South Africa, New Zealand and Australia have a rich history of sporting rivalries that have gripped fans across the Southern Hemisphere, now the three announce a new collaboration of unprecedented scope … Opera. Cape Town Opera’s international collaborations have played a vital role in the company’s success and makes up a huge percentage of the company’s income thereby enabling us to provide ongoing employment for South African artists (we tour with a company of 70 members). South African Arts companies have had to become innovative in generating income and ensuring sustainability, a collaboration of this nature will go a long way to reaching this goal. We’re committed to ensuring year round employment for these amazing voices.
OTELLO is a co-production of Cape Town Opera, West Australian Opera, Opera Queensland, NBR New Zealand Opera, State Opera of South Australia and Victorian Opera.
“The blazing Pleiades sinks beneath the waves,” sings Otello to his beloved Desdemona in the ravishing love duet of Verdi’s final and greatest tragedy.
In 2013, the Southern Cross may be a more fitting constellation to invoke as a ground-breaking international collaboration between six opera companies from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa comes to fruition.
Transatlantic co-productions have become a prominent and fruitful feature of the international operatic scene but ventures which straddle the Indian Ocean remain a rarity. In a new collaboration of unprecedented scope, six Southern Hemisphere opera companies: Cape Town Opera, West Australian Opera, Opera Queensland, NBR New Zealand Opera, State Opera of South Australia and Victorian Opera, will come together to create a new production of Verdi’s Otello.
This bold new production will be realised by an international creative team headed by Australian award-winning director Simon Phillips and assisted by South African director Matthew Wild, with Australian set and lighting designers Dale Ferguson and Nick Schlieper respectively, and South African costume designer Michael Mitchell. Well known for directing the musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Phillips’ directorial work ranges from Shakespeare to musicals including the Australasian version of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Love Never Dies, as well as the operas La bohème, Falstaff, L’elisir d’amore and Lulu in Australia, The Magic Flute and Don Giovanni in New Zealand, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Billy Budd in Germany.
“I’m so thrilled to be working on this breath-taking piece,” said Phillips. “I have a vivid memory of the first time I saw the Act 2 duet between Otello and Iago performed, sitting on the edge of my seat, galvanised by the perfect confluence of music and drama.”
“As a theatre director, Shakespeare is my first love and I have had some of my most rewarding creative experiences working on his plays. But in the case of Othello, the opera surpasses its source. The irrational extremity of both Othello’s jealousy and Iago’s hell-bent destruction seem somehow better suited to the soaring dynamics of opera, where psychology becomes distilled to its elemental forces. And Verdi’s score is so wonderfully lean and driven, viscerally bound to the hot-bed of the drama and then opening to exquisite moments of elegy.”
“I’ve worked with my designers to create a claustrophobic world in which the intensity seems to thrive and fester; a pressure-cooker in which Iago’s nihilism, Otello’s emotional instability and Desdemona’s isolation make a strange and disturbing sense,” said Phillips.
Michael Williams, Managing Director of Cape Town Opera met with Carolyn Chard, General Manager, West Australian Opera, in Mauritius in late 2010. Both were keen to work together on the right project.
Otello will première in Cape Town on 4 April, 2013, followed by its Australian première in Brisbane’s Lyric Theatre on 24 October, 2013, with subsequent seasons in Wellington, Auckland and Adelaide in 2014 and Melbourne and Perth in 2015.
“We are thrilled to be a part of this innovative new partnership. For such an ambitious collaboration, we felt it was only right to begin with an ambitious opera. With the extraordinary demands it makes on the lead tenor, chorus and orchestra, it’s a daunting undertaking for any opera house. This co-production will allow us to share strengths between the participating companies. It’s the perfect choice to launch this partnership with a bang.” Michael Williams, Managing Director Cape Town Opera
“CTO and WAO first established the collaboration and additional companies came on board through shared interest in working together with companies of similar size and vision with a key goal of finding financial efficiencies and synergies. This is a new model of collaboration between six companies in three countries and follows earlier co-productions between some of the companies (eg VO, WAO, OQ with Love of the Nightingale; SOSA, OQ, WAO with Il Trovatore). This unique project builds and strengthens the collaborative partnership that exists between the Australian state opera companies and for the first time offers the opportunity of working with colleagues in New Zealand and South Africa.” Carolyn Chard, General Manager West Australian Opera
“We’re delighted that the Australian première of this exciting new production will take place in Brisbane in the Verdi bicentennial year 2013, under the baton of Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Chief Conductor Johannes Fritzsch. We know that the QSO, the Opera Queensland Chorus and a sensational cast will do justice to Verdi’s mighty score, and we are thrilled to be working again with Australia’s foremost director of Shakespeare, Simon Phillips, on this project.” Lindy Hume, Artistic Director Opera Queensland
“The scale of Otello is such that it is not a work that The NBR New Zealand Opera would normally contemplate presenting on its own. Not only does this six-way partnership enable us to bring Verdi’s great masterpiece to New Zealand audiences, it paves the way for future collaborations between us which make complete sense in the current economic climate.” Aidan Lang, General Director NBR New Zealand Opera
“State Opera of South Australia is delighted to be involved in a six-way collaboration which reaches to the four corners of Australia and spans oceans – a partnership which reinforces the fact that the opera family is a global one.” Tim Sexton, CEO and Artistic Director State Opera of South Australia
“Victorian Opera is delighted to be an active collaborator in such a powerful group of Australian and international opera companies. Truly creative collaborations like this enable us all to be greater than the sum of our parts - to benefit artists, audiences and our own cities – in three different nations. We look forward to bringing the work to Victorian audiences in 2015.” Lucy Shorrocks, Managing Director Victorian Opera
“The Australian High Commission is delighted to be supporting this fantastic co-production through our Public Diplomacy program. We will be assisting director Simon Phillips and his creative team to travel to South Africa in early 2013 to work on the Otello piece in advance of its Cape Town premiere. These types of collaborative exchanges are not only significant for the individual artists involved, but for the important institutional linkages they create. The people-to-people links that will be driven by the Otello collaboration provide a solid underpinning for the Australia-South Africa bilateral relationship”. Australian High Commissioner HE Ann Harrap.