Posts Tagged ‘opera australia


The King and I previews in Brisbane Tonight!

“The most ravishing show you may ever see…”


How excitement! Are you one of the lucky ones? Are you seeing it first?




The King and I presented by Opera Australia and John Frost opens as a glittering national premiere at QPAC on Saturday 19 April 2014 and previews tonight! If you didn’t secure seats already, you still have a chance to see this sumptuous production…


Final tickets have been released for the Australian premiere season of the Rodgers and Hammerstein masterpiece, The King and I which will play for strictly limited seven week season in QPAC’s Lyric Theatre until Sunday 1 June 2014.


Australia’s favourite leading lady and four-time Gold Logie winner Lisa McCune plays English governess Anna Leonowens opposite internationally acclaimed baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes as the King in the Brisbane and Sydney seasons, hot from their success performing together in the national tour of South Pacific, also presented by Opera Australia and John Frost.


In the roles of British Diplomat Sir Edward Ramsey and Captain Orton is John Adam (The School For Wives) while The Kralahome is played by Marty Rhone (The King and I – West End, Godspell). Lady Thiang will be played by Chinese-born Australian opera singer Shu-Cheen Yu (The King and I – 1991 Australian tour) and in the roles of the Burmese young lovers Lun Tha and Tuptim are Adrian Li Donni and Jenny Liu.


The ensemble performers are Bianca Baykara, Novy Bereber, Iggy Cabral, William Centurion, Leo Cornelius, Jade Coutts, Teresa Duddy, Vivien Emsworth, Elle Evangelista, Carolyn Ferrie, Chris Fung, Kiana Gallop-Angeles, Erin James, Ella Jarman, Patrick Jeremy, Leah Lim, Anna Magrath, Seann Matthew Moore, Matthew Nguyen, Alexis Pedraza-Sampang, Hayanah Pickering, Marcus Rivera, Michelle Rozario, Ariya Sawadivong, Victor Siharath, Nicholas Sopelario and Yong Ying Woo.


The Brisbane production also stars 27 Queensland children aged 5 to 13, many making their stage debut in The King and I.


The principal role of Prince Chululongkorn will be shared by Timothy Ho and Sebastian Li, and principal role of Louis Leonowens will be shared by Riley Brooker and Bailey Kelleher. Jayden McGinlay will understudy the roles of both Louis and Prince Chululongkorn.


The 22 children who will play the young princes and princesses of Siam are Hannah Bahr,   Leilani Joy Burke-Court, Mia Byrne, Katitlin Cheung, Lucy Chin, Oliver Chin, Izellah Connelly, Chloe De Los Santos, Rocco Frediani, Jai Godbold, Jessica Kim, Kai Koinuma, Chloe Liew, Cameron McDonald, Lachlan McDonald, Siaa Panapa, Rhetta Pulou, Charlotte Rubendra, Jayden Siemon, Laila Mia Steele, Zayden Stevens and Shivani Whala.




The King and I was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s fifth musical together and is considered one of the jewels in their crown. It was based on Margaret Landon’s 1944 novel Anna and the King of Siam, which took its inspiration from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, a British governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam (now Thailand) in the early 1860s.


The beautiful score includes the songs “I Whistle a Happy Tune”, “Getting to Know You”, “Shall We Dance?” and “Hello, Young Lovers”.


A hit on Broadway in 1951, where it starred Gertrude Lawrence (who died during the season) and Yul Brynner, the show ran for three years before touring. The first London production opened in 1953, enjoying similar success. In 1956 it became a famous film starring Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner who won an Academy Award for his performance.


John Frost’s now legendary Australian production premiered at the Adelaide Festival Theatre in 1991. Directed by West End director Christopher Renshaw and starring Hayley Mills as Anna, it played to sell out houses around the country. In 1996, the production went on to win four Tony Awards on Broadway: Best Revival of a Musical, Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical (Donna Murphy), Best Scenic Design (Brian Thomson) and Best Costume Design (Roger Kirk). The Broadway season was followed by a US tour. In 2000, the production opened at the London Palladium with Elaine Paige as Anna where it played for nearly two years before embarking on a UK tour.


Christopher Renshaw has returned to Australia to revive the production, with its stunning Thai-inspired set design by Brian Thomson, sumptuous costumes by Roger Kirk, lighting by Nigel Levings, sound design by Michael Waters and musical direction by Peter Casey. Susan Kikuchi has recreated the original Jerome Robbins choreography as well as the choreography of her mother Yuriko who appeared in the 1951 Broadway production and the 1956 film.




South Pacific

South Pacific


South Pacific

Opera Australia and John Frost

QPAC Lyric Theatre

27th December – 27th January 2013


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


This year marks the 60th Anniversary of South Pacific in Australia.


This is the iconic album cover image I grew up with.

This record (Google it, kids; vinyl record) became scratched beyond repair before it was discarded (if it was discarded at all. I have a sneaking suspicion that I saw it recently, stashed upstairs, amongst Mum and Dad’s fave records of all time!). I remember singing the songs for years, skipping and kicking around the lounge room, washing that man right outta’ my hair and sending him on his way!

South Pacific Album Cover

First performed on Broadway in 1949, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific made a bold statement in post-war America about tolerance and acceptance. Only four years on from World War II, South Pacific gave us inter-racial relationships, and what it takes to overcome our own prejudices.


Opera Australia and John Frost’s co-production, from the original Lincoln Center Theater production, directed by Bartlett Sher, is superb. The Brisbane cast is impressive and they have the privilege of working in Catherine Zuber’s authentic costumes (we get just a glimpse of several gorgeous evening gowns), within a simple, elegant set.


Whether or not you’re a fan of Rodgers & Hammerstein, there is a lot to love about this show. The first thing is Teddy Tahu Rhodes, who is sublime as the Frenchman, Emile De Becque. Honestly. What is there NOT to love about this guy? His heartfelt delivery of Some Enchanted Evening (What’s this? Another reprise? Alright!), and This Nearly Was Mine are heart-melting, heart-breaking perfection. Already well respected in the international opera world, South Pacific is Rhodes’ first musical and it’s won him a host of new, devoted (swooning) fans. I’m sure I was not the only one on opening night left quite breathless by Rhodes’ enigmatic performance.


Teddy Tahu Rhodes. Image by Kurt Sneddon.


Well-matched and perfectly cast as Ensign Nellie Forbush is multiple award-winner and golden girl of the stage and small screen, Lisa McCune. I know! Remember when we were all slightly suspicious of McCune? That transition from Australian TV Drama to the stage can be a killer. But remember back even further? That’s right. When she was just 15, McCune was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, in Wanneroo, Western Australia. Since then, McCune has gone from strength to strength and in this role she excels, coming full circle as a singer, despite a voice that is sweeter than you might expect to hear, traditionally, in this role. But you can’t fake Nellie Forbush. It’s all or nothing and McCune gives it her all. I love her naivety and her boldness, perfectly juxtaposed to reveal a woman who can clearly see that her ingrained prejudice will leave her unstuck in the end but not – at first – how she can change her perspective. Her prejudice and confusion come as a shock, both to her and to us, but we have to remember where we are…and where Nellie comes from. You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught


Lisa McCune. Image by Kurt Sneddon.


In lesser productions of South Pacific, Lieutenant Joe Cable is so often the weak link but thanks to the incredible talent and sensitivity of stunning Tenor, Daniel Koek, combined with Sher’s insightful direction, he is so likeable, and it is a truly awful moment to hear of his demise. In fact, he reminds me of Miss Saigon’s Chris but he’s not such a sap. Sher’s multi-award-winning direction of this production has ensured we see full characterisations and rich, real relationships (though the rumours of a romance between McCune and Rhodes were quashed on Monday at the media launch, so perhaps not as real as we’d like to imagine, which only goes to show that the acting must be A1!). Suffice to say, there is no nuance missed, such is the attention to detail.


Daniel Koek as Lieutenant Cable. Image by Jeff-Busby.


Gyton Grantley offers plenty of giggles as go-to Seabee, Luther Billis, and balances his comedic antics with tenderness towards Nellie that doesn’t go unnoticed. Christine Anu somehow manages to seduce more than repel, with her betel nut stained teeth and a haunting rendition of Bali Ha’i. Celina Yuen, as Liat, is fragile and beautiful, and the children are suitably spirited. On opening night they were Joy Ehue (Ngana) and Levi Ehue (Jerome). I’d love to get back before the season closes to see our own Louisa Finau; Sunshine Coast based and a newcomer to the professional stage. The ensemble is uniformly excellent; they look good and their sound is rich and full.


Christine Anu & Gyton Grantley. Image by Kurt Sneddon.


The inspiration for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s love story, James A Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Tales of the South Pacific, is rich in detail and this design team brings both Michener’s prose and the legendary island, Bali Ha’I, out of the mist and into reality with a deceptively simple set comprising a painted backdrop, beautifully lit, narrowly avoiding looking like a set for The Bold and The Beautiful (Sets by Michael Yeargan & Lighting by Donald Holder). Once we accept that it’s not a moving, multi-media image, it becomes all the more real. The moment of acceptance creeps up on us; it’s similar to that point where, as an adult watching Peter Pan, we just HAVE to clap and chime in with, “I DO believe in fairies!” Timber plantation blinds help to set each scene, delineating different spaces for the islands, and the company street, the Commander’s Office and De Beque’s plantation home, and seamless transitions make it easy to suspend disbelief. The magic of this South Pacific is not only in the performances on stage, but also, in the unseen performances of the crew, and in the inspired direction of Sher, whose vision is exquisitely shared.


With Australian Musical Director, Andrew Greene, at the helm, the orchestra sounds superb – the overture swells just as it should, igniting our love of old-school live theatre and the Great American Musical of the mid-20th century – and the well-loved songs tumble forth like a waterfall’s glistening gifts; still enticing audience members to sing along softly under their breath, 60 years on.


South Pacific is a rare pearl. A poignant, still relevant message and absolutely superb performances make this the perfect show for the start of a magical year of musical theatre.


Lisa McCune & Teddy Tahu Rhodes. Image by Jeff Busby.




Opera Australia’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Opera Australia

QPAC Lyric Theatre

1st – 9th June 2012

Reviewed by Michelle Bull

Enticed by the faint smell of incense creeping under the doors of the Lyric theatre, you could be forgiven for thinking you were about to see a touring Bollywood production and not an opera by Opera Australia. But as the next few hours unfolded, there was no mistaking this production for anything else but Baz Luhrmann’s take on Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, set in 1923 India.

For those of you unfamiliar with Shakespeare’s enchanting tale, it goes something like this…The Queen of the Fairies, Tytania, is a tad smitten with her charge, a young Indian boy, so much so that King Oberon gets a little upset and consequently the two have a bit of a spat. King Oberon sends his servant Puck to fetch a potion that with one-drop causes love at first sight, Oberon intends to use this on Tytania. Meanwhile there’s a love quadrangle going on with mortals Helena, Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius, and the impish Oberon decides to test out his potion on them, causing quite the kafuffle. Also in the forest that night (it’s a busy wood this one), are the rustics (workmen), who are there to rehearse a play intended for the wedding of the Duke of Athens Theseus and his Queen Hippolyta. They also get muddled up with the potion and so it all gets quite messy. There are three weddings, a dramatic death scene and then day breaks and all is well…phew! Quite a lot of narrative to digest in three acts, but the wonders of a decadent set and some glorious singing defiantly aid digestion.

Dressed in vibrant colour and speckled with glimmers of firelight and flowers the stage (Catherine Martin, Bill Marron) is the picture of a magical fairy woodland. I was completely immersed even before the opera had begun. Incense, and a soundscape of birds and forest sounds were the perfect finishing touches to a set that housed a water pool, suspended bridges draped in vines, flowers and the superb sounds of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra!

One by one we were introduced to the characters, from Fairy Kings and Queens, love struck mortals and dancing nymphs and faries. The costuming and makeup of all was impeccable, and reminiscent of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, tying into the choreography that throughout was also inspired by bollywood-esque gesture and lines (John O’Connell).

Overall, the entire cast was strong both in voice and characterisation. Tobias Cole as King Oberon was utterly hypnotic. His wonderfully balanced and resonant counter-tenor, added to the statuesque elegance he brought to the role. I was entranced and unnerved all at once; the perfect Fairy King.

Portraying the same unnerving smile as complement was Tyler Coppin as the impish Puck. Bringing a childlike physicality and sense of play to the role he delivered with strong comic timing and a wonderful melodic shaping to his treatment of the text.

His Queen, Lorena Gore as Fairy Queen Tytania was also an absolute joy to watch. With a ringing brightness and light agility to her pretty coloratura she encapsulated all a Fairy Queen should, gliding across the stage with a flirty cheekiness that made her instantly loveable.

The Lovers – Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius – all gave solid performances both individually and as an ensemble. James Egglestone as Lysander was sweet and sung with a wonderful sense of poise and connectedness despite the rigorous physical demands of the role. Luke Gabbedy as Demetrius also commanded a strong presence onstage both physically and vocally, managing effortlessly a balance of strength and tenderness to his large lyric baritone.

I particularly enjoyed Jade Ede as Helena. Awkwardly philosophical and hopelessly love struck, her beautiful soprano cascaded effortlessly through from top to bottom, providing a magnificent contrast to the rough and ready physicality of her character.

Sian Pendry as Hermia provided a chocolaty legitimate mezzo sound to her role. Her feisty attack on Helena was hilarious and showed Pendry’s wonderful dedication to character in its intensity; the duet between the two, a comic and musical highlight that showed the skill of the performers as they leapt and lurched across the stage while maintaining control of the vocal line.

The six rustics were next to win our hearts and raised a cheer each time they entered. Like a cross between bumbling workman and Dad’s Army, they brought a wonderful comic element to the show. Each with their own character within the group provided a solid ensemble. Bottom, (a weaver) played by Conal Coad, was hilarious and with an authoritative bass baritone who exploited the comic moments for all they were worth. His love scenes (as an Ass) with Tytania were very amusing and left not much to the imagination. I heard a few tut tuts from the audience at the suggestiveness of some of these scenes but it was all in good fun!

Graeme MacFarlene played Flute, a bellows mender (and Thisbe in the Rustics play). Showing adaptability and great characterisation within his voice, his strong tenor was matched by his skill as a wonderful comic actor.

Quince (Richard Anderson), Snug (Richard Alexander), Stout (John Longmuir) and Starveling (Andrew Moran) were each individually very funny in their roles. The Rustics overall ensemble sound was beautifully balanced and musical, and they quick became audience favorites.

The final act gave us the wonderfully strong Bass voice of Jud Arthur as Theseus and contralto Tania Ferris as Hippolyta. Despite occupying a small amount of stage time, I really enjoyed both their performances; Arthur’s Bass sound filled the entire Lyric theatre effortlessly, and Ferris’s contralto was controlled and rich and oozed regality.

The cast are supported throughout by an enchanting chorus of fairies, spirits and dancing nymphs, mischievous and wide eyed with a beautiful ensemble sound. The Act 3 finale Now Until the Break of Day was a highlight, showcasing the ethereal sound of the children’s chorus.

There is so much to love about this current production by Opera Australia, that I feel I need a review twice as long to include it all. There is a glamour to this production that is utterly charming. The fairy tale does not ignore Britten’s darker underlying themes lurking in the shadows and skillfully lures its audience in through an intelligent approach to the intricacies of the score and staging.

This creates a magical fairytale with just the right amount of grit to give it an unnerving other worldly air. The cast are superb and with a set that transports you to a fairy dreamland from the minute you enter the space, the three acts whizz by so fast that you wish you could keep dreaming.


The Magic Flute

The Magic Flute

QPAC Lyric Theatre

26th May – 8th June

Reviewed by Michelle Bull

Normally when I ask my guitarist fiancé to accompany me along to the opera, I am met with a resounding silence, followed by a groan that sounds like the death of a small mammal. It’s not that he’s uncultured; in fact he spends more time practicing his art than I do..…It’s just that when it comes to opera, most of it bores him senseless, and frankly quite often I feel the same.

So imagine my (delighted) disbelief when he politely insisted on coming along to the opening of Opera Australia’s The Magic Flute on Saturday night! Enticed by the fantastical spectacle of a slick advertising campaign, he donned his finest and together we joined the throng of faux furs and pearls cramming into the theatre for what was sure to be a spectacle of operatic proportions.

Showing at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre, this latest production directed by Matthew Barclay (original production by Julie Taymor) is a fantastical take on Mozart’s much loved opera. Creating a surrealist world through larger than life puppetry, costuming and sets, The Magic Flute is a colorful and magnificent fantasy that brings out the wondrous wide-eyed kid inside.

Sung in English and with a plot centered around mans search for love and his struggle to attain wisdom and virtue, The Magic Flute is to be enjoyed by those looking for some light entertainment to spice up their Saturday night as well as opera aficionados wanting to dig their teeth into themes of Masonic Ritual, good vs. evil, enlightenment, Egyptian symbolism and the mysterious rule of three embedded into the music and libretto.

There is some stunning singing by the cast. Stephen Smith as Prince Tamino gives a solid performance, his light tenor soaring rather effortlessly with a great sense of musicality. Equally as strong is Taryn Fiebig as Pamina. Her signature aria ‘I feel it, it is vanished’ (Ach, ich fühl’s) is sung with a beautiful sense of height and shimmering vocal colour, although personally I found the English translation not as complementary to the musical line as the original text in German.

Andrew Jones as Papageno is the epitamy of a cheeky, boyish bird catcher. Vocally rich and with a commanding stage presence, the physicality he brings to the role makes for an energy driven and holistic performance that wins the hearts of all.

I did feel however his character was affected by some characteristics of the translated libretto. Although the use of natural Australian accents throughout the production seemed at first a little too ‘familiar’ for the dreamlike world created onstage, it didn’t bug me as much as the colloquialisms sprinkled in for good measure. References to ‘Ice-magic’ and the odd ‘Mate’, I found distracting. Part of the appeal of this production for me was the escape into the illusions and while bringing in cultural relevance; I felt these adaptations were a tad superfluous.

There are however many inspired moments in the production. The Queen of the Night (Milica Ilic) is mesmerising and embodies a commanding presence onstage. The staging and execution of her aria ‘Hell’s vengeance boils in my heart (Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen) was a standout, sung with a wonderful sense of control and poise that did not detract from the freedom and agility of the sound.

Milica Ilic as Queen of the Night and Taryn Fiebig as Pamina. Image by Justin Nicholas.

I also particularly enjoyed Kanen Breen in the role of Monostatos whose embodiment of character both in voice and physicality reminded me of Commedia’s Pulcinella. Singing with a wonderfully legitimate weight and buoyancy to the voice Breen remained present vocally throughout some energetic staging, balancing a great character performance with legitimate singing. Breen’s energised performance was by far one of the standouts in this production for me.

Kiandra Howarth as the sweet-faced Papagena gives a short but vocally secure and well-rounded performance, sharing a wonderful playful chemistry with her Papageno.

Operatunity Oz winner David Parkin brings an authoritative rumbling Bass to the character of Sarastro that although impressive in timbre was at times overpowered by the orchestra in the bottom of his range, a fate also affecting the trio of First, Second and Third Ladies (Elisa Wilson, Victoria Lambourn & Tania Ferris) whose wonderfully balanced ensemble sound carried strongly but who lost some individual lines and dialogue under the swell of the orchestra. This was also the case with the three ‘Spirits’ (Jude Korab, Louis Backstrom & Campbell Hall), although the delicacy of their blended sound brought a fitting ethereal quality to their characters.

The Opera Australia chorus is a constant thrill and in this production is equally matched by puppeteers and dancers that provide a rich visual spectacle to the characters individual journeys. Queensland Symphony are also in fine form, supporting the artists with a mostly great sensitivity. Mozart’s score provides a wonderful tapestry of sound that allows Conductor, Anthony Legge, to drive the action onstage scooping the audience up in the arms of the familiar score.

So what was the verdict? Overall, Opera Australia’s The Magic Flute is a lovely production. Perfectly accessible and with something to ignite a sense of wonder inside the hearts of everyone wherever their operatic inclinations lie, I would encourage even those of you who don’t ‘like opera’ to give it a try…if an operatically-reluctant musician went home whistling Papageno’s aria and demanding a ticket to the next production that comes to town, it’s a pretty good recommendation.

Andrew Jones as Papageno. Image by Justin Nicholas.


Rachelle Durkin: Metropolitan Magic

In an Australian exclusive, New York based Metropolitan Opera soprano, Rachelle Durkin, will perform Metropolitan Magic for one night only on April 26th at berardo’s restaurant. Rachelle will be coming to Noosa after a month of performing the lead role of Violetta in La Traviata for Opera Australia’s critically acclaimed Opera on the Harbour extravaganza. The production will be screened on Foxtel’s STUDIO channel on Monday 30th April at 8:40pm.

She was last seen in Noosa on the big screen in December as the female lead in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Satyagraha (part of Noosa Cinema’s Opera at the Met season).

As well as performing with The Met over the past decade, Rachelle has performed internationally with Chicago Opera, Hawaii Opera, Lyric Opera of San Antonia, Bilboa Opera, Salzburg Festival, Bellingham Music Festival, Hong Kong Philharmonic and at Carnegie Hall.

In Australia she has performed lead roles with Opera Australia, West Australian Opera and Opera Queensland as well as performing as a soloist with many of the state Symphony Orchestras.

Although a much lauded opera singer, Rachelle is equally at home performing cabaret and musical comedy numbers. Metropolitan Magic will not only feature some great opera classics but will also include a little Bernstein, Sondheim etc.

Co-starring with Rachelle will be Mark Coughlan, a highly respected concert pianist, accompanist, musical director and compere, who has performed in Europe, South East Asia & Australia, including a critically acclaimed solo Beethoven recital at Sydney Festival.

This concert heralds the fourth collaboration between the Zonta Club of Noosa, berardo’s restaurant and Philanthropy Initiative Australia in presenting evenings of world class music to raise money for Zonta funded projects.

Previous Zonta concerts at berardo’s have featured Jane Rutter, Taryn Fiebig, Sara Macliver and Andrew Foote and have successfully raised thousands of dollars for such charities as United Synergies and Birth Kits Foundation Australia. Once again, all proceeds from this concert will go to Zonta supported projects including Cooroy Family Support Centre.

Rachelle Durkin: Metropolitan Magic

April 26 at 6pm at berardo’s restaurant & bar

$95 includes 3 course dinner with glass of sparkling wine on arrival plus 2 x 45 minute sets

Bookings: Carole Tretheway of Zonta on 0414 713955

Noosa Food & Wine Festival 2011 from Source Media on Vimeo.