Opera Australia’s newly commissioned work about the turbulent life of iconic Australian artist Brett Whiteley and his vivacious wife Wendy will have its world premiere at the Sydney Opera House on 15 July 2019.
Brett Whiteley burst onto the international art scene, all golden curls and bravado. He was dynamic, damaged, a big idea and a bold brush. With the vivacious Wendy on his arm, Brett Whiteley was magnetic.
He abhorred straight lines, adored drugs, alcohol, women. He worked in vivid colour and ravishing curves. Heroin was both muse and merciless master. Out of this tumultuous life spilled a messy array of brilliant artworks and astonishing self-reflection.
Simply titled Whiteley, this keenly anticipated production brings together some of Australia’s finest creative talents with director David Freeman at the helm, celebrated composer Elena Kats-Chernin, multi-award-winning playwright Justin Fleming and conductor Tahu Matheson, OA’s highly respected head of music.
Production designer Dan Potra who wowed audiences with his Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour Turandot set, is joining forces with internationally renowned video designer Sean Nieuwenhuis to deliver what is expected to be a spectacular stage display, creating an immersive world of Whiteley, incorporating some of his celebrated artworks and emotive graphics on the huge LED screens.
Whiteley is the third new production in OA’s digital season, that features twelve of the 7meter-high, suspended LED screens, choreographed to move seamlessly around the stage, creating a visual landscape that needs to be seen to be believed, and taking opera to a whole new level.
Taking on the challenging task of playing such well documented, real-life characters will be English baritone and highly acclaimed interpreter of contemporary opera, Leigh Melrose playing Brett and Australia’s sweetheart soprano Julie Lea Goodwin who recently wowed the audience as Maria in West Side Story will play Wendy.
OA Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini is thrilled to be presenting a new Australian work that he believes people will actually want to see. “I think we’ve brought together the best possible team to realise this story, Elena Kats-Chernin in particular is a national treasure and I know her music will resonate with audiences,” said Terracini.
“It’s important that we continue to tell Australian stories and create new works – as an art form we have to keep moving forward with the way we present opera and combining this story with our new digital staging, I’m confident it will attract new people to our audience,” he added.
Composer: Elena Kats-Chernin Librettist: Justin Fleming Conductor: Tahu Matheson Director: David Freeman Featuring: Leigh Melrose, Julie Lea Goodwin, Natasha Green, Kate Amos, Ruth Strutt, Dominica Matthews, Richard Anderson, Nicholas Jones, Gregory Brown, Annabelle Chaffey, Alexander Hargreaves, Tomas Dalton, Jonathan Alley, Brad Cooper, Leah Thomas, Celeste Lazarenko, Sitiveni Talei, Angela Hogan, Opera Australia Chorus, Opera Australia Orchestra Production Designer: Dan Potra Lighting Designer: John Rayment Video Content Designer: Sean Nieuwenhuis Assistant Director: John Sheedy Consultant: Ashleigh Wilson Fight Choreographer: Tim Dashwood
Joan Sutherland Theatre – Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney
Season: 15 – 30 July 2019
Information and Bookings: www.opera.org.au
Image: Brett Whiteley (Australia; England, b.1939, d.1992), Self portrait in the studio, 1976 oil, collage, hair on canvas, 200.5 x 259 cm. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Purchased 1977 © Wendy Whiteley – photo by Christopher Snee / AGNSW