Standing Ovations: The Best Operas of the Fest
Breathtaking operas have long been a staple of Perth Festival.
Madama Butterfly, 2015
Hailed as ‘the most beautiful show of the year in operatic London’, Anthony Minghella’s Olivier Award-winning Madama Butterfly was performed in Australia for the first time at Perth Festival in 2015.
Puccini’s tragic love story tells of Butterfly (Cio-Cio San), a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American naval officer, Pinkerton. Shortly after their wedding, Pinkerton returns to America, leaving Butterfly alone to await her husband’s return. Set to the incredibly romantic melodies of Puccini’s music, this moving story of devotion and betrayal has established Madama Butterfly as one of the world’s most performed and beloved operas.
This production saw internationally renowned soprano, and Minghella’s original Butterfly, Mary Plazas in the title role, alongside original conductor David Parry. An international cast joined them to perform with the West Australian Opera Chorus and West Australian Symphony Orchestra.
Image: Madam Butterfly, cr. Robert Piwko
The Magic Flute, 2019
Premiering in Australia this year, Mozart’s master comedy opera was richly reimagined in a boundary-busting production created by internationally-renowned opera director Barrie Kosky and British theatre group 1927.
Blending animated film and live action in a gloriously ingenious kaleidoscope of 1920s silent movies, Weimar cabaret, dark humour and German expressionism, this visual fantasia was made for film buffs and art lovers, as well as fans of fine opera.
Presented by Komische Oper Berlin and accompanied by West Australian Symphony Orchestra and 1927’s magical projected animations, immense three-story spiders, demons and flappers, butterflies and wolves made the wildly inventive The Magic Flute like no other.
Image: The Magic Flute, cr. Iko Freese / drama-berlin.de
The Rabbits, 2015
In this extraordinary production, John Marsden and Shaun Tan’s compelling picture-book The Rabbits was brought to life as a new work of operatic theatre for adults and children alike.
The Rabbits brought together an outstanding Australian creative team, featuring award-winning vocalist Kate Miller-Heidke who lead a cast of singers and musicians, performing her own compositions and Lally Katz’s exceptional libretto, with additional music from Perth Festival’s current Artistic Director Iain Grandage.
Winner of four Helpmann Awards, the opera is no doubt one that has left a lasting impression world-wide.
Image: The Rabbits, cr. Toni Wilkinson
An opera unlike any other, Speechless asked you to leave what you knew about the genre at the door and immerse yourself in a visceral, sonic world.
Created by award-winning composer Cat Hope, Speechless was a personal response to the 2014 Human Rights Commission report ‘The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention’, creating a vocal language beyond words. While following the structure of conventional opera, Speechless’ unique score was derived from drawings and graphics extracted from the Report and performed using networked iPads.
This world premiere season was designed specifically for the new Sunset Heritage Arts Precinct, utilising the distinct Western Australian space to comment on a world issue.
Produced by Tura New Music.
Image: Speechless, cr. Paul Tadday
Three Penny Opera, 2013
The 2013 Perth Festival kicked off with the ultimate “opera for beggars” and one of the greatest pieces of theatre witnessed by Festival audiences.
The Berliner Ensemble, under the direction of Robert Wilson, came to Australia for the first time with Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera. Crowds reveled in the 30-strong ensemble of actors and musicians performing one of the most familiar scores in musical theatre.
This production premiered in Berlin in 2007 and has since played around the world in New York, Paris, Italy, Tel Aviv, Hong Kong, and now, Perth.
Image: Three Penny Opera
Hero image: The Rabbits, cr. Toni Wilkinson