Birthday cheer will flow as freely as Moët, as Victorian Opera celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2015.

Cupcakes, balloons and arias will herald Victorian Opera’s 2015 season, as it celebrates ten successful years. It’s not just birthday cake on the menu though, names like Petra Lang, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Jessica Pratt and Meow Meow (!) also pepper the program. The party is set to last all year long, with the company unveiling its most ambitious program yet.

“2015 is a landmark year, and with this in mind the season embodies our unique spirit as a company, while extending the boundaries of the art form,” said Richard Mills, Victorian Opera’s Artistic Director. “Next year will be a year of new productions, collaborations and significant regional development, which we hope will inspire and delight all who love singing and the magic of theatre.”

Petra Lang as Ortrud in Budapest

Headlining the season is a new production of Richard Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman to be staged at St Kilda’s historic Palais Theatre. In what is a major coup for the company, internationally renowned Wagner singers Vitalij Kowaljow and Petra Lang will join the cast in the two lead roles. Kowaljow has just had a successful run in Munich’s La Forza del Destino in a production starring Jonas Kaufmann. Lang, one of those singers who can switch from Ortrud to Brünnhilde is booked up at Bayreuth until 2016. But the production will be far from traditional – Deakin University’s Motion.lab have developed immersive 3D scenery to help sail the ghostly vessel from the 19th Century to the digital age, and the company will be joined by the ever-energetic Australian Youth Orchestra.

“Both the Palais and the Australian Youth Orchestra are national treasures,” said Mills, who will conduct the production. “One is the best theatre for opera in the country, the other is an important ambassador for Australian culture.”

From Wagner’s first masterpiece, to Vincenzo Bellini’s last – I Puritani. The work tells the story of two unrequited lovers caught up in the English Civil War between the Royalists and the Puritans. Soprano Jessica Pratt will return to the company after her triumph in this year’s La Traviata, a performance that earned her the title “prima donna assoluta” from Limelight reviewer Kevin Purcell. Pratt is joined by award-winning Spanish tenor Celso Albelo, who, according to Richard Mills, “defines vocal and stylistic excellence”.

VO’s Into the Woods

After three years, Victorian Opera’s Sondheim trilogy will finally draw to a close, with a new production of the macabre Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The show will feature Teddy Tahu Rhodes as the serial killer-cum-barber and Antoinette Halloran as his pie-making wannabe mistress. The casting decisions may raise the odd eyebrow, but should prove popular – especially in the wake of the company’s highly successful productions of Into the Woods (2014) and Sunday in the Park with George (2013). Stuart Maunder returns to the helm as director, alongside Phoebe Briggs as musical director.

Another of the new works set to be presented next year is Remembrance, a multimedia collaboration to commemorate the ANZAC Centenary. Richard Mills score (which borrows from the popular songs of the time), will be accompanied by archival footage and photography, and a story penned by Australian poet Rodney Hall. The production will be drawn together with the help of David Hobson, playing the War Correspondent, and a cast of students from the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. This significant work will also tour to Tasmania and Perth.

In a quirky programming choice, raunchy cabaret singer Meow Meow will star in Weill and Brecht’s Seven Deadly Sins – a work that is being called an “act of musical gluttony”. It follows the story of Anna, a woman who journeys across the United States in search of wealth, but instead, encounters a different deadly sin in each of the cities she visits. This is sure to be a favourite, considering the reception of Michael Kantor’s The Threepenny Opera (in collaboration with Malthouse Theatre) in 2010.

Meow Meow getting ready to sin in 2015

Earth Hour will also be given a nod with Opera for the Earth, staged in the heritage home of community-minded publication, Dumbo Feather. The free performance will be given as part of Victorian Opera’s sustainability program, and to help raise awareness of the international ‘lights off’ initiative. The special concert will feature students of the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, who will return to the stage throughout the year.

“[It] will prove a wonderful showcase of the younger generation of Australian performers and composers, mentored by established artists,” said Mills. “As is tradition, we’ll be showcasing young talent, including the Masters students who will have more responsibilities than ever before.”

The Tenth Birthday concert, which opens the season, also marks the return of Victorian Opera’s popular family package. The renewed investment is indicative of the company’s wider vision regarding audience diversity and engagement. Amongst the family-friendly performances: Heart and Soul – a special Mother’s Day concert, Alice’s Adventures in Operaland and The Grumpiest Boy in the World – two concerts that incorporate music and theatre in a perfect first-experience for young operagoers. And, in addition to the ten main productions, Richard Mills will also host The Art of Opera  – a conversation event offering a unique insight into the inspiration and artistic force behind the company, as well as one of the most prolific and renowned composers.

Victorian Opera has clearly come a long way since its modest inaugural program (during which it staged three works and a gala concert!), and with so much to choose from next season, it might be a struggle at the box office. But, one thing’s for sure  – it’s going to be one hell of a celebration! So get ready to break open the bubbly, blow out the candles, and party all year-long!

Further information at Victorian Opera website