Victorian Opera bids farewell to Richard Mills with Galileo world premiere

AAR Victorian Opera Richard Mills AM photo by Charlie KinrossAfter 11 years at the helm, outgoing Victorian Opera Artistic Director Richard Mills will wrap up his final season at the organisation with the concert staging of his new opera work, Galileo, at the Palais Theatre on Wednesday 20 December 2023.

A special one-off world premiere opera in concert, Galileo examines the fortunes of one of the world’s greatest thinkers. Composed and conducted by Mills, it is an opera for the times, offering a searching meditation on questions of faith in a violent, hostile and uncertain world.

In a celebration of Mills’ artistic legacy, Galileo will be brought to life by the combined symphonic forces of La Compañia and Orchestra Victoria and vocal baritone of Victorian Opera favourite Samuel Dundas in the titular role.

Richard Mills first joined Victorian Opera in 2013, having worked as Artistic Director of West Australian Opera for some 15 years prior. During his tenure with VO, Mills commissioned over 30 new Australian works, including the recent premiere of Jane Harrison’s The Visitors and Green Room Award-winning, The Riders.

He was also responsible for the organisation’s renewed commitment to young people, with the introduction of the Victorian Opera Youth Chorus Ensemble (VOYCE), and the development of creative ties with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, presenting notable opera performances in Hobart and Launceston.

Galileo is a story about the search for truth in the context of the fragile realities of human life,” said Mills. “The fortunes and spiritual quest of Galileo are seen through his relationships with loved ones, family and the authorities that govern his world.”

“It is a story about the complexity and fragility of truth in the political landscape, it is a story about an individual’s journey of external discovery which parallels an interior search for truth and meaning in life.”

“Galileo’s journey through the minefield of often maligned political forces, with an ever present threat of plague and death, the capriciousness of authority and the complex matrix of political power are vital, raw material for the operatic form.”

“The opera creates a world which looks forward and backwards referencing the musical languages of Galileo’s time through a contemporary lens. Samuel Dundas leads a magnificent ensemble cast in a sonic landscape that features OV and the renaissance ensemble La Compañia to create a vibrant new sound world,” said Mills.

Incoming Victorian Opera Artistic Director, Stuart Maunder, reflected on Mills’ contributions and shared his excitement for his final show: “Mills is a powerhouse of the industry here in Australia. And what a way to finish up his tenure at Victorian Opera than by presenting his deeply personal opera, Galileo,” said Maunder.

“Operating at the height of his powers, Richard has created a work where faith, knowledge and power collide. A renaissance work combining heart and head, realised by a company he has so boldly and bravely led for over 10 years. I am completely in awe of this man’s passion, vision, creative talent, technical skill.”

“I’m also thankful that he’s still ‘down the road’ while he continues to create, conduct and champion this extraordinary artform – an artform showcased magnificently in his most recent work, the colossus that is Galileo,” said Maunder.

As Richard prepares to depart, Maunder recently unveiled his first season for Victorian Opera with a compelling program set to traverse maestros, masterpieces, gothic horror, First Nations creation myths and an Australian literary classic reimagined.

The 2024 season will open in February with the Leonard Bernstein classic Candide, starring Eddie Perfect and Hamilton‘s Lyndon Watts in a thrilling new production at the Palais Theatre. Subscriptions and single tickets to Victorian Opera’s 2024 season are now on sale.

Palais Theatre, Lower Esplanade, St Kilda
Performance: Wednesday 20 December 2023
Information and Bookings:

Image: Richard Mills AM – photo by Charlie Kinross