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One thing you can’t accuse the 2012 Melbourne Festival of is being sedentary or safe. For Artistic Director Brett Sheehy, this will be his fourth and final festival – and he has used the opportunity to go out with a bang. A pioneer of both new and local work, Sheehy has included 18 world premieres and 34 Australian premieres across 17 days from the October 11-27, with a hard-to-beat line-up displaying a rich diversity of music. The festival will exhibit the newest ventures in the arts, including genre-bending displays of performance poetry, installation art, stage shows, soundscapes, opera and multimedia-assisted performances. With ‘identity’ and ‘place’ being central themes for this year, there is an eclectic set of venues and cultural fusions across the arts laying the foundations for this year’s unpredictable musical line-up.
“I have sought to showcase the newest works from some of the finest artists I’ve been honoured to work with over the past ten years... I wanted to continue Australian audiences’ relationships with these visionary women and men...”
As a promoter of contemporary opera, Sheehy has chosen to open the festival with the Australian premiere of Michael Van der Aa’s opera After Life: a multi-media encompassing autobiographical work to be performed at the regent theatre. Swanlights from Antony and the Johnsons, originally a one off collaboration with New York’s Museum of Modern Art, will see its first Australian performance at Hamer Hall featuring vocals by Antony and a 44-piece orchestra.
Two genre-bending violinists will also feature. Classically rooted Tim Fain, who collaborated closely with the Grammy nominated soundtrack for film Black Swan makes his Australian debut with his stage show, Portals, in which projected video will reveal, amongst others, Nicholas Britell accompanying on piano and radio persona Fred Child performing spoken-word pieces by Leonard Cohen.
Risqué avant-pop classical violinist Hahn-Bin is set to turn the classical concert on its head, his out-there image a main focus of his performances.
Chamber Made Opera will showcase the world premiere of Act two and three of Margaret Cameron and David Young’s three-act contemporary opera The Minotaur Trilogy. Inspired by Monteverdi’s L’Arianna, it is advertised as having “adult concepts and nudity”, while the score encompasses a mix of baroque instruments, text and soundscapes.
Schoenberg's melodrama Pierrot Lunaire, will be presented by the Syzygy Ensemble, featuring soprano Merlyn Quaife and pianist Andrea Katz. A setting of 21 poems by Albert Giraud, this atonal work incorporates Sprechgesang – or speech-singing.
In another example of classical genre-bending, Paul Kelly joins virtuoso recorder player Genevieve Lacey to create a work based on the texts of Les Murray, Yeats and Tennyson, entitled Conversations with Ghost, alongside composer James Ledger and musicians from ANAM.