OA offers fans the chance to dive into 60 years of opera history – and bid to take a piece of it home.

For the first time in its 60-year history, Opera Australia is opening up its vaults to the public, giving opera fans the chance to get an up-close look at some of the extraordinary costumes worn by the company’s star performers.

Items in the Leonard Joel auction of Opera Australia costumes and memorabilia

The week-long, 60th anniversary exhibition, which takes place this month, will also include accessories, memorabilia and artworks, and will culminate in an auction where the public can bid for a piece of Australia’s operatic story.

Promising “a hidden world too wonderful to imagine”, the exhibition will offer an insight into the making of meticulously hand-crafted items like intricate embroidered silk, pannier skirts and medieval suits of armour. Custom-designed wardrobe items, each created for a specific production, are expected to be the most sought after. Each costume will be labelled with its provenance, the name of the opera, and the performer it was made for.

Opera Australia engaged textile and memorabilia experts from renowned auction house Leonard Joel to assess, value and catalogue the thousands of costumes, accessories and artworks that represent Australia’s operatic history in a collection of national significance.

Highlights of the exhibition and auction include costumes from Baz Luhrmann’s famous 1990 production of La Bohème, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa’s costume for the role as Violetta in the 1978 production of La Traviata, Yvonne Kenny costumes for the roles of Sylva Varesc in The Gypsy Princess in 2001, Hanna in The Merry Widow in 2004 and Armida in Rinaldo in 1999, Sigrid Thornton’s Desirée costume for A Little Night Music in 2009, Dame Heather Begg’s costume for the role of The Countess Di Coigny in the 2001 production of Andrea Chénier, and Cheryl Barker AO’s costume for Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi in 2007.

“Whether you want a talking point for the mantelpiece or a wonderful costume to step into when you’re feeling a little dramatic, you won’t find artistry like this at any gallery,” says OA.

The online catalogue will be available in June. The exhibition and auction will take place at the Opera Centre in Surry Hills, Sydney. Bidding will also available via phone or online.


The exhibition runs June 24 – 29, and the auction will take place on June 30 and July 1

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