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Victorian Opera season 2018: William Tell’s Australia premiere – after nearly two centuries

Rossini’s overture to his 1829 opera William Tell is one of a small handful of classical tunes that most people can hum on command, with its thrilling galloping rhythm and blaring brass.

But the opera for which it was written is rarely performed, and will receive its Australian premiere season next year thanks to Victorian Opera.

The company tonight announced its 2018 ‘Encounters’ season, which includes a new production of William Tell created by Athens-born opera director Rodula Gaitanou. Gaitanou is a successful international director who works regularly for the Royal Opera House in London and in 2013 she was nominated for the Helpmann Award for Best Direction of an Opera for her production of L’isola disabitata at the Hobart Baroque Festival.

The production promises “grit and grandeur” and will star Canadian baritone Jean-François Lapointe in the title role, with Teddy Tahu Rhodes in the supporting role of Melchtal.

The company will also celebrate its 20th new work with the premiere of Lorelei, a new operatic-cabaret fusion work composed by Julian Langdon, Casey Bennetto and Gillian Cosgriff. The role of Lorelei, a present-day enchantress, will be played by three beloved genre barrier-smashing divas: Ali McGregor, Antoinette Halloran and Dimity Shepherd.

This season marks Richard Mills’ sixth as the company’s Artistic Director, and he’ll conduct two full productions in the season and one concert performance of Bellini’s The Capulets and the Montagues. Following previous concerts of Norma, I Puritani and La Sonnambula, The Capulets and the Montagues will be the finale of Victorian Opera’s Bellini concert series. The opera will be performed with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and singers including Caitlin Hulcup, Jessica Pratt and Teddy Tahu Rhodes.

The company will also revive two child-friendly productions, The Magic Pudding and Hansel and Gretel.

VICTORIAN OPERA SEASON 2018

THE MAGIC PUDDING – THE OPERA

Composer – Calvin Bowman
Librettist – Anna Goldsworthy
Conductor – Fabian Russell
Director – Cameron Menzies

Richard Mills: “2018 marks the centenary of this Australian classic. Reimagined for the stage by Anna Goldsworthy and Calvin Bowman, this medium admirably suits the zany improbabilities of the story. The adventures of Albert the pudding, Bunyip, Bill and Sam is the stuff of legend with an enduring capacity to delight the young and also the young at heart.”

15, 16 March, 6:30pm
17 March, 1pm and 5pm
Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse

HANSEL AND GRETEL

Composer – Engelbert Humperdinck
Librettist – Adelheld Wette
Director – Elizabeth Hill

Mills: “A fairy tale opera that is much more than a fairy tale. Humperdinck’s music has passed the collective imagination of Europe – it evokes the absolutes of childhood with a special power.”

9 June, 11am, 2pm and 5pm
Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse

WILLIAM TELL

Composer – Gioachino Rossini
Librettists – V.J. Etienne de Jouy and H.L.F. Bis
Conductor – Richard Mills
Director – Rodula Gaitanou

Mills: “Victorian Opera is thrilled to present the Australian premiere of Rossini’s epic – his finest opera. This is a logical extension of Victorian Opera’s expertise in and involvement with bel canto repertoire that has been established through our performances of Bellini and Donizetti.”

14, 17, 19 July, 7:30pm
Palais Theatre, St Kilda

THE CAPULETS AND THE MONTAGUES

Composer – Vincenzo Bellini
Librettist – Felice Romani
Conductor – Richard Mills

Mills: “We’re excited by the opportunity to work with mezzo-soprano Caitlin Hulcup and welcome the return of our dear friend Jessica Pratt, a European superstar, for this performance with Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.”
14 September, 7:30pm
Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall

Pelleas and Melisande

Composer – Claude Debussy
Librettist – Maurice Maeterlinck
Conductor – Richard Mills
Director – Elizabeth Hill

Mills: “2018 is the 100th anniversary of Debussy’s death and this, his only major opera, is a unique gem. It is not often performed and unlike any other opera in the repertoire. It is the perfect vehicle to bring home Siobhan Stagg and Angus Wood; both absolutely ideal for their roles”.

11, 13 October, 7:30pm
Palais Theatre, St Kilda

LORELEI

Composers – Julian Langdon, Casey Bennetto and Gillian Cosgriff
Librettists – Casey Bennetto and Gillian Cosgriff
Conductor – Phoebe Briggs
Director – Sarah Giles

Mills: “Our commitment to new work is highlighted with the premiere of this opera/cabaret by Julian Langdon, Casey Bennetto and Gillian Cosgriff. It promises to be a hypnotic production bolstered by our enchanting cast of sirens.”

3, 7, 8, 9, 10 November, 7:30pm
10 November, 1pm and 7:30pm
Merlyn Theatre, The Coopers Malthouse

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