reviews & quotes

Tristan and Isolde review -Opera Chaser

An accomplished Tristan and Isolde makes its mark from an increasingly ambitious Melbourne Opera

The determination and ambitiousness that percolates within an increasingly confident Melbourne Opera came in the form of a musically secure, vocally accomplished and exciting production of Tristan and Isolde at the Palais Theatre Monday night. Apart from a minor technical hitch that saw temporary loss of surtitles and background projections, not even the disastrous cancellation of Friday night’s opening (due to an indisposed Isolde) impeded the quality of professionalism on display.

Tristan and Isolde review - Timeout

Melbourne Opera punches well above its weight with a Wagnerian epic

Tristan and Isolde review - Classic Melbourne

Tackling increasingly difficult Wagner operas with notable success, Melbourne Opera braved the so-called “Tristan Curse” and, although not unscathed, produced a memorable performance of opera’s most iconic love story. Just as the Sydney Symphony Orchestra had to replace an ailing Stuart Skelton for their concert performances of Tristan and Isolde in 2013, so illness plagued Melbourne Opera’s leading singers, resulting in the postponement of the opening night to the second scheduled performance to enable Lee Abrahmsen to recover from a chest infection.

Tristan and Isolde review - Stage Whispers

I attended what should have been the second performance of Tristan and Isolde after the first was cancelled due to a virus affecting the lead soprano and several other cast members. Fortunately Lee Abrahmsen seemed to have fully recovered.

Isolde is a mammoth role and she sang with power and beauty. She was well matched by English heldentenor, Neal Cooper. They made a very credible couple.

Sarah Sweeting was a sympathetic Brangäne, Michael Lampard a strong Kurwenal and Steven Gallop a powerful King Marke. The amateur male chorus did well.

Tristan and Isolde review - The Age

This was not the opening night Melbourne Opera had planned. But then, Wagner didn't have the premiere he planned for Tristan und Isolde either. After trying for six years to have it staged, when a date was finally set in 1865, opening night had to be postponed for nearly a month because the Isolde lost her voice. Melbourne Opera's leading lady too fell ill at the final hour on Friday but thankfully we only had to wait three days, not three weeks, to hear this revolutionary work.

Tristan and Isolde review - ConcertoNet

The immensity of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde cannot be underestimated. Its expansive emotional palette, the sweeping journey across sea and land, the astonishingly huge singing role of Isolde in particular and not least, the sheer length of the score all make for a heavy-duty opera which tests the inventiveness of the cast and creative team as well as the stamina of the audience. Melbourne Opera’s delayed first night – the indisposition of the soprano forcing a re-schedule – was well up to task and was enthusiastically received by a large audience.

Tristan and Isolde review - The Australian

Melbourne Opera’s intrepid bid to scale Wagnerian heights

Jostling with the two professional opera companies serving Victoria, Melbourne Opera aspires to ­tackle the grandest, most difficult works in the operatic canon ­despite receiving no government funding, lacking a permanent professional chorus and orchestra, and, in its quest to employ local artists, competing with the lure of top-tier domestic and international companies.

Tristan and Isolde review - ABR

Tristan und Isolde, the opera in which Richard Wagner really took art in a new direction, is often described as the most important musical work of the nineteenth century. No lesser authority than Kobbé calls it the most influential opera in all musical history, while the great Wagner conductor Christian Thielemann says it is ‘the peak of operatic art, the opera of operas, the incunabulum, the key work. Tristan is the sum of everything and the exception to it’.

Tristan and Isolde review - Simon Parris

The delayed opening night of Tristan and Isolde proved well worth the wait, an evening of musical splendour that will live in the hearts and minds of those lucky enough to be there.

Having dipped their toes in the waters of Wagner with large scale productions of Tannhäuser and Lohengrin, Melbourne Opera completes a trilogy, of sorts, with an epic presentation of Wagner’s most distinguished stand-alone work. Given the radiantly immaculate quality of this production, there is little to say but to celebrate those who contributed to the magic.

Roberto Devereux review - ConcertoNet

Full stage productions of Roberto Devereux are rare and rarer still are full “cycles” of Donizetti’s three Tudor operas. That it falls to the small, unsubsidised company of Melbourne Opera to premier two of the three operas in Australia and consequently premier the complete trio is something of a minor miracle. Not only have Melbourne Opera lived up to their charter to provide a wider choice of repertoire for the opera-going public, but they have done so in style and with considerable success.

Roberto Devereux review - The Plus Ones

Melbourne Opera astounds with Roberto Devereux

Melbourne Opera’s Roberto Devereux is very entertaining. Roberto Devereux is the last of Melbourne Opera‘s Donizetti’s Tudor trilogy, with acclaimed productions of Maria Stuarda (Mary Stuart) in 2015 and Anna Bolena (Anne Boleyn) in 2016.

Roberto Devereux review - The Australian

Melbourne Opera’s crowning achievement

With Roberto Devereux, Melbourne Opera completes its Australian premiere of Donizetti’s Tudor trilogy.

None of these three tragedies is in the same popular league as his Lucia di Lammermoor or Don Pasquale. But Roberto Devereux emerged from Donizetti at the pinnacle of his acclaim, authority and audacity: the overture opens to the tune of God Save the Queen.

Roberto Devereux review - Theatre People

Settling into the ornately decorated Athenaeum Theatre, the audience is shocked to attention with a booming, jolted chord from the orchestra pit. Greg Hocking, conductor and producer of Roberto Devereux, initiates us into an evening of whimsical, musical mastery with a tongue in cheek rendition of ‘God Save the Queen’ that transports the pomp and stuff of early 17th Century England into a balmy 21st Century Melbourne evening. The playful composition of this god-and-crown fearing number signals that what is to come is sure to be a rollicking delight.

Roberto Devereux review - ArtsReview

Melbourne Opera’s production of Roberto Devereux is a masterpiece. Their superb storytelling is made all the more exceptional through the deformation and violation of what you might consider traditional operatic singing.

Roberto Devereux review - Limelight Magazine

Opening night belonged to Australian soprano Helena Dix in the role of Queen Elizabeth I.

Roberto Devereux review - Classic Melbourne

Melbourne Opera manages to produce high quality operatic productions throughout the year without government funding. This is what makes their current production of Donizetti’s Roberto Devereuxall the more astounding. It is a rarely performed work and the final in a trilogy of Donizetti’s Tudor-era operas presented by the company. The titular character of Roberto is played with gravity and courage by coloratura lyric tenor Henry Choo. His is a voice of rare beauty, with the capacity for sweetness as well as high drama.

Roberto Devereux review - Opera Chaser

From Melbourne Opera, intellectual and visceral strength greet the long overdue Australian premiere of Donizetti's Roberto Devereux

Roberto Devereux review - ABR

Melbourne Opera’s latest production is Gaetano Donizetti’s 1837 lyric tragedy Roberto Devereux, the last in his so-called Tudor trilogy. The company staged Mary Stuart in 2015and Anna Bolena in 2016, to considerable acclaim. However, this airing of Roberto Devereux, an Australian première, is something else. Put simply, it was one of the most thrilling nights at the opera I have ever experienced – an opinion shared by many in the enthusiastic audience. If you haven’t heard of Melbourne-born soprano Helena Dix (Queen Elizabeth I) yet – you will.

Roberto Devereux review - Stage Whispers

By Gaetano Donizetti. Melbourne Opera. Director: Suzanne Chaundy. Musical Director: Greg Hocking. Athenaeum Theatre. November 11 – 18, 2017.

Donizetti’s opera Roberto Devereux is rarely performed, mainly due to the demanding soprano role. This was more than adequately met by local girl made good, Helena Dix, whose international career is on the rise.

Roberto Devereux review - The Age

It is seldom that a semi-professional opera company – even Melbourne Opera, which so consistently overachieves – can host a performance that would grace the stage at Covent Garden or the Met. It did so at the Athenaeum on Saturday where Helena Dix was utterly superb as Queen Elizabeth I in Donizetti's Roberto Devereux.

Roberto Devereux review - Simon Parris

In yet another triumph, Melbourne Opera not only presents a superb evening of bel canto opera, but also corrects a long-standing arts omission by staging the Australian premiere of Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux.

Roberto Devereux completes Melbourne Opera’s ambitious three-year project to present the full “Tudor Trilogy,” three operas that were grouped as a set by New York’s Metropolitan Opera in the 1970s as a starring vehicle for soprano Beverley Sills. Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky recently performed opera’s “triple crown” for the Met’s 2015-2016 season.

Lohengrin review - Theatre People

Our state’s opera scene has never looked stronger or healthier.

For many years, veteran companies like Lyric Opera, Opera Australia, and Victorian Opera have entertained, enthralled and treated audiences, satisfying every taste with wide-ranging repertoires featuring both traditional and contemporary fare.

Melbourne Opera has been in operation since 2003.

Following their triumphant season of Tannhauser in 2016, last Monday the organisation struck gold yet again with another Richard Wagner masterpiece.

Lohengrin review - Herald Sun

Melbourne Opera’s Lohengrin is a triumph

With its riveting drama, glorious music, radiant voices and its mysterious medieval vision, Melbourne Opera adds a crown to its credentials with its new production of Richard Wagner’s sprawling romantic work, Lohengrin.

For a composer who created some of the most monumental works of the repertoire and who envisioned and had constructed an opera house exemplifying his ideals, there is no surprise that he dictated all aspects of production scrupulously.

Lohengrin review - Limelight

Wagner’s swan makes a splash in Melbourne.

Lohengrin review - The Plus Ones

Melbourne Opera’s ‘Lohengrin’: a visual feast

Melbourne Opera delights audiences once again with its second Wagnerian opera, Lohengrin, a visual feast that’s well-cast and beautifully sung.

This next chapter maintains the high standard set by its acclaimed predecessor, Tannhäuser. Director Suzanne Chaundy delivers once again with an exploration of human behaviour, this time in the setting of the old world. She patiently allows the story to slowly unfold, build drama, and end with a terrific climax.

Lohengrin review - Classic Melbourne

After making the metaphorical leap across Collins Street last year for Tannhäuser, Melbourne Opera returns to the Regent Theatre for its next shot at the grand Wagnerian experience, Lohengrin. What this production may lack visually – due to a limitation of budget more than imagination – it makes up for with splendid musicality, led by some principal singers of considerable talent.

Lohengrin review - Stage Whispers

After a successful Tannhäuser in 2016, Melbourne Opera lifted the bar further with Wagner’s Lohengrin. We knew we were in for a special evening with an ethereal start to the overture, the sixty piece orchestra under the firm baton of David Kram. Having the brass in the boxes at the side of the auditorium added to the excitement.

Lohengrin review - The Australian

Melbourne Opera’s Lohengrin: ideal approach to Wagner

Lohengrin review - Simon Parrish

Grand in scale yet intimate in detail, Melbourne Opera’s lavish, confident and lovingly polished production of Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin is an immensely satisfying experience.

Lohengrin review - The Age

Melbourne Opera successfully tackles early Wagner

The great Italian composer Rossini was not a fan of Lohengrin: "One can't judge it after a first hearing, and I certainly don't intend hearing it a second time," he said.

Fortunately Melbourne Opera has a higher opinion of Wagner's early masterwork, and provided convincing evidence at the Regent Theatre on Monday.

HMS Pinafore review - 3MBS

Reviewed by Peter Green

3MBS. Aired on Saturday March 18

Following on from Melbourne Opera’s great success in staging Wagner’s Tannhauser across the road at the splendid Regent (later this year the venue for the much anticipated Lohengrin)

They have done it again with a very, very funny but un-mucked-about production of HMS Pinafore bubbling with fun, pace and beauty.

HMS Pinafore review - The Age

Robert Ray's bright and busy, traditional production of Gilbert & Sullivan's HMS Pinafore is certainly shipshape. Ray is also a choreographer, and hornpipes and funny footwork abound, with dancing, prancing sailors and agile sisters, cousins and aunts all over the deck. Scarcely a moment goes by without someone striking an attitude or taking a twirl.

Amid opening night's hustle and bustle were some fine performances, especially Claire Lyon's lissome and lively Josephine, David Rogers-Smith's not-too-overboard Captain Corcoran, and David Gould's splendid Sir Joseph Porter.

HMS Pinafore review - Classic Melbourne

The first work in Melbourne Opera’s 2017 season is a rollicking production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore. This is a comic opera written in 1878 which has since set the standard for the many forms of music theatre that have followed it. From the opening ensemble piece “We Sail the Ocean Blue” sung by a jaunty chorus of sailors, the audience were set for a most enjoyable performance.

HMS Pinafore review -Stage Whispers

Melbourne Opera stepped out of their comfort zone in presenting a G&S operetta. However, they employed one of the most experienced G&S directors and a number of music theatre professionals to make for an enjoyable production.

Robert Ray’s approach was traditional, but with some neat twists. He included a recently discovered duet for the Captain and Josephine, “Reflect My Child”, though it didn’t seem as musically inspired as the rest of the score.

HMS Pinafore review - Theatre People

It’s a delight to see a classic back on stage, and you don’t get anything more classical as a Gilbert & Sullivan production. Melbourne Opera starts its 2017 season with H.M.S. Pinafore.

What a performance it was, the complete production is a delight to the senses. The audience was captivated from the opening scene to the finale, it was extremely well received.

HMS Pinafore review - Herald-Sun

MELBOURNE Opera have the heavily dramatic works of Wagner’s Lohengrin and Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux to come but a completely satisfying belly-laugh start to their season docked into the Athenaeum Theatre this week in the form of HMS Pinafore.

Occasional helpings of Gilbert and Sullivan’s unique brand of contagious merriment would rarely go unappreciated by its audience. Permission to cringe is always granted, as is admitting how much you really do fancy a tune or two.

HMS Pinafore review - ConcertoNet

Like any G&S worthy of the name, this is an entertainment full of toe-tapping tunes, based on a plot of total silliness. It also has the requisite bitingly sharp social commentary and more than a few opportunities to include local references, political quips and jibes at the “Establishment”. From class distinction to social climbing; from “baby farming” to promotions of talentless politicians “up the ladder”, W. S. Gilbert took aim at many targets of nineteenth century London which still ring very true today. 

HMS Pinafore review - Man In The Chair

Let’s Give Three Cheers and One Cheer More for the hardy team at Melbourne Opera. This skillful, lovingly reverential production of H.M.S. Pinafore is the sparkling gem that Melbourne Gilbert and Sullivan lovers have been waiting years to see.

Such is the keen insight and finely honed talent of director/choreographer Robert Ray, the company should sign him up now to do a series of similar productions over the next few years. This is your grandmother’s H.M.S. Pinafore, gorgeously sung and played, and with the original comedy shining through in abundance.

Anna Bolena review - ArtsHub

This Anna Bolena is an impressive production.

Following a successful outing with Maria Stuarda in 2015, Melbourne Opera returns to Donizetti's Tudor period, staging what is, remarkably, Anna Bolena's professional Australian debut. Dynamic singing, led by soprano Elena Xanthoudakis, is to the fore in this production that's also strong on historic drama and attractive design.

Anna Bolena review - The Australian

Donizetti was Europe’s leading opera composer in the 1830s. Verdi and Wagner subsequently eclipsed him and he was famously dismissed in the 1954 Grove which sneered that music written as rapidly as his “can be no more than successful improvisation”.

Anna Bolena review - Stage Whispers

Donizetti’s fascination with Tudor England and the women who feature in this tumultuous history is indulged in Anna Bolena. The opera recounts the period which sees the demise of Boleyn as Queen of England and King Henry VIII’s second wife. This period of history, and in particular Henry's court, is rich with intrigue, betrayal and espionage and in many ways sets the scene for the future reign of their daughter Elizabeth I.

Anna Bolena review - In Review

While the opera Anna Bolena provided composer Gaetano Donizetti instant international fame, his fame did not endure.  His Bel Canto opera has seldom been performed since the 1830s after the Italian-originated vocal style fell out of fashion. As the world was becoming transfixed by Wagner’s complex tonal arrangements, it was considered too flamboyant.

Anna Bolena review - SMH

Anna Bolena is the central panel of Melbourne Opera's noble enterprise of staging Donizetti's regal triptych, which began last year with Maria Stuarda and concludes in 2017 with Roberto Devereux.

Certainly, this performance boasted a most distinguished Anna in soprano Elena Xanthoudakis, whose steely voice sliced through the orchestra like a freshly sharpened axe blade. The role is long and cruel, but Xanthoudakis tackled it fearlessly, but also, particularly in the final act, with grace and humility.

Anna Bolena review - The Plus Ones

Melbourne Opera’s production of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena is a sumptuous, operatic history lesson about Anne Boleyn’s final months with Henry VIII.

Anna Bolena review - ConcertoNet

That it has taken more than 180 years for this towering giant of the bel canto repertoire to receive a professional debut in Australia is amazing enough. But that it has taken the resources of the small, independently funded Melbourne Opera to mount that premiere is even more remarkable. Further, the company have already announced their intention to mount the third production of this Donizetti trilogy in 2017: another Australian debut to which this reviewer eagerly looks forward.

Anna Bolena review - Arts Review

Anna Bolena tells the story of the last days of Anne Boleyn’s life. Originally his mistress, Anne is now Henry VIII’s second wife and Queen of England. Unfortunately, she has been unable to give him the male heir he desires. Henry doesn’t exactly handle this well – first beginning an affair with Anne’s friend, Jane Seymour, then plotting to entrap her in a lie of his own construction to frame her for adultery thus giving him a reason to have her executed.

Anna Bolena review - Classic Melbourne

For the second of their “Tudor Trilogy” of Donizetti operas Melbourne Opera has chalked up a major success with Anna Bolena. Such are the demands placed on the principal singers, it is small wonder it has taken so long to be performed by a professional Australian company. In particular, much rests on the quality of the leading lady.

Anna Bolena review -Australian Book Review

Melbourne Opera, in recent years, has established a reputation for enabling keen opera goers (especially bel cantists) to experience rarely performed works. Remarkably or not, this new production marks the first Australian professional production of Gaetano Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, which was premièred in 1830. The opera was widely performed over the next three decades but then languished until 1957, when it was triumphantly revived by Maria Callas and Luchino Visconti, at La Scala.

Anna Bolena review - Herald Sun

Anne Boleyn, second wife of England’s King Henry VIII and familiar figure of history embedded in the upheavals of the English Reformation, is sanctified in glorious and dark dramatic form in Donizetti’s two-act opera from 1830, Anna Bolena.

Local audiences have waited long for her operatic adaptation but Melbourne Opera have finally brought her to the stage with dignified life, unto her death, in its Australian professional premiere.

Anna Bolena review - Simon Parris

Melbourne Opera continues their lavish presentation of Donizetti’s Tudor Trilogy with the Australian professional premiere of dramatically charged bel canto opera Anna Bolena.

Donizetti’s 1830 opera features a compelling storyline peopled with intriguing historical figures. Anna Bolena covers the final three months of the life of doomed Queen Anne Boleyn, as she spirals from rosily beloved royal to mentally unbalanced prisoner.

Tannhauser Review - Classic Melbourne

Once again Melbourne Opera has proved that it is a company up for a challenge. After successful concert performances of Rienzi, another of Wagner’s operas neglected by local companies in recent times beckoned. A fully staged production of the1861 Paris version of Tannhäuser is a much more daunting task, but members of the creative team had already explored a number of production strategies in their imaginative use of video for Der Freischütz and this experience was put to excellent use for Tannhäuser.

Tannhauser Review - Australian Stage

Not seen here since the early 90s, Richard Wagner’s1845 opera Tannhäuser enjoys a great big production by Melbourne Opera, directed by Suzanne Chaundy and staged in the Regent Theatre where it's very much at home. The story of Tannhäuser involves a silly old saw pitting good woman (chaste) against bad woman (sexual), and where only the sacrifice of the good woman can save the hero’s soul from eternal damnation, etc. Of course this is an allegorical treatment of the spiritual life contrasted with the material but even so it still reads as tiresome and sad, if not downright misogynistic.

Tannhauser Review - Bachtrack

Tannhäuser brings a new dimension to Melbourne Opera

Melbourne Opera, a small company with energy and vision, has mounted a rather grand production of Tannhäuser in Melbourne’s large, opulent Regent Theatre, usually home to such shows as The Lion King and We Will Rock Yourather than Wagnerian operas. They have done it well, engaging an impressive cast and an expanded orchestra, and employing exciting visual effects. The branding for this production has used a large latin cross for the T of Tannhäuser, emphasising a particular theme of this opera.

Tannhauser Review - Man in Chair

Melbourne Opera makes a quantum leap in scale of production, crossing Collins St to present a majestic, immensely satisfying production of Tannhäuser at the Regent Theatre.

Achieving a synergistic if-you-build-it they-will-come vibe, this second performance of Tannhäuser was extremely well attended, surely coming close to the 1300-strong audience at Sunday’s premiere. The ranks of Melbourne Opera’s followers have clearly been swelled by fellow opera lovers keen to experience Wagner’s epic romantic drama in its first Melbourne appearance in over 20 years.

Tannhauser Review - The Plus Ones

Melbourne Opera’s terrific new production of Tannhäuser rewards audiences with magnificent music and powerful performances by a cast of over 130 singers and musicians, superbly directed by Suzanne Chaundy.

Tannhauser Review - The Australian

Chaundy’s Tannhauser for Melbourne Opera a triumph

Melbourne Opera set itself an enormous challenge in staging one of Wagner’s grand romantic operas, Tannhauser, for a debut opera season at the Regent Theatre. The company, which does not receive a government subsidy, chose an opera requiring 14 named singers, a chorus of more than 50, a large orchestra, and a complex production design.

Suzanne Chaundy, a regular Melbourne Opera director, delivered her finest achievement in this production. It had focus, pace and was of compelling quality.

Tannhauser Review - Arts Review

In 1852 Richard Wagner issued instructions to opera houses planning to stage Tannhäuser. It had closed after only four performances when it opened in Dresden in 1845 – conducted by the composer without most of the scenery, delayed in transport – but was now attracting wide attention. His essay (14,309 words in English translation) was typically didactic and punctilious, and he demanded complete adherence to every detail.

Tannhauser Review - Stage Whispers

Melbourne Opera is a semi-professional company punching well above its weight, mainly due to considerable support from the opera loving public in Melbourne. The idea of a semi-professional company performing Tannhäuser is incredible, yet they triumphed magnificently.

The only concession to the non-professional nature of the over fifty voice chorus, was that they were permitted to sing in English in this German production, but their singing was so lusty and polished no one minded.

Tannhauser Review - Herald Sun

Melbourne Opera’s Tannhauser brings together an army of artists, big voices and a clear creative vision

Were many thinking Melbourne Opera was biting off more than it could chew in tackling a fully staged version of Richard Wagner’s grand romantic opera Tannhäuser? To that, taking over the huge Regent Theatre across the road from their usual home at the far smaller Athenaeum? At Sunday’s buzzing opening night, the boots were filled marvellously on both accounts.

Tannhauser Review - The Age

Grand, romantic new production a great leap forward for Melbourne Opera

With this expansive new production of Tannhauser, Melbourne Opera takes not just a great leap forward but a hop-skip-and-jump across the road: from its normal cosy home at the Athenaeum to the palatial opulence of the Regent.

Seraglio review - Classic Melbourne

Melbourne Opera’s 2016 season was launched with Suzanne Chaundy’s inventive transposition of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail into a 1970’s context. The practice of updating the social context of standard repertoire has led to some bizarre and wrong-headed convolutions that appear to show scant regard for the libretto or the needs of the singers. Chaundy’s interpretation, however, worked remarkably well and was one of the more convincing and better thought out examples Melbourne audiences have seen of late, either live or “live in HD”.

Seraglio review - Simon Parris

Presented as a 1970s spy romp, Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio is an amusing evening of beautiful music.

Mozart’s rarely seen opera, written mid-career on the cusp of his premium opera period, features lovely melodies that are simply there to be enjoyed. Conductor Greg Hocking leads a nimble, assured performance by Melbourne Opera Orchestra. The fine playing of many players is exposed in the score’s generous smattering of solo passages.

Seraglio review - Herald Sun

MORE than 230 years since its premiere, The Abduction from the Seraglio still dazzles with thrusting, youthful energy.

Melbourne Opera’s new production of the entertaining singspiel that Mozart penned at the age of 25 is a little uneven in delivery, but it gives spark and appealing freshness to the work.

Seraglio review - Stage Whispers

Seraglio is one of Mozart’s lesser-known works and is a throwback to earlier times with few roles, lots of arias and few ensembles. So the spotlight is fully on the soloists, and Eddie Muliaumaseli’i impressed in the low bass role of Osmin. His voice was big and beautiful and all the low notes were there.

Mary Stuart review - Classic Melbourne

Donizetti’s 1835 opera, Maria Stuarda, is no Wolf Hall. Unlike the Booker-winning blockbuster, it puts the dynastic and doctrinal conflicts between Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth 1 safely into the background and introduces a fictional love triangle as a more politically acceptable focus for their conflict.

Mary Stuart review - Planet Arts Melbourne

Once upon a time Gaetano Donizetti’s Mary Stuart (Maria Stuarda) was banned. In 1835, the blistering confrontation between Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart was considered too appalling to be allowed and Milan deemed it unsuitable for public consumption. Perhaps that’s why this English translation is so much fun today.

Mary Stuart review - Stage Whispers

At the moment Melbourne has an embarrassment of operatic riches. Thirty years ago we had the Australian Opera, Victorian State Opera and an occasional amateur performance. Now we still have Opera Australia, Victorian Opera, which emerged from the ashes of the VSO, and several semi-professional companies providing lots of work and doing exciting productions.

Melbourne Opera, based at the Athenaeum Theatre, broke away from CitiOpera and, as a point of difference, perform exclusively in English. Many roles were shared in early productions with varying degrees of success.

Mary Stuart review - Arts Update

Amongst the seventy works composed by Gaetano Donizetti (1797–1848), only three, The Elixir of Love, Don Pasquale, and Lucia Di Lammermoor were regularly performed in the first half of the twentieth century, and the most popular of these, Lucia, was often presented in truncated form.

Mary Stuart review - Herald Sun

TWO outstanding lead sopranos come face to face in Melbourne Opera’s spectacular new production of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda (Mary Stuart).

Elena Xanthoudakis and Rosamund Illing star as Mary and Elizabeth — two rival queens who had never met but were brought together on stage in a bitter confrontation.

Mary Stuart review - The Age

Maria Stuarda review: Melbourne Opera stages electric revival of Donizetti classic

Barney Zwartz

Maria Stuarda​ is an Italian opera based on a German play about English history that never happened – a confrontation between Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, which leads to the latter's execution. Much more challenging to English speakers brought up on good Queen Bess is that to Catholic Europe, including Donizetti​: she is the villain and the feckless Mary is the tragic heroine.

Mary Stuart review - The Australian

Melbourne Opera’s Maria Stuarda: Bel canto game of thrones

Performing Italian bel canto repertoire in English invariably sacrifices stylistic character and introduces awkward syllabic subdivisions.

Surmounting such challenges, this compelling revival by Melbourne Opera of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda redresses decades-long local neglect.

Mary Stuart review - Simon Parris

Melbourne Opera raises the bar yet again as a superb cast perform bel canto classic Mary Stuart in a lavish, inventive and highly attractive staging.

In a contrasting but highly complementary pair of casting coups, each of the dueling queens is played by a soprano of noteworthy attraction

It is wonderful to welcome Elena Xanthoudakis back to the Melbourne Opera stage, and to enjoy the flourishing talent that has seen her international career thrive in recent years.

The Barber of Seville review - Classic Melbourne

There is a great deal to recommend in Melbourne Opera’s second production for the year, The Barber of Seville, especially the quality of the singing and acting.

Some purists might be offended by the plethora of comic inclusions, joining forces with Robert Lawrence, who in his introductory essay to a Schirmer edition of the opera decried a tendency to turn Rossini’s elegant score “into a cheap ‘gag’ show, with exaggerated comic routines and outlandish costumes”.

The Barber of Seville review - Australian Book Review

Writing to a friend in 1898, Giuseppe Verdi said of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville:

You may say things about Rossini and they may be true regarding the borrowings, the speed of composition and so forth, but I confess that I cannot help believing ‘The Barber of Seville’ for abundance of ideas, for verve and for truth of declamation the most beautiful opera buffa in existence.

The Barber of Seville review - Stage Whispers

Melbourne Opera’s oft-revived production of ‘ The Barber of Seville’ retains a rather enviable freshness and vitality, in no small part due to the direction of Hugh Halliday, that all too rare director who can never bore an audience.  By leaving the piece squarely ‘in period’ and essentially following the instructions left by composer Rossini, librettist Sterbini and playwright Beaumarchais, the audience was kept laughing from curtain-up to the final scene.  Halliday’s first brilliant touch is to leave the curtain down for the overture.

The Barber of Seville review - Simon Parris

What a difference a tenor makes. Joining 2010 stars Phillip Calcagno and Sally-Anne Russell, lively young tenor Brenton Spiteri completes a terrific trio whose antics are as much of a joy to watch as their singing is a pleasure to hear.

Making a welcome return after five years, Melbourne Opera’s delightfully daffy 2006 production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville remains one of their mostly artistically satisfying. Creative design enhances the humour, and inventive direction creates an unpredictable air that fits the desperate disguises and deceptions of the plot perfectly.

Der Freischütz review - Australian Stage

Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz or The Marksman (1821, Berlin) is a pivotal piece in German opera history and performance practice. On one hand, it is known as a seminal piece of German Romantic opera. It had an ardent initial reception with a pronounced national sentiment, notwithstanding the strong influence of French opéra comique.  On the other hand, the opera has prompted experimentations with staging techniques, particularly of the famous second act finale or the casting of magic bullets in the Wolf’s Glen. 

Der Freischütz review- Theatre People

Review by Darcy Carroll

Melbourne Opera has commenced their 2015 season in a spirited fashion with the first performance of Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz (The Marksman) at the Athenaeum Theatre.

Der Freischütz review - Australian Book Review

In these straitened economic times for arts funding, it is rare for opera companies to stray far from the standard, well known repertoire. But there are only so many Toscas, Traviatas and Butterflys one needs to see in a lifetime. So it is pleasing that Melbourne Opera was prepared to stage an opera once so famous it was parodied by Gilbert and Sullivan but nowadays sadly neglected. The last time this writer saw Der Freischütz was at Southampton in 1975 (Glyndebourne Touring Company). It has not been done in Melbourne since 1969.

Der Freischütz review - Classic Melbourne

Hats off to Melbourne Opera! The choice of Der Freischutz to launch their 2015 season was a happy one on several counts. Following successful performances of Beethoven’sFidelio and Wagner’s Rienzi, a link has been forged between these two by another masterpiece from the German operatic repertoire. Beethoven took opera to new places after Mozart’s ground-breaking Magic Flute and Wagner was inspired by Weber’s Der Freischutz to explore myth and legend in a new musical imagining, complete with leitmotifs and an innovative use of orchestral forces.

Der Freischütz review - The Australian

In an unusually early start to Melbourne’s 2015 opera season, Melbourne Opera premiered a new production of Weber’s masterwork Der Freischutz (The Marksman, more usually translated as The Freeshooter). The opera was last staged in Melbourne 46 years ago by the former Victorian Opera Company.

The story of human aspirations and frailties is set in a Bohemian village at the end of the 30 Years’ War.

Der Freischütz review- Simon Parris

Taking the sort of bold leap seldom, if ever, seen from the national company in recent years, Melbourne Opera proves they have the resources, talent and audience support to successfully stage rarely seen German opera Der Freischütz.

Der Freischütz review - The Age

Carl Maria von Weber's 1821 singspiel, Der Freischütz, (literally, "The Free Marksman") is a staple of the European repertoire, and, along with Wagner's Die Meistersinger, the operatic embodiment of romantic nationalism. However, Freischütz, which concerns a village shooting contest rather than a Nuremberg singing competition, is the far darker and ominous work, with more than a tinge of the supernatural. Challenges, therefore, abound.

The Pearl Fishers review - Simon Parris


Melbourne Opera capitalizes on the perpetual popularity of Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers with a crowd-pleasing new production.

Lush, colorful designs, expert choral and orchestral preparation and a strong, perfectly cast set of leads make for a satisfying, highly enjoyable night of opera.

The Pearl Fishers review - Classic Melbourne

Apart from the sheer pleasure of being transported by Bizet’s fabulous music, experiencing different casts and witnessing the increasing assurance of some of the performers were among the benefits of repeated attendance at Melbourne Opera’s season of The Pearl Fishers.

Madame Butterfly Review - APHRA

"It is without a doubt, one of the world’s favourite Operas, and The Melbourne Opera Company’s production of Giacomo Puccini’s dramatic masterpiece ‘Madame Butterfly’ proves why.

Performed in the beautifully refurbished Athenaeum Theatre, the set was a simple, raised wooden platform with a sensual fusion of Eastern culture and Western allure, magnificently elevated above the Orchestra Pit. It was my first experience at an Opera, and certainly one I will remember."

Madame Butterfly Review - Theatre Press

The Butterfly reborn

By Margaret Wieringa

It’s one of the greatest tragedies in opera – Madame Butterfly, a young Japanese woman who falls in love with and marries an America serviceman only to be abandoned and, ultimately, takes her own life.

This production by Melbourne Opera is a restaging of director Caroline Stacey‘s production that was nominated for seven Green Room Awards a decade ago. Of the two casts being used for this performance, I had the pleasure of seeing Antoinette Halloranas Madame Butterfly.

Rienzi review - Classic Melbourne

Reviewer: Heather Leviston

 Three and a half stars

Rienzi was a hit in its day, firmly placing Wagner on the operatic map with its first performance in Dresden in 1842.

Rienzi review - The Australian

Hearty and high-volume: Wagnerians get to belt out robust tunes

WAGNER'S first successful opera, Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen (Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes) had not been performed in Australia until now. On Sunday evening Melbourne Opera successfully mounted an impressive concert version at its home, the Athenaeum Theatre.

Rienzi review - Theatre People

Melbourne Opera made a terrific contribution to the Melbourne Ring Festival with their concert performance of Richard Wagner’s early operatic success, Rienzi. A blaze of stirring choruses and heroic solos, the glorious music of this Australian premiere swept over the capacity audience, transporting them to a bygone age.

La Traviata Review - Theatre Press

" It is a great celebration of the achievements of Melbourne Opera, a company that is dedicated to providing accessible opera in Melbourne." 

La Traviata Review - Theatre People

Melbourne Opera marks Verdi's bicentenary with a celebration of their own, the completion of ten wonderful years of bringing accessible opera to Melbourne and Australia’s Eastern states. In returning to their first production, La Traviata, they welcome back cherished alumni Antoinette Halloran in her role debut as Violetta. 

Fidelio review - The Opera Boys

Beethoven's Fidelio: A masterpiece of sublime music played with passion and sung with joy and energy by Melbourne Opera
Melbourne Opera Athenaeum Theatre, February 2, 5 (8.00), 9 (7:30pm), 10 (2.30 pm)
Alexander Theatre, Monash University March 2, 8:00pm

Fidelio review - ArtsHub

Melbourne Opera has successfully transplanted Beethoven’s unique operatic masterpiece into a contemporary setting. Fidelio is a timeless story, dealing with human tragedy and the horrors of tyranny from which people suffer even today. Sung in English, this production is accessible and emotionally powerful.

Cosi Fan Tutte review - Theatre People

Melbourne Opera has built up a stable of talented, entertaining singers, so what better opera than Cosi Fan Tutte, with no less than six major roles, to show off the skills of their popular artists.

Radically changing the time and place setting of operas can be risky, but potentially rewarding if the update illuminates the text and enhances the variety for audiences who are well accustomed to traditional stagings. Happily, the choice of 1960s Melbourne is an excellent one, giving this production an extra pep and delight beyond the innate charm of the music.

Cosi Fan Tutte review - Kate Herbert

Director, Suzanne Chaundy, transposes Cosi Fan Tutte forward several centuries from 1790 into the 1960s to bring a fresh view to Mozart’s much loved, comic opera.

Greg Hocking confidently conducts the polished Melbourne Opera Orchestra playing Mozart’s cheerfully diverting score.

There are two casts alternating nights for this production and I saw Cast Two featuring Emily Xiao Wang singing Fiordiligi with a pretty, effortless soprano and Angela Hogan singing Dorabella with a warm mezzo and plenty of vibrato.

Cosi Fan Tutte review - Herald Sun

IN this Melbourne Opera version of Mozart's much loved comic opera, Cosi Fan Tutte is transposed from 1790 into the 1960s.

Director Suzanne Chaundy capitalises on the sexual revolution to elucidate the story, introducing a chorus of doped-up hippies carrying Make Love Not War placards to protest against the soldiers who depart for Vietnam.

The night I attended, the clowning is sometimes awkward and the staging of the chorus a bit crowded, but voices blend happily in Mozart's complex harmonies.

Cosi Fan Tutte review - Stage Whispers

I knew this production was going to be different when things started happening in the overture. Don Alfonso was in his Lygon Street wine bar showing the barmaid the ring he was planning to give to his intended when said lady walked out with another man! He immediately tore down the Alfonso sign and put up a neon sign, “Cosi Fan Tutte”, as the title tune appeared late in the overture.

It was a nice touch.

Carmen review - Theatre People

Truly beautiful music and singing characterise Melbourne Opera's new production of perennial crowd pleaser Carmen.

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