Opera Queensland has announced its 2019 season, and Patrick Nolan’s first for the company as Artistic Director, with a trio of operas from John Adams, Puccini and Gluck on the mainstage.
Nolan describes his approach to programming the 2019 season as a “holistic” one. “One of the big things for me is that as well as being producers and presenters, we’re creators,” he tells Limelight. “As an organisation we are actually feeding into the culture and bringing culture to audiences – if we didn’t exist then that culture wouldn’t exist, basically. I think it’s really important that artistic companies – and in particular major companies that have decent resources – are proactively developing the culture, through new work, through developing new talent, through creating opportunities for artists to develop their skills.”
Opera Queensland’s The Flowering Tree. Photo: supplied
The season opens in April with Nolan directing John Adams’ 2006 opera A Flowering Tree, with libretto by Adams and Peter Sellars, “which is a really beautiful piece, a three-hander for a tenor, a soprano and a baritone,” explains Nolan. The work is a love story revolving around a woman, Kumudha, from an impoverished family who can magically transform into a tree – if a very particular ritual is followed – the flowers of which are a means of supporting her family. A prince witnesses the transformation in the forest and falls in love with her and marries her. Things take a turn for the worse, however, when the prince’s sister and her friends push Kumudha to transform, but fail to follow the ritual to the letter. “It’s a really beautiful tale, it has a lot to say about the environment and respect,” says Nolan.
The work was composed to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth and pays tribute to the composer’s The Magic Flute. Soprano Eva Kong sings Kumudha, joined by tenor Adrian Dwyer as the baritone Prince and Craig Colclough as the narrator, with Natalie Murray Beale conducting.
The weekend of the final performance will also feature the inaugural New Opera Workshop – NOW 2019 – a collaboration with the Queensland Conservatorium, which will bring together leading Australian and international opera composers, librettists and producers and include forums and scenes from new works.
Puccini’s Tosca follows in June, Nolan directing a new production, which will star soprano Rachelle Durkin making her debut in the title role, with baritone José Carbó also making his role debut as Scarpia and tenor Angus Wood as Cavaradossi, and will be conducted by Slovak maestro Oliver von Dohnányi.
Opera Queensland’s third and final mainstage production for 2019 will be Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice, starring countertenor Owen Willetts and soprano Natalie Christie Peluso in the title roles. The production will be directed by Brisbane contemporary circus company Circa’s Artistic Director Yaron Lifschitz, in Opera Queensland’s first collaboration with the company. “That piece is renowned for choreographers doing it, and he’s going to have his acrobats as part of that, so it should be really beautiful,” Nolan says. “I’m really excited by that.”
Opera Queensland’s season will also include an outdoor performance of Verdi’s Requiem at HOTA on the Gold Coast in April as part of Opera Queensland’s first co-production with Bleach* Festival, conducted by Natalie Murray Beale and directed by Nolan, as well as a recital by soprano Nicole Car and baritone Étienne Dupuis, with pianist Jayson Gillham, at QPAC in August, a recital by soprano Alexandra Flood and pianist Alex Raineri in the Opera Queensland Studio in November, a Weimar inspired Gala at the Tivoli in August, and a touring production of Hansel and Gretel for primary schools.
“Our mission is to make opera an integral part of the cultural life of Queensland,” says Nolan. “We want everyone to be involved.”