Victorian Opera launches Season 2018

4 Oct 2017

Expect encounters both new and familiar in Victorian Opera’s Season 2018 as sublime music unites stories of destiny and desire.

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On 27 September, Victorian Opera launched its Season 2018 at Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse. Patrons, subscribers and guests gathered over canapés and Taltarni wine in the Playhouse foyer as anticipation grew for what next year's season would contain.

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Host of Victorian Opera's podcast The Art of Opera, Scott Whinfield welcomed Artistic Director Richard Mills AM and Executive Producer and Artistic Associate Elizabeth Hill to the stage to discuss the new season. Richard introduced the theme of Season 2018 –Encounters. He said, 'This year the notion of "encounter" emerged from the ideas of desire and destiny which are germane to the themes of pretty well all the operas we’re doing.'

The first big announcement was the Australian premiere of William Tell (Guillaume Tell) – an opera that presents difficulties because it 'requires a lot of tenors to perform'. Canadian Jean-François Lapointe will take on the lead role and cheers were heard when Teddy Tahu Rhodes was also announced as part of the cast. Richard reassured the audience that it would be a 3-hour version (cut down from its original 5 hours) quoting Rossini's famous response when a friend told him he went to William Tell the previous night, 'What? All of it?!'

Victorian Opera regulars must have expected that another Bellini was on the cards following La Sonnambula (2017), I Puritani (2015) and Norma (2014). Richard revealed that he has chosen The Capulets and the Montagues (I Capuleti e i Montecchi) to conclude Victorian Opera's Bellini concert series and would be welcoming Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra to perform. Elizabeth discussed the logistics of diary matching and what a coup it was to secure both Jessica Pratt and Caitlin Hulcup back in Australia for this one-night-only performance. Jessica addressed the audience in a playful video message from her home in Tuscany.

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There were excited gasps when Pelleas and Melisande (Pelléas et Mélisande), Debussy's only opera, was announced with an all-Australian cast. The applause continued for what will be the Victorian Opera debut of Siobhan Stagg, alongside Angus Wood – a seasoned Pelleas. In new collaboration strengthening Victorian Opera's commitment to developing young talent, Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) will be the orchestra for this production. Richard expressed how much he was looking forward to guiding the talented young musicians through the demands and nuances of Debussy's music. Siobhan sent a delightful message from her dressing room in Covent Garden where she is currently performing in The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte).

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Victorian Opera's 20th new Australian work will be directed by Sarah Giles and star a trio of female talent: Ali McGregor, Dimity Shepherd and Antoinette Halloran in cabaret-opera inspired by the myth of Lorelei. It will look at themes of feminism and the female stereotype in literature and Ali hopes 'maybe, just maybe we won't all die at the end of the piece. We might just be in control of our own fate'.

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Rounding out the program is the return of family favourites The Magic Pudding - The Opera coinciding with the centenary of Norman Lindsay's book and Victorian Opera's 55-minute production of Hansel and Gretel.

Summarising the season, Richard believes it 'appeals to wide demographic, that is, people who are interest in opera – traditional or experimental – work for children, work for young adults, and work for the regions. It's very much speaking to and for the Melbourne and Victorian community which is what we are funded to do.'

Also announced were new subscriber pricing and exclusive benefits, which means packages of four or more shows now receive a 35% discount. While opera fans aged 30 and under can purchase a package for just $30 per performance.

Watch the abridged version of the season presentation with Richard and Scott.

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