Victorian Opera Unveils 2024 Season Under New Artistic Director Stuart Maunder AM

Victorian-Opera-Stuart-MaunderVictorian Opera has revealed its 2024 season with a compelling program set to traverse maestros, masterpieces, gothic horror, First Nations creation myths and an Australian literary classic reimagined.

Heralding its first program under the new leadership of incoming Artistic Director Stuart Maunder AM, next year’s season promises audiences a journey through the magic of opera and music theatre in a celebration of the enduring power of storytelling.

A frequent Victorian Opera collaborator, Stuart Maunder was previously Artistic Director of State Opera South Australia having also held senior soles at New Zealand Opera and Opera Australia over his long history working in opera.

Maunder has directed several popular productions for Victorian Opera and numerous interstate and international opera organisations, including the acclaimed 2015 iteration of Sweeney Todd, which will make a much-anticipated return to Melbourne under his stewardship once again.

“I have long admired Victorian Opera’s bold repertoire choices, championing of new Australian work, formidable record of collaborating with other arts companies, commitment to showcasing Australian artists, and for pushing the boundaries of our extraordinary artform,” said Maunder.

“As I step into my role as Artistic Director for this mighty company, I’m thrilled to unveil a 2024 season that I know promises a truly remarkable journey through the enthralling, and thrilling world of opera and music theatre. There is nothing like the power of opera, to move, to exalt, to thrill… and the ability of opera to make people feel something deeply and strongly within themselves.”

The 2024 season will open with a work from one of the twentieth centuries towering composers in Leonard Bernstein’s irreverent Candide. Led by multi-talented Australian legend Eddie Perfect and the award-winning star of Hamilton Lyndon Watts, Candide sees Voltaire’s satirical tale of mindless optimism spring to life through a brilliant score from the famed West Side Story creator.

With sparkling wit and humour this thrilling new production, fusing opera and musical theatre, will see the St Kilda’s iconic Palais Theatre transformed from 8 – 10 February into “The Best of All Possible Worlds” under the direction of Dean Bryant and symphonic magic of maestro Benjamin Northey and Orchestra Victoria.

Victorian Opera will once again present Deborah Cheetham Fraillon’s joyous retelling of a Wadawurrung creation story, Parrwang Lifts the Sky. Set in a time when the sky was a blanket on the land, this Dreamtime story for all ages follows the young and adventurous Tjatjarrang (Big Sister) and Koki (Brother) as they climb to the highest branches of an ancient gum tree and discover a world of colour and light – and a new friend in Parrwang (Magpie).

This VO commission, directed by Elizabeth Hill-Cooper and conducted by Aaron Wyatt, builds on the company’s history of nurturing and premiering new Australian works, including those by First Nations artists. Parrwang, in association with Short Black Opera, was previously produced online in the COVID-affected 2021 season and again as part of NAIDOC week in 2023.

Now Parrwang Lifts the Sky returns in 2024 to reach a whole new generation of opera lovers from across the state as part of Victorian Opera’s family and education program at Malthouse Theatre from 10 – 18 May.

English wit and Australian larrikinism converge at University of Melbourne’s Union Theatre from 4 – 6 July. Conducted by Susan Collins, English Eccentricsby legendary Australian composer Malcolm Williamson and based on the book by Edith Sitwell offers a whimsical glimpse into a gallery of thirty-nine eccentric characters from English society.

As part of its ongoing VO Emerges series and commitment to fostering new talent, Victorian Opera’s emerging stars appear as a revolving door of characters – aristocrats, tradesmen, maids and clergy – in this comedic assemblage of idiosyncrasies. Williamson’s music brims with pastiche, ranging from Mozart to Gershwin and even a twist of rumba, inviting audiences to revel in his joyously zany world.

Celebrating the centenary of Giacomo Puccini’s death, the 2024 season continues with the Melbourne premiere of the great Italian composer’s late masterpiece, La Rondine. Featuring two of Australia’s most exciting young opera stars, the radiant Kiandra Howarth and tenor Kang Wang, and conducted by Puccini specialist Tobias Ringborg, this poignant, wistful and romantic classic from the composer of La boheme, represents grand opera at its most intimate. Powerful, sumptuous, stylish and compelling, and brimming with themes of youth, passion and heartbreak, La Rondine runs 8 – 10 August at St Kilda’s Palais Theatre.

Once, there was a barber who had it all – a happy life, a beautiful wife. But it all ended in a savage act of betrayal. Enter Sweeney Todd, “the demon barber of Fleet Street”. From the maestro of musical theatre Stephen Sondheim, and the storytelling genius of Hugh Wheeler, gothic horror masterpiece Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street arrives at Art Centre Melbourne’s Playhouse from 14 – 21 September, conducted by Phoebe Briggs.

Considered one of the most powerful, dramatic and theatrical horror tales ever set to music, this special co-production with New Zealand Opera has already seen sell-out seasons in Wellington, Auckland and most recently at the Sydney Opera House, having left hearts racing and spines tingling long after the final curtain falls.

Closing out the 2024 season, Victorian Opera will present a flagship World Premiere staging of Sir Jonathan Mills’ haunting new telling of the classic Murray Bail novel, Eucalyptus. Co-produced by Perth Festival, Brisbane Festival and Opera Australia this modern fairytale has been lovingly brought to life by a stellar Australian cast and the formidable team of director Michael Gow, librettist Meredith Oakes, designer Simone Romaniuk and conductor Tahu Matheson.

An ageless story of love and longing, Eucalyptus is part-Australian fairy tale, part-sonorous evocation of the bush. In this dappled landscape lurks both beauty and wonder. A moving and fascinating examination of our time and place, Eucalyptus runs from 15 – 19 October at the Palais Theatre in St Kilda.

For more information about Victorian Opera’s 2024 Season, visit: for details.

Image: Victorian Opera’s Incoming Artistic Director, Stuart Maunder AM (supplied)