art form, opera always had a rich and interesting orchestral palette of colours. Beginning with the orchestras of Monteverdi, Handel and Rameau, this talk will trace the development of the orchestra through the 18th century, with composers such as Cimarosa, Pergolesi and, of course Mozart and Haydn. We will then study the evolution of the orchestra in the 19th century, in particular, the works of the French grand opera tradition, with composers like Halévy, Meyerbeer and Massenet, and of course, Wagner. 

We will then look at the development of the orchestra in opera in the early 20th century, looking at the heritage of the different national styles (German, French, Italian, Czech and Russian) and see how composers like Berg laid the foundation for this sophisticated use of the orchestra that has become the 20th century operatic trademark. Lastly, we will look at operas that have been created in Australia and see how the orchestra has found a distinctive voice in this literature.

This event will be hosted by Phillip Sametz. Phillip has been (and in some cases continues to be) an arts administrator, writer, mentor, pre-concert speaker, MC and crooner. He has presented Screen Sounds, Sunday Recital, Classic Breakfast and many live concert broadcasts on ABC Classic FM.

Tickets: $15, including post-talk refreshments. Venue: Horti Hall, 31 Victoria Street, Melbourne.

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Salle Le Peletier, Paris Opera in the 19th century.

Opera and Society: Intrigue, Mayhem and Mischief throughout the Ages

Friday 22 March, 6:30pm

This talk will explore the social history of opera. From its beginnings, under the patronage of the Medicis in Mantua and Florence, through the aristocratic support of the court of Versailles, to the evolution of the European opera house as a social centre for a city or a village. We will look at the opera house was part of the development of the national styles of Italy, France, Germany and Russia. We will then explore the way opera became a magnet for the rich and powerful in society and how the opera house became a mirror image of the great city they served. 

We will also look at the turbulent history of The Met, Covent Garden and La Scala, three of the great opera houses, and see how mischief and mayhem were never far from the doors of these august institutions. Lastly, we will dwell on the social history of opera in Australia, and consider both its current configuration and its possibilities for future development.

This event will be hosted by Phillip Sametz. Phillip has been (and in some cases continues to be) an arts administrator, writer, mentor, pre-concert speaker, MC and crooner. He has presented Screen Sounds, Sunday Recital, Classic Breakfast and many live concert broadcasts on ABC Classic FM.

Tickets: $15, including post-talk refreshments. Venue: Horti Hall, 31 Victoria Street, Melbourne.