Posts Tagged ‘QSO


HOTA – Home of the Arts Officially Opens with Tim Minchin

HOTA – Home of the Arts officially opens with Tim Minchin in free open-air concert


Tim Minchin 2018 HOTA: Lexi Spooner LEXIMAGERY.


Australia’s brilliant showman and provocateur, the internationally acclaimed Tim Minchin performed a history-making first concert on HOTA’s spectacular outdoor stage on Saturday evening, to a capacity audience. Saturday’s special free concert – Minchin’s first in Australia for two years – officially launched the HOTA outdoor program for 2018.



HOTA, Home of the Arts officially came to life on the Gold Coast last month, with the announcement of the new name, introduction of the spectacular new outdoor stage and release of the Outdoor Program featuring big names, collaborations and local talent. Saturday’s concert marked the beginning of an exciting new era for the Gold Coast.



Tim Minchin 2018 HOTA: Tyronne Fitzgerald LEXIMAGERY.


Other standouts in the 2018 program include the Concert for the Planet on Saturday, March 24, and then concerts by Australian music legend Neil Finn, the mighty Queensland Symphony Orchestra, and in a major coup for the region, multi-award winner and pioneer, musician and film director, Laurie Anderson will leave her home in New York to take up residency at HOTA.


Tim Minchin 2018 HOTA: Lexi Spooner LEXIMAGERY.


Tim Minchin 2018 HOTA: Lexi Spooner LEXIMAGERY.


“A new name, a spectacular new venue, and a wonderfully energised new program comes as the result of many years of planning and hard work by multiple teams and a huge commitment from the City of Gold Coast,” said HOTA Chair Robyn Archer AO.



“The Tim Minchin concert this weekend is the inspirational beginning of a new era for the Gold Coast, for both its residents and its millions of visitors. At last, the sixth largest city in Australia has created a brilliant state-of-the-art platform for the commissioning, producing and presenting of the most exciting artists from the region, the nation and the world,” she said.


Tim Minchin 2018 HOTA: Tyronne Fitzgerald LEXIMAGERY.



Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone In Concert


Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone In Concert

J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World & CineConcerts

Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

Saturday April 1 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


We’re at Brisbane’s Convention and Exhibition Centre with a crowd that is not your ordinary theatre crowd, although perhaps it’s a new theatre-ish crowd, and we get some interesting looks ourselves, as if we’re the odd ones out. We’ve swept into the venue at the last second, having parked at QPAC because we always park at QPAC (it’s automatic now; the car can magically get itself there), which means that when the show is not there, a graceful-as-a-giraffe little run down Grey Street and across the road is required to get to the right box office. This mixed crowd, in the Convention Centre foyer, is not expecting an evening of live theatre.

They’re here for a movie concert, the first of a new genius series from CineConcerts, featuring your local symphony orchestra playing every note of a Harry Potter film shown on a 40-foot screen.

It may be a movie night but it’s an entirely theatrical event! The vibe is electric and a great number of hard-core fans are proudly wearing Gryffindor shirts, and ties and sweaters and robes. Everybody is so excited to be here.


We take our seats moments before the house lights go down and when Conductor, QSO’s Sarah Hicks, appears, she is welcomed by appreciative applause. She smiles and asks if there’s anyone who’s never been to a live orchestral performance. Many hands go up, and she smiles encouragingly, inviting everyone to get involved. In true pantomime fashion, we should feel free to cheer for our hero and boo the villains. There’s no question about whether or not we’ve seen the film or read the book… No matter what our individual stories are, we’re in for a treat!

I wonder how the orchestra will precisely match the action, but only for half a second before Hicks raises her baton and the Warner Bros logo appears on screen as we hear the first sounds from the string section. A collective shiver runs through the Great Hall. It’s perfect. It’s actually intense. Every moment of the movie becomes sharper and more vital. The entire underscore, which we might forget is there sometimes, when we see the film at home or originally, in the surround sound cinema, comes alive. Every moment of discovery, joy, anticipation, trepidation, celebration and dread is able to be fully experienced, savoured.


And unless we glance at the musicians on stage from time to time, or become mesmerised watching them at their craft, as I do while the harp plays to keep three-headed Fluffy asleep (it’s so beautiful, the sound of faerie slumber), or while the percussionists keep up with thousands of magical additions, intellectually, we almost take for granted that the music is live. But at the same time, soulfully, we’re experiencing something very special. Like a festival event, there’s a true communal feeling, a momentary connection with people we’ve never met, because we all just want Harry to defeat Voldemort! We know this is only the very beginning of an epic battle, which represents something for everyone. And it’s delightful to see this film again, so beautifully realised, and it’s so funny, I’d forgotten.

Poppy has been terrified for years by the more frightening moments in the film, and has never actually watched in its entirety, The Philosopher’s Stone or any of the subsequent films. I’d made this event a surprise so she couldn’t back out and offer her seat to someone else, and she was hesitant about it, telling me she might need to hide under my wrap when we know Voldemort is about to appear. Well, she did hide towards the end, but after settling into the first few magical bars of the music I saw a grin spread from ear to ear as Harry celebrated his 11th birthday and took off to Hogwarts with Hagrid. Guess what’s on in the background as I write this? Poppy has taken out the DVD box collection and put on The Philosopher’s Stone, and as we hear the familiar strains of John Williams’ evocative opening bars, she laments, “The music’s not as good!”


Our Queensland Symphony Orchestra gives The Philosopher’s Stone a new, unique, incredibly magical quality, the full, rich sounds of the live music letting us dive in deeper, remember our original experience of the film and enjoy J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World all over again.


Don’t miss the next exciting event in the QSO / Cineconcert series on October 7 Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets 









Snow White

Snow White

Ballet Preljocaj

QPAC International Series

September 2–11 2016

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

Watch the live stream of Snow White tonight from 7pm HERE


Dance is more than controlled contortion and movement. It is the canvas against which we interpret the world and explore the depths of human emotion.

Angelin Preljocaj

The story of Snow White is a focus for this year’s Brisbane Festival, with the full-length dance theatre work by the French contemporary dance company Ballet Preljocaj, as well as a music theatre retelling by La Boite Theatre Company and Opera Queensland, and the Gallery of Modern Art screening two film versions, one from 1916, and the better known Walt Disney one from 1937.

Artistic Director and choreographer Angelin Preljocaj created Snow White on his company Ballet Preljocaj in 2008, and it is one of their best-known works. This season is part of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre’s International Series, and exclusive to Brisbane.

The series has notably brought to Brisbane companies of the calibre of the Paris Opera Ballet, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, and the Bolshoi Ballet, and is a highlight of the dance performance calendar. While Ballet Preljocaj is not as internationally renowned as these companies, it is good to see a contemporary company as part of the series.

Snow White, like many fairytales, is a very dark story, about hatred, jealousy, attempted murder and revenge. Preljocaj’s version exploits this darkness to the full, staying very close to the story recorded by the Brothers Grimm.

The evil Queen, jealous of the beauty of her stepdaughter Snow White, tries several times to kill her, and apparently succeeds, but Snow White is revived by her Prince and marries him. At the wedding, the stepmother is forced to dance in red-hot iron shoes until she dies.

In the opening scene, a woman in black struggles through dark trees in a thick fog, disappearing into it and then reappearing. She is revealed as Snow White’s mother, who dies when giving birth. This short sequence is one of the most powerful moments in the work.

The set design and lighting, by Thierry Leproust and Patrick Riou, respectively, create a powerful effect, from the start taking us into a malevolent world dominated by brooding forest.


There are lighter, even joyous, moments: Snow White’s duos with her Prince; the vigorous dances of members of her father’s court; an interlude with nymphs and fauns in the forest; and the dwarves, with whom Snow White takes refuge before the Queen finally hunts her down.

The choreography has some very balletic elements, mixed with much earthier grounded movement. The courtiers’ dancing, for instance, repeats the basic classical arm positions, but also has the dancers stamping and thigh-slapping, reminiscent of central or eastern European folk dance. Scooping and windmilling arm movements are a theme through the work.

The dancers playing the dwarves appear from openings in a giant wall filling the whole space at the rear of the stage. The miner’s lamps on their heads reinforce the analogy of a cliff, peppered with mineshaft entrances or cave mouths. Suspended by ropes, the dwarves walk up and down the wall as if it is a floor, and fly and tumble across it, in a magical sequence.

Emilie Lalande was a fragile, girlish Snow White, light, quick and agile. Her Prince, Redi Shtylla, was the outstanding dancer on first night – strong, tall, and athletic. He projected an energy that contrasted with Snow White’s fragility. Their duos were tender, and passionate, with many flying lifts.

Léa de Natale appears only briefly as Snow White’s mother, in the opening scene, and in a beautiful and moving aerial sequence when she lifts the unconscious Snow White up to float above the stage – both very powerful.

As the Queen, Cecilia Torres Morillo glowered and smouldered at her giant mirror, and commanded the stage with an evil presence. There is little dance in her role until the end, when the Queen is tortured and dances to her death. Torres Morillo’s repetitive leaps were slightly underwhelming in the portrayal of such a violent end.

An uncredited dancer deserves a mention for her portrayal of a deer in the forest, nervous and alert, and moving jerkily as it scans its surroundings for danger. Its fear is justified – it is the creature killed by the Queen’s hunters to make her believe they have obeyed her orders and killed Snow White.

Much was made in the publicity for the show of the costumes by Jean-Paul Gaultier. The wicked Queen’s red and black dominatrix outfit, with its cage-like outer bodice, and long skirt cut away in front to show her black stockings and boots, was a signature image for the season.

The Prince’s eyecatching salmon-pink costume, reminiscent of a prince from classical ballet, was inspired by that of a Spanish bullfighter.


Snow White’s striking wedding dress is a crinoline, the frame hung with white fringes that fluttered as she moved. Her costume for the bulk of the work, however, is a white playsuit-like garment looped very loosely between her legs, with wide slits at the side, and a floating panel at the back. The costume is very unflattering, with the look of a sagging nappy, and exposes the dancer’s buttocks a lot of the time.

Preljocaj chose music from works by Gustav Mahler for Snow White. The haunting quality of the music suits the dark fairytale, although the choreography (the vigorous folk-style dance, for example) contrasts with its grandeur at times.


The Queensland Symphony Orchestra, led by its Conductor Laureate Johannes Fritzsch, played beautifully, and contributed greatly to the theatrical impact of the show.

At 1 hour 50 minutes without an interval, Snow White feels like a long stretch in the theatre. Some people on the first night obviously needed a break, and walked out halfway through anyway.


Ballet Preljocaj brings Snow White to Brisbane


The Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) International Series 2016 was announced today confirming an Australian exclusive season from France’s Ballet Preljocaj performing only in Brisbane at the Lyric Theatre, Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) from 2 to 11 September 2016.




Headed by award winning Artistic Director, Angelin Preljocaj, Ballet Preljocaj is one of the leading contemporary ballet companies in the world today.


Acting Premier of Queensland, The Hon. Jackie Trad MP said this Australian exclusive cements Queensland’s reputation for attracting the world’s best in performing arts.


“Ballet Preljocaj will perform Snow White, a highly-acclaimed work with costumes from world renowned fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier,” Ms Trad said.


“Queensland Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Johannes Fritszch, will play with Ballet Preljocaj.


“QPAC is presenting Ballet Preljocaj in association with the Brisbane Festival and with support from Tourism and Events Queensland”.


“The QPAC International Series presents some of the world’s greatest arts companies and continues to grow the state’s reputation as a vibrant cultural tourism destination,” said the Acting Premier.




The QPAC International Series has brought exclusive seasons of the best international companies to the state in recent years, including companies such as the Bolshoi Ballet, The Hamburg Ballet and American Ballet Theatre.


QPAC Chief Executive John Kotzas said this Brisbane exclusive is an exciting new twist to the QPAC International Series story.


“The QPAC International Series program brings those companies that are exemplary across performing arts genres to Brisbane and those who are pushing the boundaries of their art forms”. 


“Ballet Preljocaj is certainly one of those companies. Snow White is a phenomenal piece that traverses the darker side of the human condition and explores themes and ideas that are familiar to us all”.




Mr Kotzas continued, “The QPAC International Series will also provide several opportunities for deeper engagement with community; artist to artist and artist to audience, a whole program of events that open up a dialogue on the arts and that makes a connection between art and meaningful participation in civic life.


“We expect about one third of our audience will travel to Brisbane to participate in our International Series; these exclusives are a way to showcase our wonderful state”, said Kotzas.


Minister for Tourism and Major Events, Kate Jones MP, welcomed the Australian exclusive Ballet Preljocaj performance to Brisbane as a significant cultural tourism drawcard.


“As part of the QPAC International Series, this performance showcases Queensland’s ability to attract and host internationally renowned performing arts presentations,” Minister Jones said.


“Ballet Preljocaj builds on the success of the QPAC International Series that has already attracted an audience of 112,000 people and generated more than $12 million for the Queensland economy since its inception in 2009.


“QPAC, in partnership with Tourism and Events Queensland, is continuing to help grow the State’s vibrant cultural tourism offerings that inspire visitors both here and abroad to experience Queensland”, said Jones.


Ballet Preljocaj’s Snow White comes to the Lyric Theatre, QPAC from 2 to 11 September 2016; an exclusive Brisbane season as part of the QPAC International Series.



Star Trek Live In Concert


Star Trek Live in Concert

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Royal International Convention Centre

February 7 2015


Reviewed by Michelle Bull




When I was little, we used to have an old wooden cabinet filled with VHS tapes (yes…VHS!) that I would meticulously arrange and rearrange on a weekly basis. This was partly because the cupboard had a rich wood polish smell that I weirdly loved and partly because I prided myself on my Anne of Green Gables and 1950’s musical collections. Sitting beside them, equally as impressive, were a collection of Star Wars and Star Trek videos that, thanks to my brother’s pre-teen ‘outer space phase’, were viewed in equal rotation on Friday and Saturday.


So it turned out that growing up amongst all this Sci-Fi I had unknowingly become more of a ‘Trekkie’ than I realised, which is why I jumped at the chance to see Star Trek Live in Concert a showing of the 2009 Science Fiction action film with Michael Giacchino’s soundtrack, performed live by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.


Upon entering the auditorium guided by a young Vulcan acting suspiciously like a Theatre Usher, an other-worldly blue light highlighted the faces of a room filled with the most eclectic crowd I’m sure QSO has seen to date.


An enormous screen was suspended behind the stage and as I surveyed the jam-packed audience I noticed a number of Vulcans and Star troopers filing into their seats. Feeling underdressed and resisting the temptation to giggle as the Star Trooper beside me gave a split fingered salute to a fellow officer, I realised this was serious business for some. I. Could. Not. Wait.
As the lights dimmed and a thunderous overture began my heart pounded as the musical and onscreen action began…at warp speed!


For those who have yet to experience a concert of this kind, the setup is that the film is shown on the large screen above the Orchestra as they perform the soundtrack, in perfect synchronisation to every moment in the film. That in itself wowed me, as every nuance seemed a perfect fit; my guess is Conductor Nicholas Buc has earned true Trekkie status with his intense study of the film by now!


This incredibly immersive experience is like no other as the score itself almost drags you from your seat and onto the Star Ship Enterprise. Filled with suspense and sudden changes of pace and dynamic, QSO handle the challenging score with an intense focus and sophistication. Emotional moments were made all the more tragic and it seems that as opposed to the score existing in the background to the drama it instead propelled the action onscreen and made it all the more powerful.


Although initially I gravitated to the more intimate moments, during which beautifully executed and haunting lines allowed the players to showcase their musical sensitivity, the rousing Overture (which drew spontaneous applause) was hard to deny as a standout moment. Especially when a young audience member ahead of me (who couldn’t have been more then 8yrs old), literally sat bouncing in his seat as he alternated between playing ‘air-trombone’ and conducting passionately as the Star Ships battled it out in explosions of light and fire!


Queensland Symphony Orchestra have clearly reached new audiences and excited their current patrons with Star Trek Live in Concert. I do hope the season returns to Brisbane as I am sure there are more Trekkies out there who are yet to experience the magic QSO bring to this cult classic.

Live Long and Prosper QSO!



Les Illuminations


Les Illuminations

Maestro Series 5: Katie Noonan and Sydney Dance Company

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

QPAC Concert Hall

Saturday June 14 2014


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward




Conductor Johannes Fritzsch
Soprano Katie Noonan
Choreographer Rafael Bonachela for Sydney Dance Company
Costume Designer Toni Maticevski

Stravinsky Song of the Nightingale
Britten Simple Symphony
Britten Les Illuminations
Ravel La Valse


“I alone hold the key to the savage parade” Rimbaud


A clever collaboration between Sydney Dance Company, Katie Noonan and Queensland Symphony Orchestra (QSO), Les Illuminations is pretty astonishing. This production was originally presented in 2013 for the centenary of Benjamin Britten’s birth, returning recently to QPAC and to the Sydney Opera House for sold-out seasons. Les Illuminations is so much more about the dance than the other elements though; the sublime voice of Katie Noonan and the rich tones of the symphony orchestra seem almost secondary, which is not always ideal. This is not Katie’s first collaboration but it’s attracted a lot more attention than Love-Song-Circus (if you missed the show buy the album; it’s truly stunning work). Being a big fan of Katie I wanted to hear more from her, but the requirement of the vocalist in Britten’s piece, in terms of stage time, is minimal. The degree of difficulty, however, begs appreciation for what we see is a short and tricky, bittersweet performance about love, in all its forms. I appreciate it. But that doesn’t mean I won’t mention it again.


Before we even get a glimpse of Katie, dressed in a structural black Toni Maticevski with her crimson hair elegantly coiffed, we enjoy Stravinsky’s Song of the Nightingale and Britten’s Simple Symphony. The dance is light, fun and playful, and the strings of the first piece are absolutely breathtaking, with not one but two harps contributing to a magical sound that I just don’t hear unless I’m in Mum’s car, which is tuned to ABC Classic FM. I wish I’d brought eight year old Poppy to this show. She gets to go to so much though and it’s a school night. She’s attended QSO events before. This time the sensible parenting decision prevailed. Poppy is always the youngest audience member at the classical concerts and we both get mixed looks from (much) older enthusiasts. We certainly prefer hearing, “Oh look, isn’t she gorgeous?” to “Oh look, as if you would bring a child to the orchestra!” THAT’S RIGHT. WE CAN HEAR YOU. Insert bemused emoticon here.


Why take kids to the orchestra? Well, for all the same reasons grown-ups enjoy live classical music, kids love it! It’s actually an amazing, exciting experience to see and hear the orchestra live. Also, they get to dress up and go out, learn concert etiquette, and have wonderful conversations with us about the city, their dreams and their friends and all sorts of other things like pre-show sushi v tapas and the different sounds of the grown ups’ shoes on the floor of the Concert Hall. There are so many reasons to share the experience with your child! Sometimes even the fact that it’s a school night is not reason enough to keep a child AWAY from a live show.


I came away from this concert wanting to hear more from Katie, but in appreciating the difficulty of the vocal work, and the nature of this unique performance, I enjoyed hearing from her in Les Illuminations, a much darker piece than the previous, allowing us an extended moment to enjoy Katie’s flawless performance. She has such an extraordinary range and ethereal sound. This production seemed to steer our attention time and time again to the dancers on the floor out front while Katie was placed towards the back of the orchestra – in that spectacular frock, which in itself is criminal! Somebody more willing to share the love with their singer would have placed her out front with the dancers, rather than have her hidden behind them at the back of the band! This is the sort of directorial decision that I’d question Sam about – and be growled at for pointing out before being told, “Oh yes, I can see why you said that. Much better.”*


*in an imaginary ideal collaborative creative married world


Les Illuminations. Image by Steven Siewert.


The dancers, also clad in Maticevski, though in far less of it (what I like to call designer remnants), are absolutely superb; there is no question of their technical skill, style or strength. And the passion, in all senses of the word, and intimacy between them is palpable. In fact, Bonachela’s choreography, paired with Britten’s and Ravel’s compositions, creates an entire ocean of feelings, which we can’t help but be caught up in and swept away with, just like the complex relationships represented in the dance. It’s so incredibly intimate that it becomes painful sometimes – at other times delightful, amusing – because we recognise the cycle of love-hate-love (life-death-life) and we’re familiar with the gut-wrenching feelings that come with each part of a relationship, and which drive each movement. And a side note about taking kids to dance: even when the content or the theme is intense, children get what they get from it (think about the origins of every Disney story; the original fairytales, before the Brothers Grimm made them even slightly palatable. Pretty gruesome, really).


On one level, this choreography is driven by themes of suspicion and violence but on another, it’s quite simply beautifully executed contemporary dance. Had Poppy seen it, we would have talked about the misery people feel when they fight. Assuming that we know vaguely what we want, how can we communicate more clearly, and earlier, without hurting ourselves and the people we love? How can we begin to recognise and accept the good-bad-good cycle of relationships, and live (work) through the ups and downs instead of giving up on them, as so many do? This heart-thinking can be applied to every relationship (it’s been very useful to take this approach with Poppy recently, when talking about friends at school!), and not just to the lovers in this piece. If we don’t expose kids to art of all sorts, including live performances, we limit the opportunities to have conversations with our kids on this level.


“Sometimes the one who is running from the Life/Death/Life nature insists on thinking of love as a boon only. Yet love in its fullest form is a series of deaths and rebirths. We let go of one phase, one aspect of love, and enter another. Passion dies and is brought back. Pain is chased away and surfaces another time. To love means to embrace and at the same time to withstand many endings, and many many beginnings- all in the same relationship.”

Clarissa Pinkola EstésWomen Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype


The elements are well matched, with the exception, as I’ve noted, of the singer. Perhaps this is bound to happen in a production that must favour one discipline over all others. Perhaps the perceived major stakeholder or presumed most popular aspect gets the spotlight and unlike the musical theatre context the balance is thrown. (And then there are those who would argue a hierarchy also exists in a traditional musical theatre production). If I had the resources to bring back Les Illuminations for a return run, I guess I would consider staging this eclectic production in a larger space. Despite the obvious intimacy (Bonachela’s intent was to have a “contained space in an intimate room”), paired with the acoustic advantages of the Concert Hall, it would be wonderful to see the dancers in a more generous space all of their own, with the orchestra set above them and Katie taking her place centre stage. We’ve seen her do so in the QSO’s studio, bringing greater reverence to Britten’s music and greater respect to the vocalist. If it does return to a venue near you, and I feel sure it will, book early for Les Illuminations. It will give you plenty to talk about.


Les Illuminations 30sec TV spot from Peter Greig on Vimeo.






The Australian Ballet

Lyric Theatre, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

February 21, 22, 28 and March 1 2014


Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway


“I’m sick to death of fairy tales.”

Choreographer Kenneth MacMillan





Manon is no sugary fairy tale with a happy ending. Instead, it is a dramatic tale of love, intrigue, betrayal, corruption, murder, and sex.


The Australian Ballet opened its 2014 season in Brisbane with this three-act ballet choreographed by Kenneth Macmillan. Set in eighteenth-century France and Louisiana, it depicts the downfall of its central character Manon Lescaut. First appearing as a young girl on her way to a convent, she quickly becomes a thief and courtesan, is arrested as a prostitute, and ends as an escaped convict in Louisiana, dying in a swamp. While this sounds grim, there is beauty in this ballet too and even a touch of humour.


In the first night performance, Lucinda Dunn sparkled and charmed with exquisite balance and lightness as the easily led but seductive Manon. Manon and the student des Grieux (Adam Bull) declare their love in the Act 1 bedroom pas de deux, which was happy and hopeful with its playfulness and lovely lifts. In Act 3 Dunn transformed herself into a broken, faltering character who had lost everything. Bull portrayed Manon’s faithful lover as a rather stiff and boring character in the first two acts, and his solos were a little untidy and lacking in energy. However, he was a strong partner for Dunn, especially in the despairing final pas de deux with its many dramatic lifts.


As Manon’s brother Lescaut, Andrew Killian was suitably sleazy and manipulative. Lana Jones was brilliant as Lescaut’s mistress, with phenomenal technique and control. Jones and Killian were very funny in the party scene in Act 2, where their characters drunkenly parody the grace of a classical pas de deux.


Lescaut procures Manon for the powerful and sinister Monsieur GM, played by former Australian Ballet principal Stephen Heathcote. Monsieur GM was the dominant male character in this performance. (He was also the most impressively costumed of the dancers in his extravagant eighteenth-century gentleman’s outfit.)


I’m sure I speak for many longtime ballet fans in saying that it was great to see Heathcote back on the stage – and also Julie da Costa, a former senior artist with the company, who played Monsieur GM’s associate Madame X.


The pas de trois with Manon, Monsieur GM and Lescaut was one of the most intense and sinister, yet at the same time confrontingly beautiful, moments in the ballet. Manon was treated with reverence but cold detachment as a lovely object passed between the men controlling her – one selling, one buying. This image of Manon as a manipulated object passed from man to man is repeated many times through Act 2 in the party scene. The motif of Manon as a passive object returns in the final pas de deux with des Grieux, when she has little strength left and finally dies in his arms.


There is so much happening in this ballet – plotwise and choreographically – that it is easy to be swept away. I did feel though that some of the dancers, perhaps the less experienced, were either reticent about representing vice or evil, or didn’t quite understand how to convey it. The harlots in the party scene, for example, appeared roguish but wholesome, and Brett Simon as the Gaoler did not quite convey the full loathsomeness of this character.


The music by the nineteenth-century French composer Jules Massenet is elegant yet poignant, counterpointing the sinister and violent elements of the ballet. The score does not come from Massenet’s opera Manon, but is made up of 21 other pieces. Conductor Nicolette Fraillon and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra made the evening an enjoyable musical experience.




Check the cast list for coming performances of Manon in Brisbane here.


The Australian Ballet is also performing Imperial Suite in Brisbane on 26 and 27 February. This double bill consists of two classical ballets created in the 1940s: George Balanchine’s Ballet Imperial and Serge Lifar’s Suite en blanc.