Dull as it may be, perhaps I should start with a sort of disclaimer. For the first time, I'm attempting to write honestly about an Opera Australia season which includes my own Significant Other, and as ever, I'm cautious – probably excessively so – about what I should or shouldn't say. I don't want to come across like a Pollyanna or a mouthpiece, but nor do I think it would be right for me to whinge and moan, even if I wanted to do. It's a weird balance to strike, and I fear I still haven't entirely figured it out, which frankly is one of the reasons why I don't blog as much as I used to. I'm trying to think of ways to fix this; in the meantime, just let me say outright that the opinions I express here are still mine and mine alone. Informed, no doubt, by a certain personal bias; but then that's hardly new.
Anyway. Opera Australia have announced their 2013 season, and while it's not a bad one, all in all, I can't help wishing – in a masochistic sort of way – that the company were doing even more to make me seethe with jealousy. It might break my heart to miss a new production of Les Dialogues des Carmélites, or a Lorina Gore Zerbinetta, or a six-opera Britten Festival, but it would also make me glad that my adopted home opera company was busy being so exciting. None of those are happening, alas; at least, not in 2013. It's a season very heavy with Italian opera – particularly Verdi, who, like Wagner, celebrates his bicentenary next year – and mostly free from oddities, rarities and modernities.
None of which is intended to condemn. Opera is still opera, and spectacularly subjective, and let's face it: if I were living in Sydney next year, I'd probably still go and see pretty much every show anyway, lack of heart palpitations notwithstanding. Maybe I'd give Bohème a miss, but that's not Opera Australia's fault. But I expect it's a season which will elicit widely disparate reactions among subscribers and regular attendees, because it's an all or nothing season in a way: if you love grand Italian opera and managed to nab Ring tickets, then 2013 will be heaven. If you don't, and didn't, then the pickings are a little slim.
Repertoire aside, what strikes me about this season is the names on (and off) the roster. The core of regular singers (whether ensemble members or, as I believe many have recently become, freelance artists) has changed over the last few years. Some singers are getting more work than ever with OA, some markedly less, and a few names seem surprisingly to have disappeared altogether. I don't have much more insight than anyone else into the reasons for this; I just hope that those reasons are good ones. There will always be more singers in Australia than there is available work, but the company – and the country – have a proud tradition of fostering fantastic local talent, and I hope that even those whose names seem to have slipped off the radar for now have not been lost to us for good.
I've just said that I don't want to be a Pollyanna, but now I'm going to contradict myself completely by playing a short round of the Glad Game. Maybe this isn't my Dream Season but there's still some fodder for envy. I'm devastated, for instance, to be missing the new production of Tosca with Cheryl Barker in the title role. Above anything else in 2013 line-up, that's the show I wish I could fly over for, and the return of John Wegner as Scarpia just makes it all the more tempting. If only Seattle were closer to Sydney. Also seriously appealing is Rachelle Durkin's star turn as Norina in Don Pasquale. Not an opera I'm wildly keen on – I always find it just a little too cruel – but Rachelle + bel canto + comedy = unmissable, in my book. And I have a feeling Warwick Fyfe's début as Falstaff could be one of the year's cleverest pieces of casting. The La Fura dels Baus production of Ballo in Maschera is also a very intriguing prospect, and certainly a canny move by OA in terms of its international standing.
I won't, alas, be in the right city – or even the right country – to see any of the above. I will be in town for the Melbourne Ring, of course; but ticket sales have gone so incredibly well that the policy on complimentary tickets is tighter than ever: artists and their partners will receive tickets to the final dress rehearsal of each opera, but not to the shows themselves. Happily, some who knew about this policy in plenty of time were able to apply for full price tickets in the normal manner, but this didn't pan out for us. So I shall just have to get my Wagner fix in those dress rehearsals, and rely on vicarious thrills when it comes to the actual performances. Disappointing, I agree, but such is life; and it's hard to truly begrudge the Melbourne Ring for selling out.
There you have it, then. My take – or parts thereof – on a season in which I still feel strangely invested, despite the likelihood that I will see very little, if any, of its offerings. I still hope, for everyone's sake, that it's a well-attended and well-received season, and that it might set the company up for a 2014 season which really will turn me green, and maybe even require a few flights to and fro. I'd also very much like to hear from you – yes, you – about your feelings on this season: the highlights, the lowlights, the surprises both pleasant and un. Go on: make me jealous.