The new artistic director of Opera Queensland reflects on respect for tradition and the allure of innovation.

I love an adventure. After a decade in festivals, where a spirit of adventure and risk-taking animates everything from the program to the bar menu, I was invited – alongside new General Manager Russell Mitchell – to develop a fresh design for Queensland’s 30-year-old opera company, and along the way discover the boundless landscape of this amazing part of the world. Seemed like an excellent adventure to me!

And yet, a few days after our 2013 launch I was reminded that you can’t please everyone. I’m now on a new quest: to summon the spirit of adventure in that small but staunch army of “traditional” opera lovers out there. Like the lady who phoned me to express her disappointment that Simon Phillips’ new production of Verdi’s Otello was to be set in a contemporary war zone. Her “heart sank”, she said, when she heard the battle-victorious Otello would make his first entrance by Black Hawk helicopter. On this basis she most certainly would not be subscribing.

Now I can assure readers that Otello will be one of the highlights of 2013. It has...

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