A new chamber opera constructed from baroque masterworks headlines 2016’s offering.

Musica Viva’s 2016 season gets off to a flying start in February with the first fully staged theatre work the organisation has mounted in several years, it was announced today. Voyage to the Moon, which will be a co-production with Victorian Opera, is a new chamber opera devised by celebrated Australian director and playwright Michael Gow. Described by Musica Viva Artistic Director Carl Vine as a “pasticcio work,” the piece will feature music from a number of baroque operas, using a new libretto loosely based on the epic Renaissance poem Orlando furioso. “Expect some amazing juxtapositions, masterful singing and luminous music,” Vine says of the new opera. The music has been selected and edited by American harpsichordist and early music expert Alan Curtis, however the project is a bittersweet triumph for Vine, Gow and Musica Viva, as Curtis sadly died suddenly at his home in Florence in July shortly before completing the score. The performances will now be led from the harpsichord by Victorian Opera’s Head of Music, Phoebe Briggs.

Starring in the production are some of Australia’s most accomplished opera stars, including Emma Matthews and Sally-Anne Russell, as well as emerging talents such as alumnus of Victorian Opera’s Developing Artist Programme, Jeremy Kleeman.

Musica Viva’s 2016 International Concert Season has six more programmes touring the country in 2016, which include two groups making their Musica Viva debuts. In May, the Grammy-nominated Ensõ String Quartet from New York, who delivered an impressive performance at 2012’s Huntington Estate Music Festival, will embark on their first nationwide Australian tour. In addition to favourites of the quartet repertoire by Beethoven and Ravel, and programmes featuring the mediterranean falvours of Turina and Ginastera, the Ensõ Quartet will also give the world premiere of a new piece by Australian composer Brenton Broadstock.

The Ensõ String Quartet

Yet more American talent is headed Down Under in October, when violinist Benjamin Beilman and pianist Andrew Tyson, both previous winners of the Young Concert Artist auditions in New York, tour the country in October. They too will deliver a world premiere of a new Australian work, this time by Jane Stanley, a beneficiary of Musica Viva’s Hildegarde Project, which aims to champion new music by female composers.

The season will also feature some more familiar faces, such as Australian-British pianist Stephen Hough. Programmes will feature Schubert’s late sonatas, César Franck’s Prelude, Chorale and Fugue, and a selection of Liszt showpieces, as well as Hough’s own Piano Sonata III.

In July the astonishing talents of the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge under the direction of Stephen Layton will be touring a programme of 20th Century choral gems, including Frank Martin’s Mass for Unaccompanied Double Choir, as well as newly composed works by Trinity Organ Scholar, Owain Park and a Musica Viva commission from Australian composer Joe Twist.

Making its first Australian appearance in seven years, the Jerusalem Quartet return in September. Celebrated composer Ross Edwards’ String Quartet No 3, Summer Dances, performed by the Orava Quartet at this year’s Musica Viva Festival in Sydney, will feature alongside masterworks by Beethoven, Dvořák and Haydn.

Completing 2016’s International Concert Season, Trio Dali also return, but with a new line-up headed by British violinist Jack Liebeck, who has been a regular in recent years at Townsville’s Australian Festival of Chamber Music. Their programmes will feature works by Mendelssohn, Smalley, Schubert, Beethoven and Chausson.

Trio Dali

2016 will also see another year of coffee concerts in Sydney and Melbourne, featuring some of Australia’s best home-grown chamber music talent, including both the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s Concertmasters. The Goldner String Quartet, who celebrated its 20th anniversary this year with a special Musica Viva tour, led by SSO principal violinist Dene Olding, will bookend the series. In March they will perform works by Borodin and Beethoven, followed by performances of Ross Edwards and Shostakovich in November.

In May SSO Concertmaster Andrew Haveron, will join his SSO colleague, Co-Principal cellist Umberto Clerici for a programme of virtuosic duets including showpieces by Ravel, Schulhoff and Halvorsen. In June yet more world-class string playing is on offer with performances by the 2015 Michael Hill International Violin Competition winner, Suyeon Kang, joined by New Zealand pianist Stephen de Pledge.

Concluding Sydney’s Coffee Concert series are the inaugural participants of Musica Viva’s new Future Makers programme, the Arcadia Quintet. Mentored by recorder virtuoso Genevieve Lacey, this exciting young wind quintet will perform an eclectic programme including Elliot Carter’s Woodwind Qunitet and Ibert’s Trois Pièces brèves.

Meanwhile in Melbourne, Coffee concertgoers can look forward to performances by pianists Michael Kieran Harvey and Timothy Young, the irresistibly charismatic Tinalley String Quartet, and the Benaud Trio, named for the legendary cricketer.

Musica Viva 2016 seaon subscriptions are on sale now.