Opera Australia has announced its 2022 season, which includes a mix of productions originally scheduled for 2020 and 2021 but postponed due to COVID, the revival of some of its most popular productions, and a new digital staging of Il Trovatore.

Lyndon Terracini

Lyndon Terracini. Photo © Prudence Upton

The 2022 season opens on New Year’s Eve at the Sydney Opera House’s Joan Sutherland Theatre with a revival of Gale Edwards’s celebrated production of Puccini’s La Bohème – as the Sydney Summer Season has done on a regular basis since Edwards’ production, set in 1930s Germany, premiered in 2011.

However, Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini says that this will be the final time it will be presented, with a new La Bohème to be unveiled in 2023.

“Gale’s production of La Bohème is certainly close to my heart, it was the first opera I commissioned when I started at OA back in 2009 and it has served the company wonderfully well. It is loved by people the world over, so this is an opportunity for audiences to see it one last time and bid her farewell,” says Terracini.

“I think it’s a terrific production,” Terracini tells Limelight. “Every time we do it, people love it and it sells phenomenally well, but we’ve done hundreds and hundreds of performance of it [so] it’s time for a new one…. I want to do one with a completely different feel,” he adds, revealing that OA’s next La Bohème will be a digital production.

Italian soprano Valeria Sepe will play Mimì with Australian-Chinese tenor Kang Wang as Rodolfo. Shaun Rennie makes his debut as a revival director for OA and Lorenzo Passerini conducts.

Graeme Murphy’s production of Puccini’s Turandot opens two weeks later, with American soprano Lise Lindstrom returning to play the title role. She will share the part with Australian rising star Anna-Louise Cole, who had been scheduled to make her role debut as Brünnhilde in OA’s 2021 Brisbane Ring Cycle, which had to be postponed for the second time due to the pandemic. The Turandot cast will also include tenor Yonghoon Lee and soprano Karah Son, both from South Korea. Christian Badea will conduct.

Sir David McVicar’s acclaimed production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro opens at the end of January with Italian baritones Mario Cassi as the Count and Tommaso Barea as Figaro, alongside Russian soprano Ekaterina Morozova as the Countess and Australia’s Stacey Alleaume as Susanna, under the baton of Andrea Molino.

La Boheme Opera Australia

Gale Edwards’ production of La Boheme, 2020.

Harry Kupfer’s 2002 production of Verdi’s Otello, originally scheduled for 2021, opens in February with Yonghoon Lee debuting in the title role, while Karah Son makes her debut as Desdemona. Italian baritone Marco Vratogna plays Iago, one of his signature roles, and Andrea Battistoni conducts.

In March, comes a new production of Halévy’s La Juive. OA had planned to stage the Australian premiere in 2020, but it went the way of most of the 2020 season. The grand French opera, first staged in Paris in 1835, depicts a dangerous love affair between a young couple – a Christian man and a Jewish woman. Co-produced with Opéra de Lyon, French director Olivier Py has updated the setting to the 1930s. “So, you have references to the Holocaust, which makes absolute sense with the piece,” says Terracini.

Natalie Aroyan will star alongside Diego Torre, Australian coloratura soprano Esther Song and Shanul Sharma, who is a member of the OA Young Artist Program. The production will be helmed by revival director Constantine Cosi and Carlo Montanaro will conduct.

“It’s a fantastic piece and it’s a big opera, but it’s a big opportunity for Natalie and Diego and Shanul. David Parkin has also got a big part in it,” says Terracini.

“So this season we are seeing people I have been developing, some of them for ten years. Natalie Aroyan not only does La Juive but also Attila, Anna-Louise Cole does her first Turandot in this season, and Stacey [Alleaume] does Traviata. She’s just done Gilda at Bregenz [in Austria] and she’s got Traviata in a big European theatre at the end of next year so it’s all working out for her. Shanul is also doing incredibly well. He just did Mitridate re di Ponto in Italy, so he is really progressing. It’s [exciting] seeing people realise their potential in big standard repertoire that not many people can do well,” says Terracini.

“Diego was one of the first people I hired when he came to live here and he’s a fantastic tenor, he can sing all of that repertoire. If it’s high he can do it, if it’s dramatic he can do it, if it’s big and lyrical Diego can do it; there are very few people who can sing like Diego Torre. And he’s such a nice guy too.”

In March, OA will also stage a concert version of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda – its first ever performance of the opera, with Russian soprano Olga Peretyatko making her Australian debut as Maria. Romanian soprano Carmen Topciu – who played Giovanna Seymour in Davide Livermore’s OA production of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena in 2019 – will play Elisabetta. Shanul Sharma will make his role debut as the Earl of Leicester, and Renato Palumbo conducts.

Stacey Alleaume La Traviata

Stacey Alleaume as Violetta in the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour production of La Traviata. Photo © Prudence Upton

The Melbourne Autumn Season opens in May with Elijah Moshinsky’s production of La Traviata. Following their success in the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour production, Stacey Alleaume makes her in-theatre role debut as Violetta and Constantine Costi directs. Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu plays Alfredo with José Carbó as his father Giorgio Germont. Alleaume will also play Violetta role in Sydney in June/July with Ji-Min Park as Alfredo and Renato Palumbo on the podium

Olivier Py’s production of Wagner’s Lohengrin will have its Australian premiere in Melbourne in May. The co-production with Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie was originally scheduled for 2020. Py has set the opera in the ruins of Berlin in the aftermath of World War II, using a monumental revolving tiered set to depict a decaying theatre where emblems of German Romanticism gather dust. Italian tenor Roberto Aronica (who plays Don José in Carmen on Cockatoo Island) plays the title role, with American soprano Emily Magee as the ill-fated Elsa, Elena Gabouri as Ortrud and Marco Vratogna as Telramund. OA’s Head of Music Tahu Matheson conducts.

The Melbourne Autumn Season also includes a concert version of Boito’s Mefistofele, conducted by Andrea Battistoni and directed by Matthew Barclay, with Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto as Mefistofele, Diego Torre as Faust and American soprano Leah Crocetto (who made her Australian debut in Aida in 2021) as Margherita.

Furlanetto will also perform in concert, accompanied on piano by Natalia Sidorenko. “It’s a kind of summation of his 50-year career,” says Terracini. “In the first half there’s some Brahms and Mussorgsky, then he sings [a variety of famous bass arias]  including Figaro, which he did with Herbert von Karajan, Boris’s death scene [from Boris Gudonov], King Philip’s big scene from Don Carlo, the death scene in Don Quichotte, so they are big scenes from some of the things he’s done in his career.”

The Sydney Winter Season begins at the end of June with Graeme Murphy’s Madama Butterfly. South Korean soprano Sae-Kyung Rim will play Cio-Cio San, with South Korean mezzo-soprano Chanyang Choi as Suzuki and Italian tenor Ivan Magrì as Pinkerton. Carlo Montanaro conducts.

Then in July comes a new digital production of Verdi’s Il Trovatore, directed by Davide Livermore, who has staged productions of Aida and Anna Bolena for OA using LED screens. Yonghoon Lee plays Manrico, with Leah Crocetto as Leonora, Elena Gabouri as Azucena and Belarussian baritone Maksim Aniskin making his OA debut as the Count di Luna.

“We’ve got four phenomenal singers. Everybody always says you’ve got to have the four best singers in the world to do Trovatore, well this is pretty close to that,” says Terracini.

“It will be a big production as Davide’s productions usually are, and having those sorts of people in it, and also Andrea Battistoni conducting, I think will be exciting. You can’t do a literal production of Trovatore, the story is so preposterous, it’s ridiculous, so it’s a good chance to do something different with the [LED] panels and have a different narrative rather than being literal with it.”

Livermore had been scheduled to direct a new digital production of Roberto Devereux in 2021. Roberto Devereux is the second opera in Donizetti’s Tudor Queens trilogy, and was set to follow Anna Bolena in 2019. Maria Stuarda, was also planned as a full digital production to complete the trilogy in 2022.

“We will do that, it’s just coming out of COVID we couldn’t afford another new production, so we are doing Maria Stuarda in concert to give people a taste and in a couple of years time we will do it as a production,” says Terracini.

Natalie Aroyan in Opera Australia's Attila.

Natalie Aroyan in Attila. Photo © Prudence Upton

In October, OA will stage Verdi’s Attila – hopefully a case of third time lucky. The production premiered in March 2020 but had to close after two performances. Rescheduled in 2021, another COVID lockdown saw it being postponed again.

“Everyone keeps saying to me ‘don’t risk it, don’t do it again!’,” says Terracini with a laugh. “It’s like The Scottish Play, but I said ‘we are going to do this’. Also we have [Russian bass] Ildar Abdrazakov, who is the greatest Attila on the planet, with all due respect to the people we have had doing it in the past, but he is sensational, and I wanted Natalie and Diego to have a good run at it.”

As previously announced, the 2022 Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour will be a new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s blockbuster musical The Phantom of the Opera, directed by Simon Phillips.

OA and the Really Useful Group will also stage Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Phantom at the Sydney Opera House and Arts Centre Melbourne. Postponed from 2021, it will now open in Sydney on 19 August and in Melbourne on 30 October, 2022.

The 2022 season will include another musical – Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre from 23 October, which was postponed from this year, with Melbourne dates for to be confirmed. There is also a new outdoor event called Opera on Cockatoo Island, for which Liesel Badorrek will create a new production of Carmen, custom-built for the site.

Priscilla Jackman will direct a new production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, which will tour nationally. As for the twice postponed Brisbane Ring Cycle, it doesn’t feature in the 2022 season.

“It won’t be next year but it won’t be far off that,” says Terracini. “While we’ve booked the theatre, I am not allowed to tell anyone exactly when it is – but it won’t be as far away as 2024.”

More information about the 2022 season can be found on the Opera Australia website.

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