So we've finally launched our 2013 season, some exciting new initiatives and our fresh new look! You can read all about the season on our website or in our brochure, but in the meantime, welcome to my blog. This is where I'll be posting regular updates on life here at Opera Queensland, thoughts from the road, or wherever I may be in the world (next month's will be posted from Berlin, where I'm directing a revival of my production of Puccini's La boheme for the Staatsoper) and occasionally, discussion on themes that affect or connect us in some way.
But this month's blog is all about 2013, the three fantastic works we're bringing to Brisbane audiences, and the themes that emerge in juxtaposition. Powerful, epic themes: the struggle between good and evil, the forces of the natural world - these play a large role in each of these works. An earthquake follows the crucifixion in the Bach St Matthew Passion, the storm in Rossini's Cinderella brings the Prince to her doorstep, and the conquering Otello wins a battle as a mighty storm rages at the beginning of Verdi's opera.
But the true theme of the 2013 season is something small, yet even more influential - the human heart. The excellent Australian novelist Peter Goldsworthy never wrote a truer phrase than this, from his libretto to Richard Mills' opera Batavia:
"there is nothing in the seven seas as turbulent
as the four small chambers of the heart"
Comparing Bach, Rossini and Verdi is impossible - each is a genius in his own way - but what connects them is an innate understanding of what makes their audiences tick, how to reach their hearts and minds. Each of these works speaks of the human condition in a unique way; each presents to us the best and worst of humanity. Characters like Judas and Iago are bywords for evil while the Jesus in the St Matthew Passion and Cinderella offer the possibility of a way forward through redemption and forgiveness.
Our final opera ends bleakly, with Otello's nemesis Iago triumphant. And yet, the spectacle of the Lion of Venice crushed and a great love so cruelly ruined, stirs our compassion and humanity, such is the power of Verdi's score and Shakespeare's play. We're thrilled to present this magnificent work to our audiences through the vivid theatrical perspective of our first-rate creative team led by Conductor Johannes Fritzsch and Director Simon Phillips. The design for this new production will instantly place the audience in the world of CNN and Al Jazeera newscasts from a contemporary war-zone in the Middle East. The military danger, power plays, continual surveillance and claustrophobia created on board an aircraft carrier is a perfect setting for Iago to lay his psychological traps for Otello.
As you can see I'll be directing two pieces in 2013, and both projects are very close to my heart. You can read my article on Cinderella elsewhere on this website - I'm so excited to be creating a brand new Trans-Tasman production, working with this fantastic cast of singers and conductors Wyn Davies and Simon Phillips, designer Dan Potra and lighting designer Matt Marshall. Directing the St Matthew Passion in Perth in 2005 was one of the highlights of my career, so when I first got this job, having heard the wonderful Brisbane based Camerata of St John's, I asked conductor Graham Abbott to revisit it with me. Luckily we were able to bring back several of the original cast - the fabulous Paul Whelan (tall Paul - he's 6'7") as Jesus and soloists Sara Macliver and Andrew Collis. Robbie Macfarlane was who was a 17-year old in the chorus in Perth, is now the tenor soloist. They'll join alto Toby Cole and Swedish Evangelist Lief Arun Soren.