Opera Australia has announced it will be bringing one of the world’s greatest pieces of theatre, Leonard Bernstein’s much loved and admired West Side Story, to the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour stage in 2019.
Taking one of the most iconic works of the 20th century out of the theatre and onto Opera Australia’s now famous outdoor stage, will see year’s of planning finally come to fruition says OA’s Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini.
“I’ve always loved West Side Story, it’s one of the greatest pieces ever written, and I’ve been wanting to include it in the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour repertoire since we started the program seven years ago,”said Terracini. “The setting is perfect, with the city skyline in the background, you won’t get a better stage backdrop in the world, and I’ve said from the start, if a piece is right, then we’ll do it, we don’t want to be bound by preconceptions.”
West Side Story exploded onto Broadway in 1957 in a sensational storm of exuberant dance and wistful romance. It was a phenomenon that never faded, “an incandescent piece of work” (The New York Times). The landmark musical combined four of the biggest talents on Broadway: Leonard Bernstein’s sensational score, Jerome Robbins’ explosive choreography, Arthur Laurent’s powerful book and newcomer Stephen Sondheim’s perfect lyrics.
West Side Story will continue the tradition of the great outdoor spectacles that have come before it, with the world’s finest singers, musicians, dancers and creative teams set to bring the vision to life. American director Francesca Zambello will make her highly anticipated return to the OA’s outdoor stage after her 2012 production of La Traviata, the very first in the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour series, attracted rave reviews.
Francesca will be joined by award winning set designer Brian Thomson who will bring his expertise and creative genius back to OA’s outdoor extravaganza after his dazzling designs in Carmen wowed the audiences in previous years. Costume Designer will be Jennifer Irwin, while John Rayment will light the show. Taking the orchestral reins for the first time will be Guy Simpson, one of Australia’s most notable and sought-after conductors.
On the mean streets of New York’s West Side, two rival gangs strut their stuff. But when a Jet falls for a Shark, the stage is set for a rumble. Their wistful love story is studded with infectious songs including Somewhere, Maria, I Feel Pretty, America, Cool and of course, Tonight.
As the star-crossed lovers, Maria and Tony, homegrown stars Alexander Lewis and Julie Lea Goodwin reprise the sizzling chemistry of their performances together in The Merry Widow and The Phantom of the Opera. An all-singing, all-dancing supporting cast (to be announced soon) takes on Bernstein’s brilliant score and Jerome Robbins’ original electrifying choreography.
The Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour series has gone from strength to strength, with the annual event now a permanent fixture, and a highlight of the Australian cultural calendar, attracting more than 330,000 attendees from around Australia and across the globe over the past seven years.
NSW Minister for Tourism and Major Events Adam Marshall said the production will open in March 2019 for an exclusive four-week season. “We expect West Side Story to attract around 10,000 overnight visitors to Sydney, generating more than $10 million in visitor expenditure for NSW,” said Mr Marshall. “I encourage everyone to start planning their visit to see West Side Story performed on Australia’s most famous outdoor stage for the very first time.”
West Side Story on Sydney Harbour will play: 22 March – 21 April 2019. For more information, visit: www.opera.org.au for details.
Image: courtesy of Opera Australia