Opera Australia has announced two outdoor spectaculars for 2022. Not only will Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour return in March, but another Sydney Harbour opera event will open on Cockatoo Island in November.

Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini has revealed that the show taking to the Sydney Harbour stage in 2022 will be Andrew Lloyd Webber’s blockbuster musical The Phantom of the Opera, in a brand new production directed by Simon Phillips and designed by Gabriela Tylesova.

Opera on Cockatoo Island

A render of the design for the inaugural Opera on Cockatoo Island, Carmen. Image courtesy of Opera Australia

In a new venture, OA will stage Carmen in the industrial surrounds of Cockatoo Island, in a bespoke production directed by Liesel Badorrek, who was Assistant Director on West Side Story on Sydney Harbour. Tickets will be available for seats on the island as well as for people on private boats at special moorings.

The HOSH announcement means that OA will be presenting two productions of The Phantom of the Opera in 2022. Cameron Mackintosh’s new staging, starring Josh Piterman in the title role, was scheduled to open at the Sydney Opera House this month, before moving to Arts Centre Melbourne in November. However, it had to be postponed due to COVID lockdowns and will now take place in 2022, with dates to be confirmed.

In 2019, OA staged two different versions of West Side Story, one for HOSH directed by Francesca Zambello, and a touring theatre production directed by Joey McKneely. The outdoor version would become the most successful Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour presented since the event began in 2012.

Terracini expects that Phantom will be just as successful, if not more so, and is not concerned that there are two different productions of the same show in the same city in the same year.

“It’s interesting because we get a very different audience coming to HOSH than we do in the theatre so we know that there’s very little crossover when it’s the same show,” he tells Limelight.

“Also doing a new production of Phantom is exciting and doing it on the Harbour with that fantastic view – I just thought that people would love to come and see it there. And we know that in the theatre, when it put it on sale it was virtually sold out in no time at all. So I think with West Side Story that formula worked, it worked with Madama Butterfly, and I am sure it will work with Phantom.”

Simon Phillips and Gabriela Tylesova are regular collaborators. In 2012, they staged the new Australian production of Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies, which picks up the Phantom’s story roughly ten years after The Phantom of the Opera. Lloyd Webber was apparently thrilled with the superbly staged Australian production., which was described by Clive Paget in his Limelight review as “one of the most ravishing and theatrical feasts to be seen on our stages for some time”.

“I love Simon and Gabriela so when I suggested the two of them to Andrew he was absolutely fine with it, and I think they will do it wonderfully. They are very talented and I love their aesthetic,” says Terracini.

The cast will be announced later. “We are just talking about the auditions now. Obviously we could only audition people by video [in recent times} and I don’t like that very much so we are working through that now. The great thing is I want to have two completely different casts [for the HOSH and theatre productions].”

Though Opera on Cockatoo Island will also have a spectacular harbour setting, the event with have a different vibe to HOSH.

“I think they are very different [events],” says Terracini. “Obviously they are both on Sydney Harbour but Opera on Cockatoo Island is literally on the island, and the beautiful old buildings there, which were built by convicts, mean that we can do a completely different sort of show. While the audience can sit down, it’s not against the big sandstone wall, it’s against the grungier part of Cockatoo Island, so people can come in their own boats, rent a mooring and watch the show from their boat, or they can sit on the island and see the show. There will be lots of truck chases, that sort of thing, using the site and the buildings that are there.”

The people on the boats will be able to see the show live, but depending on the number of boats, OA may add a couple of screens. “It depends on how many boats there are,” says Terracini.

There are also options to have an opera sleepover, with a waterfront campsite with existing tents or more creature comforts in one of the Heritage Holiday Houses or Harbour View apartments.

Terracini believes that the Cockatoo Island Carmen will attract a different audience to HOSH.

“It’s a grungier show and we won’t have a Platinum Club. People can have a burger and chips or whatever, so it is a different feel for a different audience looking for a different experience.”

For more information about Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour and Opera on Cockatoo Island visit the Opera Australia website.

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