The Australian mezzo soprano has been dropped from OA’s Parsifal for reasons that at present remain a mystery.

Jacqueline Dark has been replaced in the role of Kundry for Opera Australia’s upcoming concert performances of Wagner’s Parsifal. The popular Australian mezzo soprano, who had previously expressed her great excitement at singing opposite star tenor Jonas Kaufmann, appears not to have “withdrawn” from the performances, raising questions from many on social media as to the reasons for the sudden and unannounced cast change.

“Hugely shocked to see OA have pulled the fabulous Jacqui Dark from Parsifal. She did not withdraw and no reason has been given,” wrote voice teacher, director and opera commentator Vicki Watson on the Limelight Facebook page. “This fabulous award winning Australian artist should be heard in this role,” she continued, posting an image of Dark and the hashtag #supportAUSTRALIANtalent. “Here’s strange: yesterday @jacquidark was in the Parsifal cast list w mega-star Jonas Kaufman. Today it’s US warbler Michelle de Young – eh?” tweeted Stage Noise’s Diana Simmonds. “@OperaAustralia ummm why has Jacqueline Dark’s name suddenly disappeared from the Parsifal cast list??? #confused” said another opera lover.

Limelight contacted Opera Australia to ask if there was any reason for the change but were told that “OA doesn’t comment on casting decisions.” However, it is highly unusual for a singer to be replaced at this stage for no apparent reason, and Jonas Kaufmann was certainly unaware of any issues when he referred to Dark as his expected Kundry in an interview conducted for Limelight a few weeks ago.

Dark in OA’s Ring Cycle, last November. Photo © Jeff Busby

Dark, who was confirmed in the role when OA launched its season last August, was recently acclaimed when she reprised her Helpmann Award-winning performances as Fricka in the Melbourne Ring Cycle last November and December. “Jacqueline Dark’s Fricka is also imbued with all the necessary decibels. Her thrilling, spitfire top is deployed in brilliant tandem with the text to call up a barrel-load of vocal and dramatic tricks,” said the Limelight review of the production. She also sang Second Norn in Götterdämmerung and spent most of last year singing the Mother Abbess in a national tour of The Sound of Music, a performance credited with introducing a legion of newcomers to the operatic voice.

The singer, who is preparing to play the lead in Rufus Wainwright’s Prima Donna at the Adelaide Festival and will immediately follow that with appearances as Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana for State Opera of South Australia, was unavailable for comment. Patrick Togher, Dark’s manager, told Limelight that, “Out of respect for her fellow artists, Jacqui has no comment at this time.”

Dark is replaced by American mezzo Michelle DeYoung, an experienced Wagner singer whose Kundry on Marek Janowski’s Berlin Parsifal from 2013 is very highly regarded.