Classical Music

Australian Chamber Orchestra: River [Cancelled]
The team behind the ACO’s hit show, Mountain has followed it up with another musical and visual feast in River, a cinematic odyssey looking at the way rivers have shaped the Earth and the people who live on it. (Read our feature from last month’s magazine online). Director Jennifer Peedom is the filmmaker at the helm with Richard Tognetti in charge of the music. The score, which is performed live, is directed by Tognetti and features some of his own music alongside classics by Bach, Vivaldi, Ravel and Jonny Greenwood. There’s also a new collaboration with Indigenous musician and composer William Barton and Australian composer Piers Burbrook de Vere.
29 July – 10 August, Newcastle, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra 

Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra: Beethoven Journey
Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Eivind Aadland sets off on a traversal of Beethoven’s symphonies, works which genuinely changed the course of Western music. The TSO, which has excellent chops in early-Romantic repertoire, plays the first five symphonies across the month coupled with complementary and sometimes contrasting works. The First Symphony is performed alongside Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No 3, the Second with Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances, the Eroica will be preceded by Dowland’s Lachrimae, the Fourth by Ravel’s Pavane pour une Infante Défunte, and the Fifth is coupled with Barber’s Adagio for Strings. As a bonus, all concerts will be livestreamed for subscribers.
6–28 August, Federation Concert Hall, Hobart

Queensland Symphony Orchestra: Piers Lane plays Liszt
Australia’s favourite pianist is in Brisbane this month to play Liszt’s demanding First Piano Concerto, one of the seminal 19th-century works for piano and orchestra that features the expected virtuosic fireworks but also contains a profound musical and spiritual agenda as the composer sought new ways of approaching the form. QSO Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser Johannes Fritzsch is at the helm – always a cause for celebration – in a concert that also features another staple of the Romantic repertoire: Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique, the Russian composer’s final emotional utterance in symphonic form.
7 August, QPAC, Brisbane

Ensemble Q
Ensemble Q. Photo courtesy of Musica Viva

Musica Viva: Ensemble Q [Some dates cancelled]
Ensemble Q is a Brisbane-based outfit led by Artistic Directors clarinettist and composer Paul Dean and cellist Trish Dean. At the heart of this MVA touring program is Paul Dean’s own Concerto for Cello and Wind Quintet with Trish as soloist. The intriguing and wide-ranging program also includes the Ciaccona from Britten’s Second Suite for Cello, Ligeti’s quirky Six Bagatelles for wind quintet, Debussy’s sinuous Syrinx (with flautist Virginia Taylor), Beethoven’s perky Variations on Là ci darem la mano and Barber’s Summer Music.
10–28 August, National Tour

Sydney Symphony Orchestra: Britten & Shostakovich [Cancelled]
Concertmaster Andrew Haveron leads the SSO string section with Principal Horn Ben Jacks and tenor soloist Andrew Goodwin in Britten’s haunting Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, ravishing nocturnal settings of English poets including Tennyson, Blake, Jonson and Keats. Britten’s rarely heard Prelude and Fugue for 18 Solo Strings is also on the bill as well as Rudolf Barshai’s masterly arrangement of Shostakovich’s Tenth String Quartet for string orchestra, appropriately dubbed a “Chamber Symphony”.
11 & 12 August, City Recital Hall

Adelaide Symphony Orchestra: Simone Young conducts Tchaikovsky
The Sydney Symphony Orchestra chief is moonlighting in Adelaide this month for a concert of music spanning the centuries. The earliest is Mozart’s Symphony No 35, aka the ‘Haffner Symphony’, a cheery work that started life as a serenade. Tchaikovsky was one of Mozart’s biggest fans, though as one of his bleakest works, the Pathétique is worlds removed from his predecessor. The program is completed by a work so new it is yet to have a title by composer Mary Finsterer. Young’s thoughtful interpretations should give South Australians the chance to enjoy a little of what NSW gets on a regular basis.
12 & 13 August, Adelaide Town Hall

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra: Introducing Jaime Martín
The MSO’s Chief Conductor Designate is in town for two special introductory concerts at Hamer Hall. Expect Jaime Martín to turn on the charm in an eclectic program with the full forces of the orchestra as well as the MSO Chorus. Stravinsky’s 1945 revision of The Firebird Suite is the most substantial item here with Dukas’ endlessly entertaining The Sorcerer’s Apprentice thrown in as a bon bouche, but the other items are rarer events and well worth the ticket price: Margaret Sutherland’s evocative tone poem Haunted Hills and Lili Boulanger’s potent choral setting of Psalm 24.
20 & 21 August, Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne

West Australian Symphony Orchestra: Sibelius and Brahms
WASO’s Asher Fisch is very much a known quantity in the music of Brahms. “This was world-class playing from a band at the top of its game,” I wrote reviewing his performance of the First Symphony in 2015. “Conducting of this special kind, from a Maestro in profound communion with a favourite composer, doesn’t come along every day.” Alongside that work, WA audiences will get to hear Grace Clifford, one of Australia’s most exciting young violinists, in the Sibelius Concerto, one of the greatest challenges in the 20th-century violin repertoire. Fauré’s delicate Pavane should be the icing on the cake.
20 & 21 August, Perth Concert Hall

Opera and Vocal

West Side Story
West Side Story at Arts Centre Melbourne, 2019. Photo © Jeff Busby

Opera Australia: West Side Story
West Side Story is hailed as one of the greatest musicals of all time. Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it is set in the Upper West Side of New York in the 1950s, but its snappy Bernstein score and pointed Sondheim lyrics still land punches. Opera Australia and GWB Entertainment present the BB Group production, directed by Joey McKneely, whose background includes being choreographed by Jerome Robbins himself. It’s no surprise then that the dancing is excellent. “Lithe, precise, energetic and evocative, it’s easily one of the best aspects of this production,” said Patricia Maunder for Limelight.
Until 22 August, QPAC, Brisbane

Victorian Opera: Voss [Cancelled]
Richard Meale’s masterpiece has a decent claim to be Australia’s greatest ever opera. (Read this month’s feature by Vincent Plush). Based on Patrick White’s novel, Voss is a taciturn German explorer sponsored to journey to the heart of the country whose story is played out against the backdrop of his long-distance relationship with the similarly complex Laura Trevelyan. Her feelings for the misanthropic adventurer grow more profound the further they are separated geographically. Meale combines 19th-century salon music with his own inimitable style to tell an intricate tale of love and loss. Richard Mills conducts Stuart Maunder’s semi-staged concert version with Samuel Dundas as Voss, Emma Pearson as Laura, and Pelham Andrews, Samuel Sakker and Michael Petruccelli as Voss’s fellow travellers.
4 August, Palais Theatre, St Kilda

Opera Queensland: A Poet’s Love
In association with the Brisbane Music Festival, Opera Queensland presents a vocal recital with soprano Sarah Crane, baritone Shaun Brown and BMF Artistic Director, pianist Alex Raineri. Entitled A Poet’s Love, it features pinnacles of 19th-century German poetry by Heinrich Heine, in the form of Schumann’s celebrated song cycle Dichterliebe, and Friedrich Rückert, by way of Mahler’s radiant Rückert Lieder. While Schumann’s cycle is a musical response to Heine’s imagery of flowers, dreams and folktales, Mahler’s was never intended as a cycle. Now established as such, it includes the profoundly moving Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (I am lost to the world).
6–7 August, 140 Grey Street, South Bank, Brisbane

Melbourne Opera: Bel Canto Spectacular
Melbourne Opera honours its founding Patron-In-Chief Lady Potter on her 90th birthday with a bel canto concert. Helena Dix, who headlines, is joined by Samuel Sakker, Christopher Hillier, members of the Richard Divall Emerging Artists Program, the Melbourne Opera Chorus and Orchestra, and conductors Greg Hocking and Raymond Lawrence. The program features highlights from Bellini’s Norma, Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, Roberto Devereux, Lucia di Lammermoor and L’Elisir d’Amore, Rossini’s Barber of Seville, and Foroni’s Cristina Regina di Svezia.
11 August, Athenaeum Theatre

Victorian Opera: The Who’s Tommy
Victorian Opera ventures into rock opera with one of its earliest and most effective examples. The Who’s Tommy, the story of a traumatised deaf, dumb and blind boy who becomes first a pinball champion and ultimately a cult guru started life as a concept album before making the leap to film (starring Roger Daltry, Elton John and Tina Turner) and finally to stage. Jack Earle conducts Roger Hodgman’s production with Mat Verevis as Tommy, Matt Hetherington and Amy Lehpamer as his parents, Vincent Hooper as the sadistic Cousin Kevin, Kanen Breen as the abusive Uncle Ernie, and Paul Capsis in the Tina Turner role as The Acid Queen.
13–21 August, Palais Theatre, St Kilda

West Australian Opera: Star Navigator (Ihitai ‘Avei’a) [Cancelled]
WA Opera premieres a new work by Tim Finn based on the true story of Tupaia, a Tahitian star navigator who sailed with Captain James Cook on the Endeavour. Sung in English and Tahitian, it recounts the 1769 meeting of the two mariners, each from very different backgrounds, but equally confident in their knowledge of the heavens. Despite their common love of the sea, can they bridge the cultural chasm that divides them? Christopher van Tuinen conducts the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and the WASO Chorus with Tim Finn on piano. Teddy Tahu Rhodes sings Captain Cook, with rising star Samoan tenor Amitai Pati as Tupaia.
13 August, Perth Concert Hall

Theatre

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Melbourne
This epic, two-part play keeps you spellbound throughout its five and a half hours. Written by Jack Thorne, based on an original story by author J.K. Rowling, it tells a new tale, which cleverly references Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. Harry is now 37 and his son Albus is joining Hogwarts. More than that I cannot say. Using good old-fashioned theatre tricks and wonderfully human storytelling, this is stage wizardry at its most magical. You can see both plays in one day or on separate occasions, but Part I ends with such a dramatic cliff-hanger, you’ll be desperate for more.
Now running, Princess Theatre, Melbourne

Malthouse Theatre: Because the Night [Some dates rescheduled]
Conceived and directed by Malthouse Theatre’s Artistic Director Matthew Lutton, Because the Night has been a huge hit since opening in April. Loosely based on Hamlet, the immersive, Choose Your Own theatre adventure is set in Elsinore. An entire world has been created in the labyrinthine set, which covers much of the Malthouse complex. There are three entrances. From there you decide whether to follow certain characters or roam around as you see fit. In her Limelight review, Patricia Maunder described it as “a thrilling theatrical rollercoaster that goes right off the rails in an ingenious, meticulously managed way.” With audiences limited to 60, tickets are disappearing fast.
Until 26 September, Malthouse Theatre

Melbourne Theatre Company: Cyrano
Virginia Gay made hay when she starred in Richard Carroll’s inspired production of Calamity Jane, which began life at the Hayes Theatre. Now she will play the title role in her own, free-wheeling, gender-flipped adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. (Read our illuminating interview with Gay in our July issue or online). Directed by Sarah Goodes for Melbourne Theatre Company, Gay’s version is a playful romp full of songs and hope. Not only has she changed Cyrano’s gender, but she has dispensed with the famous proboscis and – spoiler alert – she’s changed the ending too.
2 August–8 September, Southbank Theatre, The Sumner

State Theatre Company South Australia: Hibernation
Finegan Kruckemeyer’s new play Hibernation is set in 2030. The Earth is facing an immediate climate crisis, so world leaders make a collective decision to save the planet. For an entire year, all 8.5 billion humans will hibernate, plunged into a deep sleep so that the natural world can reset. “It’s phenomenal,” says STCSA Artistic Director Mitchell Butel, who will helm the world premiere. “Basically it’s a futuristic three-act investigation of climate change set in Australia, Korea, South America and America. The first act is the journey towards will this happen or not, and then it’s about what happens when people wake up. It’s beautiful, it’s like an Australian Angels in America – the ambition of it is so massive.”
13–28 August, Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre

Moulin Rouge! The Musical: Melbourne
Moulin Rouge! The Musical is as “spectacular spectacular” as Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film on which it is based. Featuring over 70 songs spanning 120 years, from Offenbach to Lady Gaga, it received 14 Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical, when it opened on Broadway in 2019. Produced by Australian company Global Creatures (read our interview with Carmen Pavlovic from page 38), the Australian production begins in Melbourne this month. Des Flanagan plays Christian, the aspiring composer who arrives in fin-de-siècle Paris and falls in love with the sparkling, consumptive courtesan Satine, the star of the Moulin Rouge cabaret, played by Alinta Chidzey. Andrew Cook plays the evil Duke who is determined to have Satine for himself.
From 13 August, Regent Theatre, Melbourne

Jimi Bani and Jason Klarwein. Photo © David Kelly

Queensland Theatre: Othello
Queensland Theatre will premiere an innovative version of Shakespeare’s Othello, told through a Torres Strait lens. Adapted by Jimi Bani, who plays Othello, and Jason Klarwein, who directs, the tri-lingual (Kala Lagaw Ya, Yumpla Tok and English) production is set between Cairns and the Torres Strait, and shines a light on the remarkable story of the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion during World War II. More than 800 Torres Strait Islanders singed up to protect the northern tip of Australia including Bani’s great grandfather, the late Ephraim Bani Snr, and his grandfather, the late Solomon Gela. Bringing together two cultures, Shakespeare and Wagadagam, this new adaptation premieres at this year’s Cairns Indigenous Art Fair.
16–21 August, Bulmba-jo, Cairns

Black Swan State Theatre Company: Every Brilliant Thing
Black Swan describes Every Brilliant Thing as “one of the funniest plays you’ll ever see about depression”. Written by Duncan Macmillan, with Jonny Donahoe, the solo piece is structured around a long list of wonderful things, large and small, that make life worth living, put together by the play’s narrator, whose mother is in hospital having “done something stupid”. The audience is drawn into the action in sweet, ingenious ways, which means the heartful, life-affirming show is different every night. Luke Hewitt stars in the Black Swan production, which is directed by Adam Mitchell and staged in the round.
25 August – 17 September, Studio Underground, Perth

Dance

West Australian Ballet: Dracula
WA Ballet brings back its popular ballet Dracula, based on Bram Stoker’s gothic novel. First staged by WAB in 2018, the thrilling, neo-classical work is choreographed by Krzysztof Pastor to music by Wojciech Kilar. With looming sets and rich, detailed costumes, the ballet (a co-production with Queensland Ballet) was nominated for Best Ballet at the Helpmann Awards and won three Performing Arts WA Awards. Reviewing last year’s WAB production for Limelight, Rita Clarke called it “an ingeniously devised, eloquent and timeless drama”.
19–24 August, Crown Theatre, Perth

The Australian Ballet: Romeo and Juliet
The Australian Ballet revives John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet, choreographed in 1962, with Orchestra Victoria and the Opera Australia Orchestra playing the famous Prokofiev score. “As an audience member, the most touching aspect of Romeo and Juliet is the unfolding of the story in front of your very eyes,” says TAB Artistic Director David Hallberg. “I have danced performances of Romeo where the audience was with us in every scene; they become a part of the ballet. I lost myself through expressions of love, elation, vengeance and ultimately death; and the audience left the performance as heartbroken as the characters on stage.” The performance on 2 September will be livestreamed via TAB’s Ballet TV.
27 August – 4 September, Arts Centre Melbourne

Eventful

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