The singer is to play Eva Perón in a revival of Hal Prince’s original 1978 production of Evita for OA and John Frost.

Opera Australia Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini, Australian producer John Frost and UK producer David Ian announced today that Tina Arena is to play the role of Eva Perón in a 40th anniversary revival of the original production of Evita, directed by the legendary Hal Prince.

Tina Arena at today’s annoucement at the Sydney Opera House

The revival, which opens at the Sydney Opera House in September 2018, will be overseen by Prince and his original creative team – choreographer Larry Fuller and designer Timothy O’Brien. It is the first time that Prince, who has won an unprecedented 21 Tony Awards, has recreated his original production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical, which premiered in the West End in 1978 and then on Broadway in 1979.

“Andrew and Tim have always been resolute that the best production there has ever been is the original production,” said David at the media launch, adding that one of the reasons Evita is done so infrequently is that “the role of Eva Perón is so unique and so different that it takes a very special person and artist… to get the approval of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. [Tina Arena] is one artist Andrew and Tim had worked with before and specifically asked if we could get [to star in the show] at the Sydney Opera House.”

Arena said that she was “terrified” but described the role as “a precious gift for myself and for any female performer”. She said that she felt “blessed to work with someone who has had the kind of career that Hal Prince has had”. Arena follows in the footsteps of performers such as Elaine Paige who starred in the original West End production, Patti LuPone who starred in the original Broadway production, and Madonna who played the role in the 1996 film. She said that a few years ago she would not have been ready to tackle the role but she now felt “ready to do it”.

Arena, who is one of Australia’s highest-selling singer-songwriters, is celebrating her own 40th anniversary as a recording artist this year with a two-CD release called Greatest Hits and Interpretations, and a national tour, which kicks off in Brisbane on September 6.

Tina Arena. Photograph supplied

Born in Moonee Ponds in Melbourne in 1967, Arena came to fame as “Tiny Tina” on the popular television show Young Talent Time, on which she did a six-year stint, leaving in 1983 at age 17. In 2012, she was a judge and mentor of the revival of the show. She recorded her first album at age 10 and has since recorded extensively in English, French and Italian. Based in Paris for many years, she is a superstar In France, selling more than five million albums there.

The last time Arena performed in a musical was when she played Roxie Hart in Chicago in the West End in 2007. She also played Esmeralda in the West End production of Notre-Dame de Paris in 2000. In Australia, she played Sally Bowles in Cabaret in 2002 and the narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 1992. She also performed in John Diedrich’s 1987 production of Nine and in Dynamite for David Atkins.

Evita traces the rise of Mariá Eva Duarte de Perón from humble beginnings to become one of Argentina’s favourite actresses, and eventually the nation’s First Lady as the wife of President Juan Perón from 1946 until her death in 1952, ultimately leading to her being hailed as “the spiritual leader of the nation”. Songs from the show include Don’t Cry for Me Argentina, High Flying Adored, I’d Be Surprisingly Good for You, Another Suitcase in Another Hall, On This Night of a Thousand Stars and Buenos Aires.

The production is the fifth collaboration between Opera Australia and John Frost following South Pacific, The King and I, Anything Goes and Dame Julie Andrews’ 60th anniversary production of My Fair Lady, which has a return Sydney season at the Capitol Theatre opening this week. Frost has also co-produced several shows with David, including The King and I at the London Palladium in 2000. The production of Evita marks the first time that a Lloyd Webber musical has been staged at the Sydney Opera House.

Evita plays at the Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House from September 13, 2018. Tickets go on sale on August 31.