I know Melbourne sometimes gets a little (and justifiably) miffed over what it sees as neglect by Opera Australia, the so-called national company which seems to spend a lot of time in Sydney. For obvious, selfish reasons, my sympathy is limited. But now Richard Gill is turning the tables on me. Victorian Opera's recently announced 2009 season might only contain four operas, but it includes not only one of my absolute favourites — Don Giovanni — but also two, count 'em, two of the works which always spring to mind when I start daydreaming about what I'd like to see Opera Australia do. To wit: Handel's Xerxes and, best/worst of all, Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos. And just to make matters worse, guess who's singing Der Komponist? That's right, Jacqueline Dark. It was only a week or two ago that I was listening to Anne Sofie on the Sinopoli recording and thinking — you know, I did once think I couldn't see Jacqui in a pants role but forget that, she would be glorious in this. And now it's happening, but in the wrong damn city. Typical!
Nor is she the only highlight of this gorgeous little season. I've never had the chance to see a Victorian Opera production, but just the same I adore this company from afar. Their whole approach just seems so bright and inventive. Creative repertoire, interesting casting and what sound like excellent productions. Richard Gill and his crew seem to have all the right ideas about how to go about it, and it seems the company is going from strength to strength. Long may it continue. I bet OA could learn a thing or two from Victorian Opera. (Hint: Balcony Club. Good idea. Copy it. Please.)
So the only question now is, do I go to Melbourne in December for Streetcar, as planned, or do I go in July for Jacqui instead? Both, perhaps. It's a hard life I lead.