After dazzling audiences and critics alike at its recent world premiere produced by the renowned Glyndebourne Festival Opera in the UK, Neil Armfield’s production of Australian composer Brett Dean’s operatic masterpiece, Hamlet will make its Australian debut in March with an exclusive season at the 2018 Adelaide Festival.
Shakespeare’s best-known tragedy is given new life in this darkly complex opera that takes the timeless tale of love, betrayal and revenge to new heights with vivid and richly lyrical music and stellar performances from its international cast.
“Directing Brett’s Hamlet has been one of the richest and loveliest experiences of my career,” said Director and Adelaide Festival Joint Artistic Director Neil Armfield AO. “I was able to build on my memory of the Hamlet we did at Belvoir in 1994, seen in Adelaide in 1995, with Richard Roxburgh, Geoffrey Rush, Cate Blanchett and Gillian Jones.”
“Everything seemed to work for us in Glyndebourne: every day was a revelation with Brett’s music meeting the power and wit of Matthew’s libretto with profound and thrilling results. When the audience stood and cheered at the conclusion of the premiere performance we knew we’d witnessed the birth of a great new opera.”
Leading an outstanding cast of international and Australian singers and reprising the title role of Hamlet is British tenor Allan Clayton, alongside American baritone Rod Gilfry as Claudius and British tenor Kim Begley as Polonius, with leading Australian sopranos Cheryl Barker as Gertrude and Lorina Gore as Ophelia.
Fresh from his exquisite performance as David in Saul at the 2017 Adelaide Festival, American counter-tenor Christopher Lowrey plays Guildenstern to British counter-tenor Rupert Enticknap’s Rosencrantz, alongside Australian singers Sam Sakker as Laertes and Douglas McNicol as Horatio.
Dean’s arresting and sumptuously textured score captures the modernity of this timeless story, with masterful instrumentation supporting thrilling arias, ensembles and choruses, performed in Australia by the State Opera of South Australia chorus and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, conducted by its Principal Conductor Nicholas Carter.
The musical grandeur of the production extends beyond the stage with a semi-chorus and extra percussion adding to an all-encompassing theatrical experience. Matthew Jocelyn’s inspired libretto is pure Shakespeare, adhering to the Bard’s narrative thread and using only Shakespeare’s words but abridging, reconfiguring and interweaving them into motifs that playfully and powerfully reveal the main dramatic themes: death, madness, the impossibility of certainty and the complexities and beauty of the human mind.
Weaving the entire production together is the genius of Neil Armfield, one of Australia’s leading international theatre and opera directors and Joint Artistic Director of the Adelaide Festival. He has brought together a superlative creative team including Australian set designer Ralph Myers, Australian costume designer Alice Babidge and British lighting designer Jon Clark.
“Back in 1980, as an 18-year-old viola player in my first season as a member of the Australian Youth Orchestra, I travelled to the Adelaide Festival and participated in a truly international arts festival for the first time, said Brett Dean. “It was a revelation to witness such a gathering of culturally like-minded ‘obsessives’. To be returning as composer of the Adelaide Festival’s featured opera in 2018 is a wonderfully proud moment for me and I wish it and the whole festival every possible success.”
“The piece succeeds magnificently. Australia must see it as soon as possible.” – The Australian
Hamlet will play in the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Festival Theatre for three performances: 2, 4 and 6 March 2018. General public tickets go on sale on Thursday 31 August 2017. For more information, visit: www.adelaidefestival.com.au for details.
Image: Allan Clayton stars as Hamlet – photo by Richard Hubert Smith