Monday, January 31, 2022

THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO - Opera Australia - Sydney Opera House.


Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte

Conducted by Andrea Molina – Directed by David McVicar.

Sets and Costumes designed by Jenny Tiramani - Lighting design by David Finn.

Presented by Opera Australia – Joan Sutherland Theatre until 18th Feb. 2022.

Opening night performance on 27th January reviewed by Bill Stephens.

Tommaso Barea (Figaro) - Agnes Sarkis (Cherubino_ - Stacey Alleaume (Susanna)


The charm of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” has always escaped me. Not even the lure of Mozart’s sublime score seemed worth the tedium of having to sit through the silly convoluted plot. However, having just experienced David McVicar’s wonderfully joyous production for the first time, I’ve finally seen the light.

Blessed with an outstanding International cast of superb singers, some of whom were making their first Sydney Opera House appearances, revival director, Andy Morton, has managed to mould them into a cohesive ensemble achieving exactly the right performance level to allow each to deliver McVicar’s concept with fascinatingly nuanced and detailed performances which serve the story as well as the music in ways that are thoughtful, inspired, and often very funny.

Stacey Alleaume (Susanna) - Tommaso Barea (Figaro) - Mario Cassi (Count Almaviva_
Opera Australia Ensemble.

The opera is performed in Jenny Tiramani’s  naturalistic,  sunlit  17th century manor house setting, clothed in extraordinarily detailed costumes, with the action taking place over the course of a single day, the times differences differentiated by a remarkable lighting design from David Finn.  The storyline centres on the attempts of two servants, Figaro (Tommaso Barea) and Susanna (Stacey Alleaume), to thwart the ambitions of their employer, Count Almaviva (Mario Cassi) to exercise his baronial right to bed his servant before her wedding day.

Throw in the fact that Figaro has signed a contract to marry Marcellina (Sian Sharp) if he defaults on the repayment of money he has borrowed from her; a young Page, Cherubino (Agnes Sarkis), who’s convinced he’s in love with both Susanna and the Countess; and unlikely plan cooked up by Susanna and the Countess (Ekaterina Morozova) to swap clothes in an attempt to prove the Count’s infidelities; and a house full of servants determined to celebrate a wedding, and you have all the elements of slapstick. Except that in this production, instead of resorting to slapstick the cast play every scene as if for real.  The result is great fun as well as superb opera.

Stacey Alleaume (Susanna) - Mario Cassi (Count Almaviva) - Ekaterina Morozova (Countess Almaviva)

As the Count Almaviva, a role often portrayed as a randy buffoon, Italian baritone, Mario Cassi is a handsome, imposing figure, investing the role with as much dignity as the shenanigans allow. His Countess is elegant Bolshoi soprano, Ekaterina Morozova, a fine singer/actress as arresting lamenting her husband’s infidelity with an exquisite rendition of “Porgi amor”, as when conspiratorially dictating a letter for her maid Susanna to deliver to the Count to entice him into meeting for which she’ll be disguised as Susanna.

As Susanna, Stacey Alleaume, proved her sensational turn in the HOSH production of “La Traviata” was no splash in the pan. Rather than portray her as a downcast, simpering maiden willing to acquiesce to her employers advances, Alleaume’s Susanna is a feisty, non-nonsense character, quite capable of fighting her own battles, whether they be with her fiancé, Figaro, to insist on better marital accommodation, or plotting a plan with the Countess to expose the Count’s infidelities.

Stacey Alleame (Susanna) - Tommaso Barea (Figaro)

Not afraid to use the stage, Alleaume is constantly on the move.  In this she is well teamed with mullet-wearing Tommaso Barea, who’s youthful Figaro is equally physical. Together they create a rare chemistry which demonstrates their feelings for each other even when quarrelling.

Agnes Sarkis gives an appealing performance as the young page, Cherubino, earning belly-laughs in the first act when his hiding place is exposed by Dr Bartolo.  Richard Anderson’s rich baritone is displayed to great advantage in this role, as are his skills in creating amusing, interesting characters.  Similarly, Sian Sharp is very funny as the waspish Marcellina, particularly when late in the show she discovers that the man she was hoping to marry is really her son.

Sian Sharp ( Marcellina) - Richard Anderson (Dr. Bartolo) - Benjamin Rasheed (Don Basilio)
Opera Australia Chorus.

Benjamin Rasheed (Don Basilio), Stuart Haycock (Don Curzio) Danita Weatherstone (Barbarina), Andrew Moran (Antonio) Celeste Lararenko and Angela Hogan ( 1st and 2nd Bridesmaids) and a small but enthusiastic  group of ensemble singers all surround the main characters with cleverly drawn, beautifully sung cameos which add to the fun, and enhance the enjoyment of Mozart’s sublime score which is blissfully rendered by the Opera Australia orchestra responding to Maestro Andrea Molino’s experienced and fastidious direction.

If you haven’t yet experienced this production don’t miss this opportunity. It’s difficult to imagine that this opera could be more beautifully mounted and performed.


                                          All photos by Prudence Upton.

This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022



Adelaide Fringe . 

Director and CEO Heather Croall. February 18 – March 20 2022.

Previewed by Peter Wilkins

Heather Croall
Adelaide Fringe Director and CEO

Even a brief glimpse at the 2022 Adelaide Fringe guide would be enough to make people believe that the world was not in the grip of a global pandemic. Over 130 pages lure the Fringe dweller into the mainstream of Australian entertainment. An astounding array of acts, performances, installations and events offers something for everyone. This is the community’s once a year festivity and they come out in their droves from the suburbs, from the towns, from the far flung regions and from anywhere far and wide.

Garden of Unearthly Delights

Fringe aficionados, familiar with the southern hemisphere’s  largest  annual  Fringe festival will flock to Adelaide between February 18 and March 20 to immerse themselves in both the familiar and the unfamiliar attractions that the Fringe has to offer. The regular genres are there for eager audiences seeking out their favourite shows from Cabaret to Comedy, Circus to Dance. Theatre to Interactive, Film and Digital to Kids and Family and much much more. “We’ve got an absolutely fantastic programme” says Director and CEO, Heather Croall. Covid has had an impact on international visitors to the Fringe. “Normally we have 150 international shows and that has shrunk to twenty or thirty this year. However, with 75% of the shows coming from South Australia,20% from Interstate and about 10% from overseas the Fringe will still boast an amazing thousand shows during the month long festival. In 2021, even with Covid restrictions, the Fringe sold 650,000 tickets. Audiences hungry for live entertainment  came in their hundreds of thousands. “It was one of the happiest Fringes ever. It happened and it was an enormous success.” Croall says.

Adelaide Fringe  East End

Unlike the curated Adelaide Festival, the Fringe has always been an open access festival, attracting artists from all over Australia and overseas. As well as ensuring that the Fringe will cater for the entire community, Croall is passionate about providing opportunities for the artists, the presenters and the venues that host the performers. “My whole focus is to get better box office returns for the artists, the presenters and the venues” says Croall, “and so we embarked on an entire digital transformation for the organization. And the reason we did that is because we want to bring the ticketing system into the modern day so that it could work for artists and the ticketing system was so easy that you could find what you were looking for and browse the programme without any hurdles to overcome. We built an entire new digital platform. We put in place a brand new ticketing system and we built a new artist and venue platform. All of that was about trying to improve the artists and the venues but also to increase box office.” The result was an increase from 450,000 ticket sales when Croall took over the job seven years ago to 850, 000 before Covid hit. Last year, even with pandemic restrictions, the digitalization strategy still achieved a target of 650,000 tickets to events in the 300 venues across the city and the hub venues such as The Garden of Unearthly Delights, Gluttony, the Royal Croquet Club, the Rhino Room and the Holden Street Theatres to name but a handful.

Adelaide Fringe Ambassador
Nazeem Hussain

While the focus has been on the growth of ticket sales, there has never been an ambition to exceed the thousand shows. The focus on ticket sales means that the artists, the presenters and the venues have a more sustainable experience and they get a better box office return. This has also been accompanied by a lowering of fees and costs for visiting companies. Inside fees have been reduced from 15% when Croall arrived to 5%, made possible by increased government funding, private and corporate sponsorship, donations and foundation grants to artists and the disadvantaged, who may not be able to afford to attend shows or need access to events. . The Fringe covers its costs and then ensures that any profit goes to the artists via available grants and box office returns .

“As a result we see about 80,000 people descending on the Fringe on any given night for both ticketed and free events. It is a phenomenal transformation of Adelaide. We are in the business of transforming the entire city really.” Croall says. And not only the city. Regional Fringe is happening as far afield as towns in the north, east, west and south of Adelaide. It has been a great success story over recent years.. Audiences that want to stay close to home can go out and see fabulous shows in wonderful theatres in their neighbourhood.

During Fringe, the city explodes with teeming streams of Fringe-goers. Some watch buskers in Rundle Mall in the heart of the CBD. Some throng to the pubs, restaurants and cafes in Adelaide’s East End or cross the road to the twelve venues in The Garden of Unearthly Delights or more bustling venues in Gluttony. Some venture to Tandanya to watch phenomenal indigenous artists presenting theatre or music performances. Some split their sides laughing at comedians in the Rhino Room or catch shows at the Royal Croquet Club in Victoria Square. Whatever your taste,there is something for everyone. Top comedians like Fringe ambassador Nazeem Hussain or leading playwrights like Henry Naylor or the phenomenal singer-songwriter Michaela Berger rub shoulders with circus performers, burlesque artists, magicians and some of Australia’s funniest comedians or foremost cabaret artists.

Everyone wants to be a part of the Fringe. Fifteen years ago, the Fringe launched the Honey Pot, modelled in part on Croall’s Meat market that she established while director of a Digital Film Festival. The Honey Pot is a meeting place for artists and presenters. Pre pandemic, delegates had grown from about 70 to almost 400. It is an opportunity for presenters to pitch their shows for touring opportunities and some of Australia’s foremost companies from a range of genres have gone on to national and international stardom. Gravity and Other Myths is headlining the Adelaide Festival on March 5th. Velvet with Marcia Hines has toured the country. Hot Brown Honey, created by South Pacific Islanders has become an international sensation as has the drag show, Briefs. Henry Naylor is a leading playwright, whose shows are staged each year at Holden Street Theatres. The Honey Pot epitomizes Croall’s ambition to raise the profile and opportunities for artists and presenters.

The Fringe’s continuing commitment to promoting the works of First Nation artists is evident in an exciting new initiative and collaboration between the Fringe Hub, Gluttony, indigenous artists and drone arts specialists Celestial. Throughout the Fringe Sky Song will be presented at the Adelaide Showgrounds where the sky will come alive with hundreds of drones flying in majestic formation to a soundtrack of First Nations storytelling through poetry and song. Narrator Archie Roach invites audiences  ‘  to find our way back to the fire, for the strong stories of our First Peoples to inspire hope and signify an awakening to the truth of our entire existence’  As poetry is read, stories are told, music is played and songs are sung hundreds of drones will light the sky with evocative images. The programme promises an experience “Immense in scale, rich in meaning and unlike anything you’ve seen before” It is an unique event, featuring  such artists as Archie Roach, Nancy Bates, Electric Fields and Major Moogy Summer and deserves the ultimate accolade “not to be missed”

And for those who may not be able to travel to South Australia, Watch at Home enables audiences to watch live streamed performances in the comfort of their own home wherever that may be in the world. Indefatigable actor and producer Joanne Hartstone will again be presenting her award winning show The Girl Who Fell Off The Hollywood Sign and other shows on Black Box Live. You may not be able to get to Adelaide at this exciting time of the year, but the Fringe can come to you. Check the official Fringe Guide for details.

And finally, for the ultimate virtual reality experience, Fringe goers will be able to swing to the stars in VR artists VOLO:  Dreams of Flight. Participants climb onto swings on the lawns in front of the South Australian Museum and are then fitted with virtual reality headsets that will take them above the sea or over rainforests or wherever their individual headset may take them. You can fly above the world, soar over the ocean or launch into outer space.

The Fringe, envisioned by founding father, the late Frank Ford, was always about bringing communities to life through the wonder and power of the arts. “It’s so important.” says Croall. “That is the absolute bedrock of what we are and at the centre of everything we do. It is about making sure that we are building communities. It is a festival for everybody so we are making sure that we have an accessible, inclusive programme for everybody. It will forever I hope be the heart of Adelaide Fringe.”

Adelaide Fringe

February 18 – March 20 2022

Bookings: or Fringetix at 1300 621 255 or the ticket booths in Rundle Mall.

Download your official guide at:





Tuesday, January 18, 2022



Michael Boyd and company in "Circus of Illusion"

Produced and directed by Michael Boyd,

Canberra Theatre, 16th January 2022.

Matinee performance reviewed by Bill Stephens.

The art of the illusionist has continued to attract audiences for as long as there has been circuses and theatres in which to ply their skills. The audience knows what it’s seeing is a trick, but doesn’t care, and certainly doesn’t want to know, how it is achieved, just happy to go along with the flim-flam and be amazed.

Certainly when the illusionist is as accomplished in his skills as Michael Boyd, the producer and star of “Circus of Illusion” there is plenty to be amazed about.

Performed in a cheerful circusy setting of bright red banners and festoon lights, enhanced by a sophisticated lighting plot and excellent sound, Michael Boyd performs a succession of eye-popping illusions, surrounded by four attractively costumed dancers, Tori Monke, Pip Kelte, Jack Evans and Tyrone Anthony, who besides performing a series of neatly choreographed production numbers, also doubled as assistants and eye-candy for the illusions. Two versatile world-class circus specialty artists, Tara Boom and Tro Griffiths, together with a very funny Ringmaster, Idris Stanbury, who just happens to come from Canberra, completed the cast.

Michael Boyd and assistant in "Circus of Illusion".

During the fast-moving two hours of the slickly produced show, Boyd manages to escape from a locked trunk, survive being suspended atop a sharp sword, have a young woman crawl through his body, and during a jungle sequence even escape an apparatus equipped with fearsome axes to appear unscathed at the back of the theatre, much to the relief of the many young members of the audience who cheer lustily as he returned to the stage.  But perhaps his most beautiful illusion involved two ballerinas, one of whom danced prettily en-pointe before the other appeared magically in a giant music box to join her.

Idris Stanton in "Circus of Illusion"

A rather unconventional ringmaster, Idris Stanbury, quickly had the predominantly young audience in thrall at the beginning of the show, as he rehearsed them in how to respond appropriately to the acts.  His goofy, wide-eyed responses drew paroxysms of laughter as demonstrated his prowess at percussion juggling (you’ll have to see that for yourself if you want to know what it is) and his attempts at rock stardom.

Tro Griffiths in "Circus of Illusion"

Beefy, heavily tattooed strongman, Tro Griffiths, stunned with his grace and agility performing contortionist handstands in the first act, and then later performing extraordinary manoeuvres on a shiny apparatus which looked like a giant bubble maker. Cheeky Tara Boom delighted with her skills with the hula hoop, and later gracefully foot-juggling four Japanese parasols, an accomplishment which elicited loud cheers from her audience.

The Covid restriction preventing audience members from going up on stage provided an unexpected bonus when Ms. Boom found herself unexpectedly called into service to assist Idris Stanley add authenticity to his rock star impersonation by wind-blowing his scarf with a garden leaf-blower.  This task reduced her to hopeless giggling at his antics.  Then later, when called upon to assist Michael Boyd with his levitating table routine, she looked just as fascinated as the rest of the audience as to how this trick was achieved.

“That was totally Awesome!” a young audience member exclaimed loudly to his mates as they left the theatre. I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment. 

                                                             Photos supplied.


          This review first published in the digital edition of CITY NEWS on 17.01.22 





Monday, January 17, 2022



Circus of Illusion. 

Created and devised and directed by Michael Boyle. Canberra Theatre. Canberra Theatre Centre. Sunday January 16th at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

There is more to magic than meets the eye or doesn’t as the case may be. The fact that illusionist Michael Boyd is able to bring his Circus of Illusion to the Canberra Theatre in the age of Covid is a feat of magic that has thwarted hosts of live performance over the past two years. Ringmaster Idris Stanbury may have had to work that little bit harder to warm up the masked Canberra audience but the local lad’s non assuming appeal, quirky humour and gentle coaxing soon had the audience primed for an evening of wonder, surprise and enter5tainment.

Michael Boyd  -  Illusionist
 The show bears the mark of its simple origins in an Adelaide Tent four years ago. It does not boast the flourish and fanfare of David Copperfield’s magical extravaganzas or the startling, gasping artistry of Cirque du Soleil. The show is instead a stylish display of the small company’s considerable talents. While the artists perform their magic, their acrobatic and juggling skills and their bewildering illusions the audience sits in child-like wonder.  How do three random people answer three random questions by Boyle that then appear written on paper locked in a box, suspended high above the stage? How does Tara Boom keep a dozen or so hula hoops swirling about her waist or gracefully juggle four umbrellas on her feet? How can Boyle’s assistant Jory be locked in a box one minute and then vanished the next. What magic helps Boyle to escape Houdini-like  the nightmare of being handcuffed and locked in a solid steel casket? Minds race in an attempt to uncover the secrets of Boyle’s ingenious illusion. 

Ringmaster  - Idris Stanbury
 Illusions are interspersed with graceful ballet routines from Pip and Tyrone, Boom’s dexterous handling of the hoops,  tattooed strongman Tro’s acrobatic routines and Stanbury’s banter , comedy and juggling routines to the beat of the I Want To Break Free soundtrack. It is all accompanied by the appropriate posturing and proud presentation.

There is an air of sobriety in the theatre, and I suspect that Covid still prompts a certain caution. The clapping is appreciative, the cheering spontaneous and the audience is definitely enjoying the night out. Stanbury and Boyle keep the energy alive and work hard to work the crowd. In less fraught times, I suspect that this show would have rocked the house. It could have buzzed along. 

For those who could have seen it all before, they haven’t. Every circus show needs a gimmick. In Circus of Illusion comedy and magic combine in a routine introduced by Siri and with Boyle confusing a bandana with a banana with hilarious results  . It is a clever twist to the usual routines.

Boyle and his company turn on a touch of Las Vegas in a colourful finale after the escapalogic highlight of Boyle’s parade of illusions. Dancers Pip and Jory complete with costume sparkle and feathers recall the glitz of showgirl glamour from Ziegfeld to Folies-Bergere. Circus of Illusion brings a serve of welcome entertainment to town, and we could all do with a dose of wonder, a touch of magic and the delight to dream.  Boyle learnt the art of simple magic at his grandpa’s knee when he was only eight. That and Circus of Illusion is enough to excite any child to try his hand at magic. And that’s no illusion.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Circus of Illusion - Canberra Theatre Centre

Review by John Lombard

With audiences spoiled by expensive movie special effects, a circus often needs a grandiose stunt or a powerful theme to set it apart.

Boyd Productions’ Circus of Illusion opts instead for an eclectic mix of circus acts, tied together by a threadbare big top aesthetic and the impressive illusions of Michael Boyd.

The first impression is of a lean show designed around the economics of COVID-19. But even without an elaborate set, the jugglers, strength athletes and aerialists displayed striking poise, power and dexterity. The humble presentation also made it easy to connect with the performers and appreciate their considerable skills, for a show that was open to children but satisfying for adults.

Canberra native Idris Stanton was charming as the self-deprecating ringmaster, deploying fun skits from his Wham Glam Circus Man routine. His impish sincerity built goodwill in the audience, and kept energy high.

Illusionist Michael Boyd was star of the show, coupling a graceful rapport with the audience with adroit delivery of iconic acts such as levitation, disappearance and mentalism. The children in the crowd adored his playful gag with an iPhone and a banana.

Highlight acts included a mesmerising foot juggling routine with Chinese umbrellas by Tara Boom, and a bold aerial hoop routine by Tro, an artist with extraordinary strength and flexibility. The dance interludes were engaging, with speed, force and control.

Circus of Illusion is a mishmash, with casino glitz, dorky humour, straightforward acts and a lean format built for a brisk tour and easy swapping of acts. In this Canberra performance, the talent on show was considerable, and the charm of Stanton and Boyd coaxed enthusiastic participation in the magic of the circus.
John Lombard's reviews are at

Saturday, January 15, 2022

TURANDOT - Presented by Opera Australia.


Composed by Giacomo Puccini – Libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni

Conducted by Renato Palumbo – Directed and choreographed by Graeme Murphy

Revival Director – Shane Placentino – Designed by Kristian Fredrikson

Joan Sutherland Theatre – Sydney Opera House until 14th March.

Opening night performance on 12th January 2022 reviewed by Bill Stephens

Yonghoon Lee (Calaf) - Lise Lindstrom (Turandot)

It may be more than thirty years old but Graeme Murphy’s mesmerizing staging of Puccini’s last opera, remains a jewel in Opera Australia’s current repertoire. From the very first moments when huge fans open to reveal Murphy’s swirling vision of an ancient China which exists only in his fertile imagination, one is inexorably drawn into a world in which only the ruler’s head can be seen atop his mountain of robes, and where a princess composes riddles to baffle her suitors, who have their heads lopped off by muscular swordsmen when they fail to come up with the right answers.

Murphy’s vision was shared by Kristian Fredrikson who designed imposing settings and lavishly draped costumes which perfectly compliment the choreographed undulating movement of the huge chorus, providing a succession of beautifully composed stage pictures, which frame the action and focus the attention on the principal players, connecting with and subtly enhancing the effect of Puccini’s gloriously melodic music.

First seen in 1990, and now meticulously revived by Shane Placentino, and superbly lit by John Drummond Montgomery, this production makes great use of hand held props such as large fans for the dancers, strips of blood-red silk and hand-held screens to partition areas as the ensemble move around the stage. Even the children’s choir snaking around the stage in tight formation for their folk song, and the clever use of large individual mats held by Ping, Pang and Pong, stylishly interpreted by Luke Gabbedy, Virgilio Marino and Iain Henderson, become striking visual elements.

Luke Gabbedy (Ping) - Virgillio Marino (Pong) - Iain Henderson (Pang).

As the ice princess, Turandot, Lise Lindstrom is an imposing presence, especially when perched high above the ensemble on a tall platform. Her thrilling laser-beam soprano soars effortlessly above the full force of the orchestra and chorus as she poses riddle after riddle to trap Calaf. Later in the opera she sweetens her voice to achieve the near-impossible by making Turandot’s final capitulation to Calaf at the end of the opera, believable, even romantic.

Yonghoon Lee (Calaf) - Lise Lindstrom (Turandot)

Equally impressive is Yonghoon Lee as Calaf, every inch the Tartar prince determined to win the love of Turandot.  Matinee idol handsome, and possessing a gloriously clear, warmly burnished tenor voice, Lee eschews the usual operatic posturing, to present an assured Calaf who revels in Turandot’s frustration as he offers the correct answers to her riddles, and is unwavering in his resolve to claim his prize no matter what obstacles are placed in his way.  His carefully phrased “Nessun dorma” sung standing amid a sea of undulating silk waves was quite simply breathtaking.

Kara Son as Liu

Kara Son breaks hearts with her beautifully sung and acted performance as the tragic slave girl, Liu, who harbors a secret love for Calaf, and is prepared to die rather than betray him. It says much for the effectiveness of Yonghoon Lee’s performance as Calaf that the audience is able to forgive his response to her death.

There is also superb singing and acting among the supporting roles. David Parkin brought both dignity and pathos to the role of Timur, Calaf’s exiled father. As the Emperor Dean Basset, positioned high at the very back of the stage, often sounded under-powered.

David Parkin as Timur and Kara Son as Liu

Maestro, Renato Palumbo kept impressive control on his huge musical resources, ensuring a glorious sound throughout achieving perfect balance between the orchestra and the huge  chorus while remaining carefully attentive to the needs of his soloists.

This production is a masterpiece and a reminder of how stunning opera can be even without the technical wizardry now available. No surprise therefore that the performance was given  an ecstatic reception from the first night audience.



Yonghoon Lee (Calaf) and members of Opera Australia chorus.

Photos by Prudence Upton

This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.


LA BOHEME - Presented by Opera Australia


Composed by Giacomo Puccini – Libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa

Conducted by Lorenzo Passerini - Directed by Gale Edwards

Revival Director, Shaun Rennie - Set Design by Brian Thomson

Costume Design by Julie Lynch – Lighting Design by John Rayment.

Joan Sutherland Theatre - Sydney Opera House until 4th Feb.2022

Performance on 11th January reviewed by Bill Stephens

This production of La Boheme was the first opera commissioned by Artistic Director, Lyndon Terracini, when he took over the reins of Opera Australia.  Since its Melbourne premiere in 2011, Gale Edwards concept, set in 1930”s Berlin during the last months of the Weimar Republic,  with its spectacular settings by Brian Thomson, particularly for the Café Momus scene,  Julie Lynch’s lavish costumes and John Rayment’s evocative lighting, quickly became an audience favourite, placing it among Opera Australia’s most oft-performed productions.

However with a new production of the opera announced for 2023, this current season will be the last opportunity for opera lovers, and opera novices alike, to relish the pleasures of this beautiful staging, which has been intelligently reproduced for this season by revival director, Shaun Rennie.

First seen in the 2020 iteration of this production, Valeria Sepe and Kang Wang as the young lovers Mimi and Rodolfo, confirmed the impression created then of being perfect casting in these roles. Both superb singers and actors, they looked lovely together and created a tender chemistry, particularly in the first and final acts, which was thoroughly convincing and very moving.

Similarly, Haotian Qi, in his impressive role debut as Marcello, stamped himself as a singer to watch, revealing a cheeky flair for comedy, but also capable of producing sparks, particularly in the  Act 111 quartet,  when his passionate argument with Musetta, contrasts with Rodolfo’s sad dismissal of Mimi.

Julie Lea Goodwin as Musetta - Andrew Moran as Alcindoro

Of course the role of Musetta in this production is a scene stealer, particularly her Café Momus entrance in Julie Lynch’s marvellous mirror dress. Favourite Musettas in previous iterations of this production include Taryn Fiebig and Lorina Gore. However, Julie Lea Goodwin can now add her name to that list with her confident, brilliantly accomplished performance, guaranteed to become an indelible memory for everyone lucky enough to experience it.

Andrew Moran provides two delightful cameos as the landlord, Benoit, and Musetta’s  abandoned escort, Alcindoro, and while on indelible performances, what a pleasure it was to have the opportunity to enjoy three of the original cast, revisiting the roles they created in the premiere performances of this production in Shane Lawrencev as flamboyant as ever as Schaunard, Malcolm Ede as the Customs Sergeant , and Benjamin Rasheed as the toy seller, Parpignol.

Shane Lowrencev as Schaunard

Once more the Opera Australia orchestra distinguished itself with its lush reading of the score, under the sensitive guidance by Maestro, Lorenzo Passerini, insuring that these farewell performances of this much admired production will remain a cherished memory.

Benjamin Rasheed as the toy seller, Parpignol

                                                    Photos by Prudence Upton

        This review also published in Australian Arts Review.