Opera Australia’s (OA) new Artistic Director Jo Davies has announced her highly anticipated 2024 Season, signalling a fresh new perspective at the helm of Australia’s largest performing arts company. With her eye on the future, Ms Davies’ first season demonstrates a commitment to local collaborations and championing homegrown talent, with the majority of cast and creatives in the 2024 season from Australia.
Additionally, with the State Theatre at Arts Centre Melbourne closing next year for refurbishment, 2024 will see the Company extend its footprint in Victoria, staging performances at four different venues across Melbourne, including Margaret Court Arena, the Palais Theatre, Hamer Hall and Federation Square, as well as performing in the recently refurbished Geelong Arts Centre, while the National Tour will premiere a brand new production in Dandenong.
“It is with great pleasure that I can announce the 2024 program. It is filled with extraordinary productions and reimagines the OA experience for Victorian audiences, from the enduring brilliance of Puccini and Mozart to some of the most exciting opera composers of our day,” said Jo Davies.
“There is so much Australian talent to harness, which is an exciting prospect for me as an incoming Artistic Director. This not only includes those working locally, but also reconnecting with talent who are based abroad.”
“Alongside this, I am also determined to maintain Opera Australia’s strong connection to the international opera community, ensuring the company continues to build on its reputation for excellence and innovation, and positions itself as a leader in the global creative sector.”
“To this end, the closure of the State Theatre has presented us with a creative opportunity to expand into theatres and spaces across and beyond the city, challenging us to innovate as we continue to explore alternative and non-conventional venues while our traditional theatre venue options remain limited,” said Ms Davies.
CEO Fiona Allan is delighted to be sharing the first Opera Australia season under the artistic leadership of Jo Davies. “Opera Australia’s new direction is as a company that is much more collaborative, committed to creative diversity and equity, and in the development and promotion of Australian talent. We also had a stated commitment to broaden our offering to audiences old and new in Melbourne and surrounds.
“That Jo has been able to take on this challenge and produce such a varied and interesting artistic program, having not yet commenced full time in her role as our incoming Artistic Director, is remarkable. It is a sign of exciting times to come for Opera Australia,” said Ms Allan.
OA is the first major opera company in the world to have both a female CEO and Artistic Director, which has in turn led to a significant boost in the number of female creatives across the 2024 program.
In Victoria this includes directors Kate Gaul and Melbourne Theatre Company’s Anne-Louise Sarks, as well as conductor Jessica Cottis, librettist Meredith Oakes and composer Missy Mazzoli, who will become the first international female composer that Opera Australia has worked with.
“This has been important to me since joining the company in late 2022, and has already been evidenced in Lindy Hume’s season as guest Creative Director of Sydney summer. Opera Australia is now fully committed to enabling a variety of voices to tell the great stories of opera. It is long overdue,” said Ms Allan.
The Victorian season begins with the Australian premiere of Opera North’s five-star production Tosca, which will become the first opera to ever be performed at Margaret Court Arena. Opera Australia favourites Karah Son, Diego Torre and Warwick Fyfe will perform alongside three new international guest performers; rising Korean tenor Young Woo Kim and British singers Nadine Benjamin MBE and Robert Hayward.
Building on the solid foundation laid with Victorian Opera through the Idomeneo co-production, OA and VO will team up again to co-present the world premiere of Sir Jonathan Mills’ new commission Eucalyptus. Based on the book by Murray Bail, this production features all-Australian talent, both on and off the Palais Theatre stage, including librettist Meredith Oakes, director Michael Gow and starring Melbourne-based baritone Simon Meadows and South Australian soprano Desiree Frahn.
For the first time, Opera Australia will perform a work by American composer Missy Mazzoli, with librettist Royce Vavrek. Described by Time Out as “Brooklyn’s post-millennial Mozart”, Mazzoli’s operatic adaptation of Lars von Trier’s acclaimed film Breaking the Waves will be conducted by Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of Canberra Symphony Orchestra Jessica Cottis, while Melbourne Theatre Company’s Anne-Louise Sarks will direct this exciting new semi-staged production at Hamer Hall.
Internationally acclaimed Australian soprano Nicole Car will join a stellar cast in The Puccini Gala at Hamer Hall while the free, outdoor concert BMW Opera for All will return to Federation Square to give all opera lovers, and the opera curious, an opportunity to experience a live opera and orchestra performance.
The Geelong Arts Centre will play host to two Victorian premieres; Kate Gaul’s bright new production of Mozart’s great adventure The Magic Flute, starring tenor Shanul Sharma, who gave a standout performance in Satyagraha earlier this year; and the critically acclaimed Chorus! with OA’s own Chorus Master Paul Fitzsimon and the forty-eight-strong Chorus presenting a powerful series of great operatic choral pieces, reminding audiences why this Chorus is hailed as one of the best in the world.
A brand new touring production of La Bohème directed by Melbourne-based Dean Bryant, whose credits include Opera Australia’s Anything Goes and the Helpmann Award-winning smash hit Sweet Charity, will premiere in Dandenong and tour throughout Victoria, including to Nunawading, Horsham, Warrnambool, Bendigo and Sale before continuing on to Tasmania and NSW.
In an exciting cultural coup, Melbourne will host the world premiere of an all-new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard starring one of musical theatre’s true icons, Sarah Brightman. Returning to the stage for her first musical in almost three decades, this will be musical theatre history in the making.
For more information about Opera Australia’s 2024 Season, including subscription packages, visit: www.opera.org.au for details.
Image: Breaking the Waves – photo by Nadin Sh