Festival Director Josephine Ridge’s final festival selection is headlined by Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, 1984.
For the past three decades the Melbourne Festival has been one of the nation’s most potent cultural lightening rods, attracting world-class international artists to Victoria for an annual celebration of the arts. To mark this auspicious birthday, as well as her own final year curating the event, Melbourne Festival Director Josephine Ridge has assembled a stellar line-up for the 30th anniversary festivities. Featuring eight world premieres and 17 Australian premieres, with 15 events exclusive to the Melbourne Festival, Ridge describes 2015’s selection of music, theatre, dance and cabaret as having “sophistication, irreverence, audacity and creative intelligence.”
During her three-year tenure, Ridge has collaborated with ACO Artistic Director, Richard Tognetti, as the Melbourne Festival’s Creative Associate for Classical Music, and during that time he has curated an exploration of the master of the classical string quartet, Joseph Haydn. In 2015 the conclusion of the Haydn for Everyone project will see performances of all 68 of Haydn’s quartets over the course of the festival in some of Melbourne’s most historical and architecturally significant venues. Performed by quartets from the Australian National Academy of Music, members of the ACO and the London Haydn Quartet, the full cycle of quartets will be punctuated with artist in conversation events, hosted by Music Programmer of the Arts Centre Melbourne, Marshall McGuire and the Haydn Unpicked events, that lift the veil on how these chamber music masterpieces are perfected in rehearsal.
The Modigliani Quartet
Music connected to and influenced by Haydn will also be in plentiful supply. In addition to offering contributions to the Haydn cycle, the Modigliani Quartet will also being performing works by Schubert and Australian composer Nigel Westlake, the Orava Quartet will perform music by Ross Edwards and Shostakovich, ACO will perform Bach and Webern and the Australian Haydn Ensemble will present music by Manuel Canales.
Other music highlights include Mark Ravenhill and David Chisholm’s dark and ingenious music theatre piece, The Experiment; Kate Miller-Heidke and Iain Grandage’s multi-award-winning children’s opera, The Rabbits; a cross-cultural collaboration by the Australian Art Orchestra, composer Erik Griswold and musicians and performers from Sichuan, China, Water Pushes Sand; artist Angela Cavalieri’s visual response to Monteverdi’s operas and his Madrigals of War and Love; and Speak Percussion’s A Wave and Waves, created by American composer Michael Pisaro.
The headline act of this year’s Festival, imported from UK, is one of the West-End’s biggest theatre hits of recent years. Headlong’s radically envisioned adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984, created by British theatrical firebrands Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan, was seen by over a quarter of million people and received a nomination for Best New Play at the London Olivier Awards. This bold staging of Orwell’s dystopian vision provides the inspiration for a collection of events exploring the relationship between language, performance and power, the impact of Orwell’s writing on modern literature and the resonances this iconic work has with today’s political landscape.
When one of the world’s great opera and theatre directors teams up with a provocative literary master, the results are bound to be brilliant. American director Peter Sellars and Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison have created a musically vibrant exploration of one of Shakespeare’s most tragic heroines, Desdemona, featuring original songs by Malian singer-songwriter Rokia Traoré. This production is doing the festival rounds, with presentations in both Melbourne and Sydney in the coming months. Sellars himself will be present in Melbourne, for an Artist in Conversation event that’s not to be missed.
Rue Vandenbraden’s Peeping Tom
Victorian dance lovers are especially fortunate, as two extraordinarily original troupes will be presenting some cutting-edge contemporary work. The surreal and sublime universe of Belgium dance company 32 Rue Vandenbraden’s Peeping Tom is an uncompromising and highly innovative work of physical theatre that challenges as much as it entertains. Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, led by Artistic Director, Principal Choreographer and contemporary dance icon Ohad Naharin, will offer two programmes of their unique brand of dance. Using the highly esoteric, but jaw-droopingly beautiful technique of Gaga – a movement language developed by Naharin – this company offers some of the most exquisite, emotionally rich and provocative contemporary dance in the world. Truly movement to be moved by.
For the full festival programme, visit the Melbourne Festival website.