“As insurmountable as the concept of an online opera festival seemed back in March, and despite the temptation to sit out 2020 until we can perform for live audiences again, I believe my job is to guide our artists and company through all this uncertainty by demonstrating flexibility and adaptability,” says Gertrude Opera’s Artistic Director Linda Thompson.
“Nothing compares to the live theatre experience, but we’re enjoying exploring what we can achieve through the digital medium. It’s a steep learning curve and we’re inspired by the possibilities of what opera can be, in connecting with old and new audiences.”
The Festival opens on Friday 16 October with a Gala-at-Home concert featuring performances from company singers over the past eleven years, and hosted by Thompson and Maestro Brian Castles Onion.
Some of the artists performing from their homes around the world include Hadleigh Adams (San Francisco Opera, Los Angeles Opera), Stacey Alleaume (Bregenz Festspiele, Royal Opera House Muscat, OA) Sophie Yelland (Welsh National Opera, Glyndebourne Festival Opera), Twice-Grammy nominated baritone John Marcus Bindel (Metropolitan Opera), Na’ama Goldman (Israeli Opera, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Grange Opera) and Sarah Herman-Heltzel, who sang Offred in Gertrude Opera’s premiere of The Handmaid’s Tale.
The Gala will be followed by the Australian premiere of Oscar nominee David Lang’s a cappella chamber opera love fail – a co-production with Monk Parrots NYC, featuring video and digital effects by award-winning director Luke Leonard.
YVOF in partnership with YAVA Gallery and Arts Hub will run a schoolage set and costume design challenge for their children’s opera podcast performance of Figatroll, with commended and winning entries to be displayed in a virtual exhibition room for the duration of the Festival.
Running on weekdays from 5.00 – 5:30pm throughout the Fest is Ariarchitecture – a pop-up series taking place on private properties of architectural significance in the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges. Usually hidden from sight, these homes will be the backdrop for our young artists singing arias from contemporary operas – merging structure, materials, light and landscape with beautiful music and voices.
Rounding out the Program on the second weekend will be performances of Together Apart – an operatic song cycle with jazz, music theatre and pop influences by young Australian creators, Nicholas Gentile and Lachlan Hall, and the Australian chamber opera Kate Kelly by Merrill Findlay and Ross Carey.
A reinterpretation of the life of Ned’s sister, Kate Kelly will be brought to life by three singers, an accordion, violin, cello and clarinet; a logistical feat considering the three singers are based in Tasmania, Sydney and Melbourne.
Patrons will also be offered the unique option to take part in an immersive, one-on-one, via telephone performance of Onsite Opera’s To My Distant Love (Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte) which runs at various times over the 10 day festival via a telephone appointment with a choice of soprano, tenor or baritone.
On the closing day, RACV Healesville Country Club hosts a Q&A-style Forum featuring a panel of distinguished experts on economics, law and the arts. Panellists and online virtual audience will engage in a discussion on the subject: Opera and the nature of work – Is it a real job?
“For our young and mid-career artists especially, it will be a long time before pre-COVID 19 opportunities reappear, and we are delighted to be able to invite artists and musicians to take part in the Festival – many of whom had essentially written-off collaborative performance for 2020,” says Thompson.
“We’ve come up with a program that is quirky, eclectic and unique – a vehicle for stories that connect and bind us. Once again, Yarra Ranges Tourism will be partnering to bring a sense of regional Victoria to our virtual location.”
“Together, buoyed along by engagement with place and space, we look forward to telling universal stories through an art form which embodies both the intimate and grand,” said Thompson.
The 2020 Yarra Valley Opera Festival runs 16 – 27 October. For more information and full program, visit: www.gertrudeopera.com.au for details.
Image: Amelia Jones to star in the Australian premiere of David Lang’s a cappella chamber opera, love fail (supplied)