I am a girl who has her priorities straight, so when Opera Australia invited me to their season launch on August 18th, I didn't even need to think about where to spend that evening. At Peter Coleman-Wright's last performance as the Count in Figaro, obviously. Where else? Launch schmaunch. It takes more than the lure of free drinks and repertoire announcements to lure me away from my favourite riding-crop-wielding baritone. A lot more. Frankly, it takes Cheryl to do that. And she did do it — she made me go to London — which is how I ended up at the opera theatre last night, one day after arriving home, eschewing the launch and fighting serious sleep deprivation to get my only possible second fix of Peter's Almaviva before he disappeared, perhaps forever. And he was utterly, mellifluously, wickedly and wonderfully worth it. Pure heaven, with a diabolical streak, and while staying awake was difficult at times, none of those times coincided with his presence onstage.
This also meant that I had to wait until late today to get my hands on the details of the 2011 season. In normal circumstances I'd have spent the last eight hours writing about them. Once again, however, my Straight Priorities have prevailed. Tonight I took my opportunity to see the second of Lorina Gore's two performances as Amina in La sonnambula. And while I can't deny I love sitting on my couch, dissecting press releases, rejoicing at fabulous prospects and weeping at dull, dull programming, I will treasure forever what I saw and heard Lorina do tonight. She was exquisite. I will write more about Sonnambula in a little while — I'm seeing Emma Matthews in it on closing night, and want to write about both of them — but this needs to be said now. Lorina's final scene rates right up there among the most perfect, beautiful things I've experienced in that theatre. I haven't cried so much at the opera since Peter Grimes. She was a total triumph.
I, meanwhile, got home towards midnight. At which point writing the season up in full already meant sacrificing a lot of sleep. And wasn't possible either, because I still had other priorities to deal with first. Which I have. So here I am. Almost 5am. Wondering whether to have an unsatisfactory nap or just push on through. And still I haven't written a word about next year's line-up, have I? Now must be the moment.
Not quite. Just a couple of recent developments in the 2010 season which deserve pointing out before they're buried in all the inevitably longwinded discussion of 2011. The first is that Opera Australia has announced, in a reasonably low key way, that they're to begin a series of international cinema broadcasts, with DVD releases reportedly to follow. First up for such treatment is the above-mentioned Figaro. The other point is a cast change made silently on the website and so far announced nowhere that I can see — Hye Seoung Kwon has withdrawn from Der Rosenkavalier, and Sophie will instead be sung by the soprano who was my own #1 Pick for the role anyway, the fantastic Emma Pearson. I have a feeling my reprehensible plan to skip a few Act Twos has just been foiled.
Oh dear. It is very late. Yet some particle of a newshound still urges me to post something about the 2011 season this morning. So here, for the moment, is the uncharacteristically short version, with elaboration to follow the moment it becomes possible. Because writing up the upcoming season is one of my absolute favourite pastimes and I'm not about to let today's exceptional circumstances get in the way of that for long.
Anyway. Short version.
Sydney Summer: Madama Butterfly | Carmen | The Barber of Seville | Partenope
Melbourne Autumn: La bohème | Macbeth | The Pearlfishers | The Mikado
Sydney Winter: Capriccio | La bohème | Of Mice and Men | The Merry Widow | Lakmé | Macbeth | Don Giovanni | The Love of the Nightingale
Melbourne Spring: La traviata | Of Mice and Men | Don Giovanni
Rinat Shaham as Carmen. Patricia Racette as Butterfly. Anthony Dean Griffey as Lennie in Of Mice and Men. Cheryl Barker as Countess Madeleine. Takesha Meshé Kizart as Mimi. Elizabeth Whitehouse and Elizabeth Connell as Lady Macbeth in Sydney and Melbourne respectively. Peter Coleman-Wright as Macbeth. Julian Gavin as Don José. (This list could go on forever, depending on one's favourites, but that will do for now.)
WHY I'M EXCITED
Cheryl's Capriccio and Peter's Macbeth are predictably at the top of my list. I've been waiting for Rinat Shaham to hit Sydney for a while. Patricia Racette! Obviously, even though I wish they were giving her a new production of Butterfly. Christopher Alden directs Partenope, so that should be fun. Two meaty and reasonably glamorous roles for gorgeous Jacqui Dark, rather than the usual grandmothers and bit parts. I'm intrigued by The Love of the Nightingale. And while I haven't studied it all too deeply, my sense is that the casting across the board is slightly more rational than previous seasons have been.
WHY I'M NOT EXCITED
I don't know when I've seen so many warhorses in one place. Carmen AND Pearlfishers AND Lakmé, all in one year? Butterfly AND Bohème? And while I understand that we need the warhorses to finance the exciting oddities, there is also such a thing as middle ground and I don't think this season really covers it. To be honest, it's the least exciting season I've seen since I've been here. Of course, I thought that about the 2010 season too, and strong casting has helped to cheer me up. That could happen again, especially with a few very starry names on the roster. But I don't think it's enough, and I'm counting on what I know, guess, and have heard rumoured about 2012 — the first season to be completely programmed by Lyndon Terracini — to compensate.
DIVA OF THE YEAR
There's no question this is a Year of Emma. La Matthews sings Leila, Lakmé, Partenope and Philomele in The Love of the Nightingale. Nobody else even comes close to such dominance. So, Emma fans, rejoice. Everyone else, well, maybe consider switching camps. (Or travelling, which is what I just might need to do about the Barker-Coleman-Wrights.)
COSTUME NIGHT POSSIBILITIES
Mice and men for Of Mice and Men. Togas for Nightingale. Kilts and Braveheart facepaint for Macbeth. "Team Emma" t-shirts for practically everything.
Fairly certain the Don Giovanni (a return to the old Jarvefelt production, not Elke Neidhardt's from 2008) will be the Prague version, and thus omit Elvira's "Mi tradi". But I want Jacqui to sing it. Don't you? So I'm wondering if we might need to launch a Twitter/Facebook campaign for its inclusion.
Forthcoming. In the meantime, feel free to do your own dissecting/rejoicing/complaining in the comments.