Pub opera instead of pub rock: Olivier Award for young Australian’s new La Bohème, performed in a tavern.

Held at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on March 13, London theatre’s night of nights was full of surprises.  OperaUpClose’s  La Bohème, first staged in front of an audience of just 35 at North London’s Cock Tavern, was very much a victory of the underdog, beating stiff competition from the world’s most illustrious companies including English National Opera and a collaboration between the Royal Opera, Vienna State Opera and San Francisco Opera. The pub setting was well received as a convincing haunt in which Puccini’s bohemian students could share a pint.

OperaUpClose’s 29-year-old joint artistic director, Adam Spreadbury-Maher, is a graduate of the Canberra School of Music whose directorial debut earned him an Australian Critics Circle Award before he left for London in 2005.  The Olivier accolade is an encouraging development for other young Australian upstarts such as Sydney Chamber Opera.

Other award winners included German bass-baritone Christian Gerhaher, who made his debut as Wolfram in  Tannhäuser andreceived the Olivier statuette for Outstanding Achievement in an Opera.

In West End theatre, Stephen Sondheim, the 80-year-old doyen of musicals, was presented with...

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