Dark Mofo festival and Hannah Gadsby’s comedy show Douglas among other winners, though not much love for Harry Potter
The 2019 Helpmann awards weren’t entirely about the theatre company that calls Sydney’s Belvoir Street home, but it sure felt like it.
Belvoir took home 13 of the 43 accolades on offer at Australia’s annual live performance awards, held in Melbourne on Sunday and Monday nights. The event typically include awards for theatre, musicals, opera, dance, circus, touring and more.
Buxton Opera House; Southbank Centre, London Three centuries after its first, and last, outing, an epic baroque opera fizzes into life in Buxton. Elsewhere, gongs, ouds and ice-cream vans
Being the highest paid artist in Christendom is no guarantee of posterity. Who, baroque specialists aside, can name anything by the Venetian composer Antonio Caldara (1670-1736), a prolific employee of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, with numerous stage works to his name? Buxton international festival, ever committed to presenting the unfamiliar, has surpassed its own recondite standards this 40th anniversary year with a staging of his Lucio Papirio Dittatore (1719). An epic tale of love and strife in pre-imperial Rome, it was premiered in Vienna 300 years ago and probably hasn’t been performed since. It may also be the first professional staging of any Caldara opera in the UK.
The score was reconstructed – every instrumental and vocal part realised and made playable – by the violinist Adrian Chandler, director of the baroque ensemble La Serenissima and clearly a man of indefatigable energy. This is a long work.
Tom and I are both on the opera course at the Royal Academy of Music, in London. One of our most vivid early encounters was when our drama teacher made us walk into the middle of a circle of our peers and act as if we were about to kiss.
From Bono to Domingo, the stars line up to sing the praises of their late friend in Ron Howard’s heart-sinking documentary
Bland, incurious and passionless, this documentary about the great tenor Luciano Pavarotti is like a promotional video licensed by a team of copyright lawyers – and about as challenging as a Three Tenors gig at Wembley stadium. Pavarotti’s glorious voice all but drowns in a 114-minute montage of obsequious syrup.
Director Ron Howard certainly has an important lineup of interviewees: co-tenors José Carreras and Plácido Domingo, first wife Adua Veroni, second wife Nicoletta Mantovani, assistant, student and former lover Madelyn Renee – and also his New York manager Herbert Breslin and London promoter Harvey Goldsmith. Everyone is on their best behaviour, no one speaking out of turn about the great man or each other. Weirdly, the most interesting interview moments come in old archive footage of Pavarotti speaking to Clive James and Russell Harty.
A South African Uber driver is causing excitement with his impressive operatic singing but, however much natural talent you have, it is a long road to La Scala
Are opera singers born or made? Are there wonderful natural operatic voices out there waiting to get a break on Britain’s Got Talent? Or maybe on South Africa’s Got Talent, because the reason to pose the question comes courtesy of an opera-loving South African Uber driver called Menzi Mngoma whose impromptu performances in the front of his cab in Durban have caused a frisson of excitement among those who want to believe that great voices and instant opera stars are all around us.
Mngoma is a self-taught tenor who likes to belt out arias for his passengers. One of his customers, Kim Davey, liked his singing so much that she posted a video on Facebook. That, in turn, attracted media attention and the 27-year-old Mngoma’s career was launched. He is said to be auditioning for Cape Town Opera. A stadium tour will no doubt follow.
Buxton Opera House La Serenissima rise to the coloratura challenges of Antonio Caldara’s baroque story of jealousy and persecution
Antonio Caldara was just another composer in the history of the Italian baroque until the release of a recording of one of his large-scale choral works became an unexpected hit 20 years ago. That work, Maddalena ai Piedi di Cristo, was composed in Venice, where Caldara (1670-1736) began his career, and where he became one of the most prolific and celebrated composers of oratorios of his time.
But after spells in Barcelona and Rome, Caldara spent the last two decades of his life in Vienna, becoming court composer to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI. He continued to provide music for the liturgy, but also composed much more opera, producing around 60 stage works during his tenure there, mostly full-scale works on which he collaborated with the two great librettists of that time, Pietro Metastasio and Apostolo Zeno.
One is a legendary composer. The other makes spectacular shows out of Sellotape. Philip Glass and Phelim McDermott talk about their new work about loss and religion – with puppets
‘I’ve done very good collaborations with people I don’t know very well,” says Philip Glass. “Even with people I didn’t like very much.” Sitting in La MaMa, the experimental theatre in New York’s East Village, one of the founders of minimalist music is talking about a body of work that includes three symphonies based on David Bowie’s Berlin albums, two sci-fi operas with Doris Lessing, an orchestrated version of Icct Hedral by Aphex Twin – and that’s only scratching the surface.
Now 82, Glass has found another collaborator, one who “has a comfortable relationship with his unconscious”, and who is bringing the composer’s unearthly music to a new generation. Already renowned for his Olivier award-winning adaptation of Shockheaded Peter and such outdoor shows as Sticky (which saw the construction of a 100ft tower using Sellotape), Phelim McDermott has directed three of Glass’s great operas – Satyagraha, about Gandhi; The Perfect American, about Walt Disney; and Akhnahten, about the pharaoh who briefly brought monotheism to Egypt.
When you've lost a piece, it can be devastating, like the loss of a child
The hypnotic, repetitive, incrementally unfurling nature of Glass's music make it as gorgeous as it is hard to perform
Theatre Royal Stratford East, London ENO’s first collaboration with Theatre Royal Stratford East and local schoolchildren is perfectly pitched and brings witty touches to Britten’s community opera
Noah had all kinds of trouble with the ark. What about the beavers, who wanted to gnaw at the wood? The cats, who wanted to gnaw at the mice? Then there was the nervous moose requesting a swimming aid, the hyperventilating zebra, the tortoise who nearly missed the boat ... OK, so none of this is specified in the libretto of Britten’s Noye’s Fludde, but they are all nice touches in Lyndsey Turner’s production, which marks English National Opera’s first collaboration with the Theatre Royal Stratford East.
Six decades old, Britten’s hour-long work remains a shining example of what a community opera involving children can be. He wrote it for the kind of church or village hall space where the distinctions between audience and performer could be blurry, as they were when the mystery play from which he took his text was first performed on the streets of Chester. Yet it works in the chocolate-box intimacy of the Theatre Royal. When the lights go up and the audience is invited to join in the singing (far less cringeworthy than it sounds), their proximity to the stage means the fourth wall is well and truly broken.
The theatre director on politically jagged times, adapting Touching the Void for the stage, and Breaking the Waves as an opera
Tom Morris was born in 1964. He ran Battersea Arts Centre, London, from 1995 to 2004 before moving to the National Theatre where he co-directed the worldwide hit War Horse. In 2009 he became artistic director of Bristol Old Vic. This summer he directs Breaking the Waves – Missy Mazzoli’s opera of Lars von Trier’s 1996 film – at the Edinburgh international festival, followed by Cyrano at the Bristol Old Vic. He has written the lyrics for English National Opera’s new version of Orpheus in the Underworld, and his stage version of Touching the Void arrives in the West End in November.
Tell me about Breaking the Waves… The film is like a bullet lodged in the minds of a whole generation because it’s so brutal. But it’s loved by many. What Missy Mazzoli has done with her adaptation is to articulate, through her extraordinary gifts – she’s rightly celebrated as a rising star of modern American classical music – what she thinks is going on in the head of Bess, the central character. And it’s about love, really.
Increasingly people are saying, 'I’ve had it with London, there’s no space to live or work in.' And in Bristol, there is
Garsington Opera at Wormsley, Stokenchurch Louise Muller’s production of Britten’s opera explores its ambiguities with great subtlety. Among a strong cast, Sophie Bevan is outstanding as the Governess
‘A deliberate, powerful and horribly successful study of the magic of evil,” is how one critic described Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw on its publication in 1898. The same words very much apply to Louisa Muller’s new Garsington staging of Britten’s opera, a beautiful, unsettling piece of theatre that sifts through the work’s ambiguities with a subtlety that in itself has something of the complex finesse of James’s prose.
Muller cleverly exploits the fact that we are watching the opera in what is effectively a glasshouse as daylight wanes and shadows naturally deepen. She reimagines the Prologue as the encounter between the Governess (Sophie Bevan) and the children’s guardian, reminding us that her obsession with the latter is integral to how she thinks and feels throughout. Bly House, wonderfully designed by Christopher Oram, is a dilapidated baroque pile, where Ed Lyon’s Quint and Katherine Broderick’s Miss Jessel prowl by day and night, their relationship in death replicating the emotional hell of their lives.