Victorian Opera announces Season 2022

From rock to Rossini, Victorian Opera announces its Season 2022 with a year of undiscovered gems, thrilling epics and two world premieres. The state opera company presents eight productions, including three Australian operas.

From rock to Rossini, Victorian Opera announces its Season 2022 with a year of undiscovered gems, thrilling epics and two world premieres. The state opera company presents eight productions, including three Australian operas.

‘This is the season of a 21st century opera company, celebrating what is new and diverse in the context of masterpieces from the canon,’ notes Artistic Director, Richard Mills. ‘It is a season which will speak to all the citizens of Melbourne and Victoria, offering the thrill of great singing, some quirky and interesting productions, and an examination of some of the themes which are most relevant to our society today.’

Victorian Opera’s season opens with the Australian premiere of the multi-award-winning Broadway smash The Who’s Tommy at the Palais Theatre from 22 February – 1 March. An electrifying theatrical experience at Melbourne’s rock’n’roll stomping ground!

Gangsters and the Salvation Army settle scores in 1915, Chicago, in Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann’s anti-capitalist musical, Happy End. Staged at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Playhouse from 23 – 26 March, Happy End marks the first musical in Victorian Opera’s Kurt Weill trilogy directed by Malthouse Theatre’s Artistic Director Matthew Lutton.

Richard Mills notes: ‘Brecht, Weill and Hauptmann’s fable of the unlikely alliance of the dispossessed from the gangsters of Chicago and the Salvation Army speaks anew to our contemporary world. The gritty realities of hard times are leavened with sardonic wit and wonderful songs.’

The production stars a killer line-up of musical theatre and cabaret talent, including Kurt Kansley, Lucy Maunder, Ali McGregor, Jennifer Vuletic, and Ras-Samuel Welda’abzgi. Victorian Opera’s Head of Music, Phoebe Briggs, conducts.

Green Room Award-winning Australian opera, The Selfish Giant, returns to the stage following its sold-out debut season in 2019. The production will be staged at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Playhouse on Saturday 28 May with a Relaxed Performance on Friday 27 May at 1pm. As Victorian Opera’s annual education production, The Selfish Giant will be streamed in schools and regional cinemas state-wide as part the company’s Access All Areas: Livestream Program and preceded by four streamed behind-the-scenes workshops.

Based on Oscar Wilde’s fable of the same name, the adaptation stemmed from the creative genius of composer Simon Bruckard (Cassandra) and librettist Emma Muir-Smith; two of Victorian Opera’s former Developing Artists.

Enchantment abounds in Dorothy’s journey down the Yellow Brick Road in the Australian premiere of Pierangelo Valtinoni’s Il Mago di Oz (The Wizard of Oz) at the Palais Theatre on 27 and 30 August. Originally premiered in 2016, the charming family opera offers the perfect platform for Victorian Opera’s newly formed Emerging Artists Program and Youth Orchestra to shine. Elizabeth Hill-Cooper directs the production conducted by Fabian Russell.

Richard Strauss’ epic Elektra is presented in a captivating one-night-only concert on 14 September at Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall. Acclaimed British soprano Catherine Foster stars alongside an all-Australian cast and the combined forces of Orchestra Victoria and the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) Orchestra under the baton of Richard Mills.

Mills notes: ‘Elektra is one of the pinnacles of the operatic art form. Singing the title role is like climbing Mount Everest. The visceral energy of the music and the vivid imagery of the text tell a horrifying story which purges through pity and terror. This is also a feminist opera celebrating the power and agency of a strong woman in combatting profound injustice.’

Chinese legend The Butterfly Lovers makes its world premiere at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Playhouse from 12 – 15 October. Composed by Richard Mills with a libretto by playwright and poet Joel Tan, the project is a co-production with Singapore’s acclaimed Wild Rice theatre and directed by its Artistic Director Ivan Heng.

The legend tells of doomed lovers who find freedom when their spirits transform into butterflies. Yingtai (soprano Cathy-Di Zhang) disguises herself as a boy to pursue an education. On the way to commence her studies, she meets Shanbo (countertenor Meili Li) and they become friends. Confused by their growing attraction, they eventually succumb to their love. But Yingtai is destined for an arranged marriage. Only as butterflies can they be together forever.

As part of its ongoing commitment to bringing opera to Tasmania, Victorian Opera heads south for a semi-staged production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola (Cinderella) at Launceston’s Princess Theatre on 25 November. Presented alongside the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, the production stars bass-baritones Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Jeremy Kleeman, baritone Stephen Marsh, soprano Rebecca Rashleigh and mezzo-soprano Shakira Dugan. Turkish tenor Mert Süngü, a Rossini specialist, stars as Prince Ramiro. Richard Mills conducts the production directed by Elizabeth Hill-Cooper.

Victorian Opera’s Season 2022 concludes with the world premiere of composer Graeme Koehne and librettist Anna Goldsworthy’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol at the Palais Theatre from 14 – 17 December.

Conducted by Phoebe Briggs and directed by Emma Muir-Smith, the production stars baritone Samuel Dundas as Ebenezer Scrooge. Soprano Antoinette Halloran, tenor James Egglestone, mezzo-soprano Dominica Matthews and baritone Simon Meadows round-out the principal cast and perform multiple roles. Orchestra Victoria performs in the pit.

Transported to contemporary Melbourne, A Christmas Carol invites widespread community participation in reflection of the city’s multiculturalism.  

On the company’s three Australian works, Richard Mills notes:

‘Victorian Opera has always been committed to the new, to developing the art form through the creative process and forming a body of Australian work that we hope remains viable and interesting for future generations.’

‘Bruckard and Muir-Smith’s The Selfish Giant, after Oscar Wilde, enjoys a second season; Koehne and Goldsworthy’s A Christmas Carol presents a Dickensian classic in the context of the diversity of contemporary Melbourne, while my collaboration with librettist Joel Tan on Chinese legend The Butterfly Lovers explores the transcendent power of love in the face of patriarchal oppression.’

‘All three pieces are very different, yet we believe have the capacity to renew the art form in surprising ways.’ 

Subscriptions to Victorian Opera’s Season 2022 are now on sale, with tickets available from 1 December 2021.