Opera by the har­bour

A unique wa­ter­side set­ting will add an­other di­men­sion to a stage clas­sic, writes Sarah Ni­chol­son

Sunday Mail - Travel/Escape - - SHORT BREAK -

WHEN Opera Aus­tralia’s pro­duc­tion of Madame But­ter­fly pre­mieres in Syd­ney on Fri­day there will be an ex­tra char­ac­ter in the en­sem­ble.

Puc­cini’s fa­mous opera, which tells the tale of an Amer­i­can vis­it­ing Ja­pan, will be staged un­der the stars at Fleet Steps in the beau­ti­ful Royal Botanic Gar­dens so the twin­kling lights of the har­bour can com­bine with the al­fresco set to add an­other di­men­sion to this epic story.

Hiromi Omura, who will play Cio-Cio San in this year’s Handa Opera on Syd­ney Har­bour, pre­dicts the wa­ter­side set­ting will have a “very spe­cial ef­fect on the per­for­mance of Madame But­ter­fly’’ for both the au­di­ence and mul­ti­cul­tural cast.

“In the orig­i­nal score the house of Madame But­ter­fly stands on the hill that over­looks Na­gasaki Har­bour, so the Syd­ney au­di­ence will be wit­ness­ing an al­most iden­ti­cal land­scape, and this is an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to feel as if we are re­ally in Madame But­ter­fly’s world,’’ the Ja­panese so­prano ex­plains.

“At times it will feel as if the au­di­ence and Madame But­ter­fly are shar­ing the same ex­pe­ri­ence, like when But­ter­fly hears the Pinker­ton ship has en­tered the har­bour, and I can imag­ine the emo­tion will feel in­tensely real.

“My Ja­panese and French friends are so in­ter­ested in this project, they think this pro­duc­tion of Madame But­ter­fly is so orig­i­nal and won­der­ful in terms of both its cre­ative con­cept and of course the set­ting, and I have friends com­ing from Ja­pan just to see the show.’’

Handa Opera on Syd­ney Har­bour, which is on un­til April 12, is in its third year with Opera Aus­tralia’s artis­tic di­rec­tor Lyn­don Ter­racini ex­plain­ing au­di­ences in pre­vi­ous sea­sons have been made up of vet­eran en­thu­si­asts and beginners.

“In the first year, 61 per cent of the au­di­ence had never been to an opera, last year it was 44 per cent, and we find 28 per cent of those at­tend­ing Handa Opera on Syd­ney Har­bour buy a ticket to see a pro­duc­tion in the Syd­ney Opera House,’’ he says.

“Those who know opera have the chance to see one of the most pop­u­lar sto­ries ever writ­ten, and Hiromi Omura is prob­a­bly the world’s great­est Madame But­ter­fly, while those that have never at­tended an opera be­fore will have an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence on Syd­ney Har­bour.

“The show has a huge set with a 12m sun and moon ris­ing out of the wa­ter, there are two big fire­works mo­ments, cars and taxis are driven on the stage, a char­ac­ter ar­rives in a speed­boat, the cos­tumes are re­ally beau­ti­ful, and it will take more than 600 cast and crew to stage the pro­duc­tion.’’

Ter­racini’s team will also cre­ate a “mini shop­ping mall’’ at Mrs Mac­quar­ies Point so the au­di­ence can en­joy the wa­ter­side venue by din­ing be­fore the per­for­mance.

STUN­NING BACK­DROP: Ja­panese so­prano Hiromi Omura (above and be­low left) will play the lead in Handa Opera on Syd­ney Har­bour's 2014 sea­son of Madame But­ter­fly. Pic­ture: Opera Aus­tralia

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