D amiano Michieletto never wanted to touch Gioachino Rossini’s Il Viaggio a Reims. “There’s no story. It’s a series of musical numbers that shows off the ability of the singer. You have a big number where 14 people sing together, then the baritone’s virtuosic aria, then an even longer virtuosic aria with all the coloratura for the soprano, and so on and so forth. What can a director do?”

Above: Damiano Michieletto’s recreation of François Gérard’s The Coronation of Charles X (c. 1827). Photo © Clärchen and Matthias Baus.  Below: Gérard’s painting

As it turns out, quite a lot. The 44-year-old Italian has become known for his dramatically astute, often bold productions, and his take on this rare and peculiar work is no exception. A co-production between Dutch National Opera, Royal Danish Opera and Opera Australia, its premiere in Amsterdam in 2015 was as energising as a double-shot of espresso. It has since been seen in Denmark and Rome, both in 2017, and opens in Melbourne this month, marking the first time the opera has ever been performed in Australia....

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