Victorian Opera presents Melbourne, Cheremushki: a 20th century Soviet satire of dirty landlords, money-hungry developers and put-upon tenants, reimagined for modern-day Naarm-Melbourne, where perhaps very little has changed.
Opening at the Playhouse – Arts Centre Melbourne on Wednesday 22 March and running through to Saturday 25 March, this Australian premiere production re-examines the housing crisis, economic inequality and social issues old, new and perennial.
Based on the only operetta produced by Soviet-Russian composer, Dmitri Shostakovich – Moscow, Cheryomushki – this modern day retelling is as darkly comic and as bitingly subversive as its original.
First penned as a critique of the Soviet Union’s housing woes in the 1950s, and premiering in 1959 as Russian censorship still loomed, Moscow, Cheryomushki remains a whip-smart study on the perils of progress.
The renewed Melbourne, Cheremushki transports these very same housing woes to contemporary Melbourne as a cast of young adults are pitted against the corrupt developers behind a much-needed new residential complex.
The hot property boasts all the trimmings a desperate renter could desire in a cheaply constructed development, but as the hopeful tenants look to begin their lives in the new estate, corporate and personal greed inevitably runs amuck.
With a splash of magical realism – a truth-telling park bench, a phone booth for the pure of heart, a garden where flowers bloom for good people and wither for bad – Melbourne, Cheremushki is a wicked new take on a story all too-familiar to the city of today.
“I am delighted with this new production of the satirical and ironic operetta by Shostakovich under the dynamic leadership of Director Costi and Conductor Bruckhard, both formidably talented young professionals who are at the beginning of what will be important careers,” said Victorian Opera Artistic Director Richard Mills AM
“Our VO emerging cast will feature the two winners of the Michael Stubbs and Malcolm Roberts Opera Prize for 2023, Syrah Torii and Alastair Cooper-Golec as well as an ensemble of young singers who impress all of us each day with their talent and dedication.”
“Art can often provide unexpected mirrors on life and society, Melbourne Cheremushki – while conceived in the grim realities of Soviet Russia of the 1950’s – finds many resonances in the housing and accommodation difficulties that are part of life in contemporary Melbourne and the particular hardships experienced by many young people in our city in finding a place to call home.
“Survival is made possible through mutual support and a sense of the ridiculous. Please join us for these special performances,” said Mills.
With fresh perspectives and voices alike, Melbourne, Cheremushki features a swathe of young talent from the new guard of Australian opera. The fully-staged operetta is directed by rising opera director Constantine Costi, who recently helmed the revival of La Traviata for Opera Australia to rave reviews.
Costi is also responsible for the show’s translated text, based on the witty original libretto of Soviet humourists Vladimir Mass and Mikhail Chervinsky.
On stage, Melbourne, Cheremushki features the ‘VO Emerges’ cast and 2023 Opera Prize recipients, Syrah Torii (mezzo-soprano) and Alastair Cooper-Golec (tenor).
Shostakovich’s charming score is performed by the Victorian Opera Chamber Orchestra with conductor Simon Bruckard, whose opera Cassandra was staged by Victorian Opera in 2021.
Playhouse – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season: 22 – 25 March 2023
Information and Bookings: www.victorianopera.com.au
Image: Melbourne, Cheremushki – courtesy of Victorian Opera