June 29, 2013

screenshot_53Sydney is in for another exciting season of opera over the coming months, with Opera Australia recently announcing the five operas making up their Sydney Winter 2013 Season.  Playing in the Opera Theatre at the Sydney Opera House,  this season promises a healthy mix of laughter and tears, with the bright tale of Don Pasquale standing alongside the classic tragedy of La Traviata.  Groundbreaking new productions of Puccini’s famous Tosca and Verdi’s The Force of Destiny will cut to the core of human emotion, pitting lovers against human evil and the cruel hand of fate.  A delightful revival of Britten’s Albert Herring rounds out the season.

The Winter Season opens with a new production of one of Verdi’s later operas, The Force of Destiny from Saturday 29 June to Tuesday 23 July 2013.  This World Première production, the first to be directed by young visionary Tama Matheson, promises to be a thrilling version of Verdi’s classic opera of vendetta, elopement, love, vengeance and doom, with a plotline that has a series of complex twists and disguises.

The lavish sets and richly detailed costumes designed by Mark Thompson, feature large‐scale portraits and massive religious statues, conjuring a dark landscape where death stalks the stage.  This is a dramatic production where candle‐lit interiors and earthy exteriors change in the blink of an eye.

The story involves a series of disguises.  Don Alvaro is the first to take a disguise, fleeing to the army after accidently killing the father of his beloved Leonora, who takes refuge in a monastery.  Their main adversary is her brother, Don Carlo, who takes on a disguise as a student.

Making their Opera Australia debuts, the production features Bulgarian soprano Svetla Vassileva portraying Leonora and internationally acclaimed Italian tenor Riccardo Massi as Don Alvaro.  Italian bass Giacomo Prestia is making his Sydney Opera House debut.  They are joined by many of the Company’s best‐loved singers, including Jonathan Summers, Warwick Fyfe and Kanen Breen.  Italian maestro Andrea Licata returns to Sydney to conduct.


A new production of Puccini’s Tosca, from Saturday 6 July to Saturday 31 August 2013 will be directed by John Bell, Artistic Director of Bell Shakespeare and one of Australia’s most distinguished actors.  Tosca is the first mainstage production that he has directed for Opera Australia.

John Bell says, “Tosca is not a melodrama.  It is a story of oppression, resistance and a woman blackmailed to save the life of a loved one.  It is a heart‐wrenching story that has been enacted countless times throughout history.  The era I have chosen, the German Occupation of Rome during World War II, is a time close enough for its history and images to stir our memory and our emotions.  Tosca is a dark story, but one alleviated by Puccini’s glorious music, which celebrates the heroism of those who choose death over loss of liberty.”

Puccini was a true theatre composer, using every means available to move the emotions of his audience.  In Tosca, Puccini’s aim was dramatic truth, using the sweep and flow of the music to propel the riveting drama of love, jealousy and sacrifice with astonishing vigour and force.

Tosca take place over just two days, with its heartbreaking story of love and death unravelling at startling speed.  It is centered on an opera singer, Floria Tosca, who is forced to make a terrible sacrifice to save her lover, who has been imprisoned and tortured for harbouring an escaped political prisoner.  The narrative is driven by the actions of Scarpia, the Chief of Police, a man who knows no boundaries in his determination to claim Tosca for his own.

Set designer Michael Scott‐Mitchell and costume designer Teresa Negroponte have created a monumental staging, set in Mussolini’s 1940s Italy, complete with a replica of the ornate ceiling of Sant’Andrea della Valle.

Two star sopranos share the title role, Alexia Voulgaridou and Cheryl Barker, joined by tenors Yonghoon Lee and Diego Torre plus baritone John Wegner plays Scarpia in this love triangle.  Opera Australia singers complete the cast including John Bolton Wood, Samuel Dundas, Graeme Macfarlane, Michael Honeyman and David Parkin.  Opera Australia also welcomes back conductor Christian Badea.     Sandra Tiltman