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15 September, 2016

Sydney Cosi fan tutte. Also 2017 season balagan.

‘Cosi fan tutte’, Sydney Opera House, Thursday 11th August 2016.

I have some very complimentary words about this Mozart classic. A mostly local cast and stylish new production by David McVicar yielded a full nights Mozart/da Ponte comedy starting at 7pm. Personally I have always had problems with this masterpiece, finding it long and predictable, despite the glorious vocals entailed. Opera stories always extend credulity here and there but this opera does so from start to finish. But I know I am in a minority. Even a veteran performance in the 1980s with Zubin Mehta, Cecelia Bartoli, Lella Cuberli, Joan Rodgers, Kurt Streit, Ferruccio Furlanetto and John Tomlinson could not convert me. Even the title is sexist and would probably not pass today's political correctness censor.

It was gratifying to find a full house on this occasion in Sydney and a balanced Aussie cast of principals with orchestra and chorus up to high standards. Ms Car showed off her big, crystal soprano voice but seemed to be stumped by some of the long phrases, taking an extra breath as mezzo colleague Anna Dowsley sang through the tough tessitura on at least two occasions. American tenor David Portillo (replacing Charles Castronovo for unstated reasons) and Andrew Jones are the play-within lovers while Taryn Fiebig and Richard Anderson play Despina and Don Alfonso in the totally unbelievable plot (a magnet reverses a placebo poison - REALLY?). Conducted by Jonathan Darlington with splendid orchestra and chorus one could be transported by the music to a Neapolitan pantomime.


2017 Season Brochure released by Opera Australia in winter 2016.

This is the worst mish-mash of an 'opera' season from the supposedly national opera company that I have ever seen. While part of the reason is the closure of the opera theatre from March many other venues were available but now seem to be booked out and the company, as ever of late, is on the back foot.

The superlative operatic basso Ferruccio Furlanetto is not singing opera, but Schubert and Rachmaninov. Nothing wrong with that, but it does not augment an opera program.

Despite his cover picture in costume in the season brochure, Jonas Kaufmann is NOT singing in staged opera but in three concert performances of Parsifal, Wagner's Holy Grail opera. Yes, finally Sydney gets some Wagner. Yay! This opera is such a major sing that another couple of imports for major roles might have been appropriate in my view. Lets hope the local artists are able to rise to the occasion and create a vocally balanced evening in the Concert Hall.

But most of the season is re-runs: Madama Butterfly (Capitol Theatre, 12 performances), La Boheme (20 performances), La Traviata (22 performances), Tosca (13 performances) and Carmen on the harbour (yet again, 24 performances). No wonder so many subscribers have let their seats lapse with such wonderful operas becoming like fast food.

But there are three rarities to look forward to in King Roger, a Polish opera as well as the first outing of Two Weddings, One Bride (a compilation opera staring David Lewis, Julie Lea Goodwin and Geraldine Turner). The latter is conducted by the composer/arranger Robert Greene. Thirdly, Thaïs is to be performed in the Town Hall with Nicole Car in a single performance.

I note Emma Matthews is expected to sing Violetta on 21, 23 and 25 March or three times in five days - is that wise for such a big role?

Verdi's Manzoni Requiem on Aug 10 in the Concert Hall has an as yet unnamed soprano singing with Nikolic, Torre and Roberto Scandiuzzi conducted by Renato Palumbo. This superb work should not be missed and should perhaps have had two airings. The opera twins, Cav and Pag make up the Sydney leg (9 performances with Torre and Carbo doing death-defying double roles three nights in five!!) - and add 6 performances of ‘Aida on the Beach’ in Coolangatta and you have the whole sorry shambles of what used to be a great opera company. A subscription used to be a guarantee of the best seats and lowest prices but now the company regularly issues Promo Codes for on-line discounts as well as discounts from Fish Records.


Comments by Andrew Byrne ..