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Blood hits the walls at Opera Australia

Lyndon Terracini, the singer-sacking artistic director of Opera Australia has taken violent exception to something we have written. As you can read below.

When arts people resort to abuse in place of reason, you know they have lost the plot. Poor chap, it’s all getting  bit much for him.

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Comments

  1. PK Miller says:

    There is not exactly a plethora of conductors who can conduct The Ring. This ISNT La Boheme!

    • I would argue that La Bohéme counts as one of the harder tasks that any conductor can face – if it’s going to be done well, and if you can do Bohéme well you can certainly conduct the Ring – at least technically speaking. Concentration, stamina, and sustaining such large musical structures in the Ring definitely present unique challenges, however…

      • Richard Barker says:

        Exactly. The use of La Bohème as something “easy” to conduct perhaps explains the plethora of bloody awful Bohèmes in so many minor repertoire houses round the world.

  2. I don’t even want to speculate on what “used tomatoes” would be.

  3. Paul D. Sullivan, Boston US says:

    Better stock up on those tomatoes Norman!!

  4. harold braun says:

    I know one who would do a fantastic job in stepping in.Our music director here in Mannheim,Dan Ettinger just does the second string of performances of the monumental cycle,and it’s really,really awesome!

  5. tomato face says:

    Here’s another example of Mr Terracini’s “colourful” language to the press and on public record: ”I’ve been to operas in Europe that had shit acting, shit singing and were shit productions,” he says. ”Opera Australia performances are of a much higher standard than a lot of those supposedly important opera houses.”

    The original article that it comes from:
    http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/opera/one-aria-at-a-time-20110630-1grh8.html

    It has been suggested that the way Mr Terracini speaks to the media is inappropriate , embarrassing and unfitting of an “artistic director” of Australia’s largest Arts organisation.Where are the checks and balances?- with no permanent CEO and the Board silent on such matters-can we expect more outbursts of spleen of this sort and our international reputation further damaged?

    • Theodore McGuiver says:

      ”I’ve been to operas in Europe that had shit acting, shit singing and were shit productions,”

      I believe him wholeheartedly. His language is colourful and, possibly, immature but he also speaks a lot of sense in the article, at least concerning credibility on stage. He must be up to his neck in problems at the moment, so our Leader and Teacher clearly struck a nerve…

    • I remember one particularly unfortunate thing Lyndon Terracini said some time ago, and I was surprised that it didn’t get picked up (to my knowledge) by any of the major opera blogs.

      We know (because he has reminded us often) that Mr. Terracini does not care for overweight opera singers – that he finds them less than credible dramatically and, apparently, somewhat ridiculous. But some time ago he made some of his fat-shaming comments to the press at the very time Anthony Dean Griffey was in Australia earning huge critical and audience praise performing Lenny in Of Mice and Men with Terracini’s own company.

      Mr. Griffey was not pleased. Indeed, I was a bit surprised that he remained to finish the run.

    • I am embarrassed by what Mr Terracini said about the reporter. As the head of OA, Mr Terracini represents the finest of The Performing Arts in Australia. If he spoke in such away, it throws a very poor, ungracious and rude light on the company. Do I want such man representing the finest we have in Australia? No. A person in his roll needs to be somewhat more diplomatic and courteous. This attitude is *not* representative of the majority of Australian. Here is to hoping that his eventual successor is somewhat more reflective of the good things about Australia and her citizens.

  6. David Hardie says:

    Ahhhh the Australian Financial Review. That bastion of artistic advocacy.

    This is all a bit complex. As talented as he may be in other areas, conducting singers is not what Richard Mills is best at. There may be some merit in him moving on.

    That being said, the reaction is somewhat prickly.

    To be fair to you Norman, saying that you don’t like Australians is an overgeneralisation considering that you have been quite positive about groups such as Musica Viva and Australian Chamber Orchestra.

    • Sorry, David…
      WHAT are Mills’ talents “in other areas”, now that we’ve established that he is no conductor.
      Composing derivative ditties?
      Sprouting platitudes like “unity of vision”, “chemistry… of a certain vibrancy…” , trying to incriminate the singers when he himself is at fault?
      Worming his way into jobs like AD of the Victorian Opera (an appointment seen by many as an irresponsibility of criminal proportions) with his worse than provincial operatic knowledge?
      How will life now look at the VO after this debacle?
      Will there be “personal chemistry” tests for the singers instead of auditions?
      Wake up Australia.
      EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES !

  7. Unfortunately Opera in Australia can only make us expat Aussies weep. The Ring was supposed to have been a bicentennial project in the 1980s for The Australian Opera and that failed due to incompetence. I thought the “can’t pull the ring of a beer can” by Norman to hit the nail on the head to be quite honest. I have been involved in 3 Ring productions under several conductors who were all slim and fit and who cares anyway about fat or thin as a qualification. The obvious choice would be to ask Simone Young to take over the project as a “Widergutmachung- reparation” for the scandal of 10 years ago. That was really the final blow for Opera Australia from which it will never really recover.

    • Patrick says:

      Martin. You are right. The entire sorry episode at OA is lamentable. Your comments regarding Simone are completely true. But I fear she would be unavailable at this late stage to rescue this farrago

    • Judy Wagner says:

      Oh yes,Martin,OA’s past sins are returning to haunt it again & again. Its shameful treatment of Simone Young has become a recurring nightmare. It now has a huge obligation to all the punters, including little fish like me, whose once-a-lifetime (Melbourne)Ring is looking very shaky.

  8. Conductor says:

    Ahh, how pathetic.
    Martin, as an expat Aussie musician – I agree with you whole-heartedly.
    Simone is also the most experienced Australian Wagnerian conductor alive, who has just completed ten Wagner Operas in one month at the Hmaubrgische Staatsoper.

    How sad for our wonderful country, not to mention the beautiful opera house! Lucky the beaches aren’t run by OA admin…

  9. Billie Parsons says:

    The slow crumble of an opera company. The singers are hired out of contract , the conductor of a sold out production up and leaves citing, well, nothing in particular. What has been swept under the carpet is the systematic dismissal of ‘technical’ staff. One in particular, the in-house director,was very capable of restaging any production in the OA repertoire. She was incredibly capable and made great profits for the company. Gone.

    • Under what definition is the stage director considered “technical staff”.

      • Billie Parsons says:

        Restaging of works requires an excellent technical knowledge,this persons background. l might add that she doesnt ‘fit’ into the physical requirements of the OA’s new model either.

        • So does singing…and playing the oboe…and conducting. *Any* art require technique, and technique requires technical knowledge.

          “Technical” is not a catchall term for “everyone who’s not a musician”.

        • The person you speak of was the best ‘talent’ we had ever had in that capacity. It was always an enormous relief to be restating an opera with her. Can not understand how Australia can afford to not use people of her experience and ability?…..

        • Rowdypiper says:

          Cath dug her own grave. You can’t back stab work colleagues for years and expect to keep your job!

          • Billie Parsons says:

            Really? Cath would never say something behind ones back that she wouldnt say to ones face. Thats about the weakest excuse for justifying someone getting sacked. Nobody else has ever criticised someone, including you?

          • Thanks Rowdypiper.
            Her way of speaking Italian was atrocious, her rehearsals were full of tired jokes, and she stabbed my back too.

          • Rowdypiper says:

            Cath constantly belittled people. Most often behind their back. I too was a victim of her two faced behaviour. It got worse as she became more bitter. She needed to go. There are a number of workplace bullies at O.A and she was one of them.

          • “There are a number of workplace bullies at O.A”

            I’ve found that at more arts organizations than not, regardless of genre.

  10. Rosalind says:

    I would have thought Mr Terracini had rather more pressing matters to deal with than taking a pop at Norman? If I was a conductor, I’d be wary of working for an artistic director who throws all his toys out the pram in such spectacular fashion.

  11. Oh dear, oh dear. Terracini says so many objectionable things that I don’t know where to start. I just read the article linked by tomato face. Having just watched the Wagner Bicentenary Concert from Bayreuth, I really must say that there were an awful lot of people there who couldn’t have given one of Mr Terracini’s so eloquent “shits” about Johan Botha’s not insignificant size. The singing was sublime. I, on the other hand, have experienced Ms Kizart’s Tosca and I am sorry to have to say (and, Ms Kizart, I do apologise if you think me rude, but I must insist that it really was so) that it was flat, flat, flat, the whole evening. I was not reconciled to this by the fact that she looks wonderful on stage.

    I have, in two decades as a professional chorister, suffered through innumerable performances given by people who were obviously chosen primarily for their aesthetic qualities and not for their singing. I have also been so fortunate in experiencing so much sublime singing from people who probably couldn’t even probably find a swim suit to fit them, much less winning a swim suit competition. Steblianko is short, a little bit round, bald and white. But he still sang a fine Otello. I can’t even really remember much about what the finest singers I have heard looked like. That wasn’t what was important. Yes – sometimes there are beautiful singers who can sing, and there are also some who are fat and can’t, but I know that I would choose voice over appearance any day.

    There are roughly fifteen opera houses within an hour’s train ride of where I live. Of course some of them aren’t going to be all that good. At least not all of the time. I have also eaten some really “shit” food in Australia, despite its reputation as a nation of discerning eaters. In fact I do believe the worst cup of coffee I have ever had was in Australia. The mainstream of music theater in Europe is no better or worse than in Australia. There’s just more of it. Some of it is poor and some of it is very, very good.

    I know this is all off the topic at hand, but I have been following this dispute from the other side of the world for some time, now, and it riles me. Every opera house in the world with the possible exception of the Met seems to be short of money and I know that this places an awful lot of stress on artistic directors who are expected to nonetheless produce good results. But my heart does go out to my colleagues in Australia, that they not only have to put up with financial difficulties and insecurities but, adding insult to injury, the arrogant and unjust outbursts of this “shit”.

    • Hooray Tony! Finally someone who realises how awful Ms Kizart was in La Boheme! I was horrified that they even released it as a DVD it is so embarrassing to tout that as an example of what OA can do!!! The production was great but the singing…woe is me!

      Obviously Terracini is too busy watching someone slim on stage that he forgets to listen! And some of the lead roles cast in South Pacific and Orpheus was truly embarrassing. I think I would prefer shit acting to shit singing on an opera stage actually…

  12. Annarosa Berman says:

    As an opera lover I have experienced Opera Australia under artistic leadership of Moffatt Oxenbould, Simone Young, the late Richard Hickox and Lyndon Terraccini. To my mind, the company has successfully taken on the most upbeat and exciting projectts under Lyndon’s leadership. Long may it contine.

  13. Perhaps the name of Nicholas Braithwaite should be raised in the conversation about Mills’ replacement? A very experienced Wagnerian with Bayreuth credentials and, I think, at least half a dozen Ring Cycles under his belt. Probably well known to most of the assembled OA cast. And an Australian resident for more than 20 years.

  14. tgjolley says:

    can not understand why Simone was not begged to take charge at the beginning.

    • Are we sure she’d consider it? Are we sure she was available?

      • tgjolley says:

        at this late stage probably not, but then Simone should have been asked when the project was first considered.

  15. In the Mills photo, is that a spaghetti-strap dress, or a spaghetti-strap T-shirt, that the pleased-looking violist with the mustache is wearing?

  16. This was a dignified exit by a dignified artist in Richard Mills for noble reasons. [redacted: untruth] Opera Australia’s fortunes have improved dramatically under Terracini. For those who don’t understand Simone’s departure, look at its financial position now relative to then and the artistic vision that has brought opera on the Harbour to Sydney and The Ring to Melbourne.

    • Mills is not a dignified artist, so we won’t go there.
      As for the dignified exit – if he had resigned for health reasons to save face (even if it wasn’t true), THAT might have been dignified.
      But Brian, do you honestly believe the reasons for his resignation? Isn’t it more likely that some of the other important people in the production (that aren’t as replaceable as he), through the management, pressured him to give up what he has been cramming for three years?
      And do you think that that spectacle on the harbour is a GOOD thing?

      • Annarosa Berman says:

        That spectacle on the harbour is a wonderful thing; It has brought opera to new Australian audiences like no other OA initiative in recent memory has. More than half of this year’s audience had never been to a live opera performance until they went to Opera on the Harbour.

        Australain arts organisations have to survive in a very different world from the one in which European ones operate. Lyndon Terraccini understands that reality better than any arts administrator of which I am aware, and deals with it creatively and with dollops of chutzpah.

        From this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald, an editorial that illustrates the reality of the world in which Australian arts organisations live: “The artistic community, in all its multiple forms, tends to suffer from a sense that taxpayers owe it a living, and that government support is needed to enrich society. This is self-serving . The best thing an artist or artistic ensemble can do is find an audience, the ultimate confirmation of talent, and stand on their own feet without subsidy.”

        The piece acknowledges that opera cannot survive without public subsidy. But in Australia, ignoring the reality of having to appeal to as broad an audience as you can possibly find, would amount to professional suicide. No one understands this better than Lyndon, and I for one applaud him for that. I would much rather have the Opera Australia that many of us Australian opera lovers adore and appreciate, than have no national company at all. Opera on the Harbour is part of an ongoing process of broadening the opera audience. It also has huge appeal to seasoned opera goers. In my opinion it is one of Mr Terraccini’s greatest achievements.

        • Hoffmann says:

          It is really sad to see and hear that some opera lovers in Australia have drunk Lyndon Terracini’s KoolAid so completely…

          Opera on the Harbour maybe a good thing, if it had been done for artistic reasons and not financial ones. Bringing in new audiences to the opera is important and a laudable cause, but this is not Lyndon Terracini’s intention. He himself has clearly stated that he does not care if Opera on the Harbour translate into audience in the Opera House. This is actually borne out by the most recent production of Carmen on the Harbour. There was no mention in the programme, or anywhere else on the temporary site for that matter, advertising or otherwise, about upcoming operas in the Opera House. Does this not seem strange?

          Further the score of Carmen had been majorly cut, not only the recitative/dialogue, but the children’s chorus and the surrounding scenes. There was no mention of the flower Carmen gives Don Jose being enchanted. Don Jose’s first appeared on the stage when Carmen threw the flower at him at the end of the Habanera. This lead to major confusion for any people not familiar with the synopsis and for many who do know the opera. This is one example of the major cutting of the score that was used. Surely this indicates that the running time was more of a concern than fidelity to the score. Does this sound like an artistic endeavour or a commercial one?

          The artists involved in the production were excellent. Unfortunately the production itself for the above reasons, amongst other things, was more spectacle than anything that Bizet composed. Unfortunately this pattern has been repeated with increased frequency in the Opera Australia seasons directed under Lyndon Terracini. The recent production of The Magic Flute is a very good example of this. A spectacle that cut half the score, including 99% of the overture and recitative. A good cast with many young singers ably tried their best, but with a running time time of just under 100 minutes, as some have said, it was more like The Magic Piccolo.

          Last year Opera Australia produced South Pacific which ran in the Opera House, taking up 4 whole weeks of the opera season. This season the same production returns for 9 weeks of the opera season. This means that the amount of opera that the company is producing has been reduced by 30%. When combined with the numerous performances of Orpheus in the Underworld (Offenbach’s Orphee aux Enfers translated into English, with numerous musical numbers cut and musical theatre ‘stars’ in some of the starring roles in one of the tackiest productions in the history of musical theatre) the amount of opera in the Opera House has been reduced by 50% in the last two years. Unsurprisingly there was once again no mention of any upcoming operas in the programme.

          Yes there maybe more audiences out there for this type of entertainment, but saying this is intended to bring in new audiences to opera is surely a misnomer. For a company that is subsidised by the government through the Australia Council to produce opera, this shows an appalling lack of regard for artistic values. Sadly, there are opera lovers in Australia who sincerely believe the propaganda that they have been feed by Lyndon Terracini. As infuriating as many of Lyndon Terracini’s decisions have been, the attempted infantilisation of the opera-going audience, in some sections obviously successful, is so terribly sad.

          • Annarosa Berman says:

            JulieTaymor’s Magic Flute production was originally created for the Met, and specifically with the aim of drawing in young audiences. It was cut and staged without interval for that reason. A later TV version was “polished” even more. Likewise, the OA production was aimed at appealing to young audiences, and it certainly did that. I recently bought the DVD of the Met production for a five-year-old family member, who has been watching it daily ever since. To my mind that is an excellent outcome for Opera. Personally I prefer to hear all the notes that Mozart wrote, but I can do so at home and enjoy watching children fall under the spell of the Magic Flute at the SOH.

            Opera Australia is subsidised, as you rightly point out, but public subsidy is a small portion of its annual budget – around 30% if I am not mistaken. The rest is philanthropy (not well supported in Australia) and box office.

            Carmen was cut? A travesty and no doubt a first in the history of opera!:)

            It is true that Opera on the Harbour audiences do not necessarily buy tickets to the next SOH production (although many apparently do), but the extravaganza raises awareness of opera, helps to establish the idea of opera as part off Sydney outdoor culture, and goes some way towards killing the notion of opera as high-brow art for the select few. It widens the audience for opera in indirect ways.

          • Hoffmann says:

            Ok let’s get some facts straight. Julie Taymor’s original production of The Magic Flute that was created for the Metropolitan Opera in New York was performed in full and not one note was cut. It was only years later that the production was used for the shortened English translation and then for only a limited number of matinees, not an entire season. If you would prefer to listen to Mozart at home, that is fine for you albeit a bizarre notion. I doubt that there are many people who love Mozart who would pay full price for tickets to a cut performance and then go home to listen to the score. I want to hear the entire score, not some infantilised version. I hope one day we get the full version of Mozart’s magnificent score back on the Australian stage soon. I wouldn’t want to dumb opera down for my children as they will never appreciate opera fully if it is done in cut editions.

            As for Carmen on the Harbour raising awareness of opera in Australia and that being a legitimate reason of producing it as it doesn’t bring in additional audiences, well that does sound like spin. If Lyndon Terracini wants to do these productions why doesn’t he leave Opera Australia and go produce these spectacles around the world.

            I miss when we had good honest opera in the Opera House produced in adversity through hard work, determination and enthusiasm as the company has consistently done throughout its history, not cut down versions of popular classics, spectacles, amplified performances, orchestra and singers, musicals and imported singers. Opera Australia has gone from being a major house under Simone Young and Richard Hickox producing amazing work on the other side of the world to a spectacle factory that looks and acts like a commercial theatre producer… Oh wait that is what Opera Australia has become… So sad to think that by the time a music or artistic director is found to replace Lyndon Terracini, the history and tradition of Opera Australia will have been destroyed… Hope some people will realised that the emperor is naked and his new clothes do not exist… Some of us still know bill s@&t when we smell it!

          • Theodore McGuiver says:

            I’ve been taking both my children to the opera for years. At five years old, my eldest sat through the five hours of Rosenkavalier without batting an eyelid, completely engrossed by the music, the costumes, the silly Baron Ochs and the beautiful Marschallin to name just a few things that kept her fascinated all that time. Neither of my children has ever needed recourse to a patronising ‘Children’s Version’ of anything.

          • Annarosa Berman says:

            Five-year-olds with the attention span of adults clearly are a significant part of the opera audience these days. I expect to see them turn out in force at the Melbourne Ring in November.

          • Hoffmann says:

            Annarosa, Pity there wasn’t any children or senior or student tickets for the Ring in Melbourne. Actually there seemed to be just enough tickets for the elite and the rich. Perhaps the irony of saying that you are anti-elitist and then doing the most elitist piece of repertoire possible is lost on Lyndon Terracini.

        • “hey mate, gess where oi am! this thing called opra on the arbor. bloody amazin. just walked ere thru the gardens filled with fairy lites, had a shadoney (some woite woin, cant spell it) at somethin called a tratTORia, an a few Fosters (ken spell that one), so oim proimed fer this hoi cultur stuff. don’t ask me wot it is tho, but its on a flotin stage on the bloody water (makes ya wunder why they even need that operaouse). oi thawt opera was all fat brawds singin, but the stage is fulla SKINNY CHIKS !
          sum a them look so skinny that there about to pass out (they say ya haf ta be that skinny to work fer this opera thing). Jeez, i mite go fer a swim ova ther when its finishd. they say this Linden blokes on the way out, but if oi see im after the show oill buy im a bloody drink. its grate – nowuns hasslin us abowt usin our oifones – evryone around me is takin fotos or facebookin. its bin on fer almost 2 owers but must be neely finished. all opras on the arbor are only 2 owers.
          and the chicks in the ordience- JEEEEEZ- worth the bloody 150 bucks jus fer that. have to wotch out fer the poofs tho, altho they all seem to be in pears. an they say thrers gonna be fireworks !!!!! fireworks on the arbor – you bloody beaudy Linden, to come up with that oidea !
          mate, if is this is wot opera is, oim bloody ooked ! seeya later at the pub”

        • Why doesn’t the Australian Ballet need to resort to spectacle, cutting and dilution of discipline to bring in audiences and turn a profit?

      • There can be little in your response that can be called dignified. Claims of other reasons for the exit are mere speculation and, as you have fallen into, grounds for tacky conspiracy theories.

        The harbour spectacle is an unqualified good thing. Around 40% of the audience for the first one were new to opera. If you want it to maintain the art form’s pull on the public purse, this sort of reaching out to new audiences is essential. All credit to OA for imagining it, financing it and executing it.

        • Not convinced says:

          It appears the supporters of Mr Terracini have been sent in to blow his marketing bugle here. This is the same stuff he has been trumpeting for the last number of years to justify a dumbing down of opera ( use of a children’s 90 minute version of Magic Flute in a main season just one of the travesties) , the mass importation of often inferior singers from overseas at the expense of jobs for struggling Aussie talent , and the erosion of contract positions and career possibilities for Australian singers . The orchestra are struggling to maintain standards as numbers in the fulltime lineup have reduced and more and more casuals drift in and out of the pit. Terracini is known to want the chorus part time as well and to further establish OA as a production house for projects like the commercial runs of musicals already discussed on this site.His vulgar and derogatory words speak for themselves. He has courted the press with a larrikin ‘let’s bash the arts’ elites’ approach and railed vacuously against an imaginary “club ” – basically all those who might disagree with his ideas – and deluded many who see supposed “audience widening” efforts as worth any collateral damage. Where the dollar reigns supreme and art is driven by “the audience” the lowest possible denominator will rule. . The cracks are starting to show in his dictatorial management style – and the underbelly is not a pretty sight.So sorry marketers- not convinced!

          • Please do not use multiple pseudonyms. You will be spammed out.

          • tomato face says:

            apologies re pseudonyms- happy to stay with this one!

          • It appears the supporters of Mr Terracini have been sent in to blow his marketing bugle here – writes
            Not convinced.
            Looks like it.
            “Cud dja wroite sumpin noice about moie ?”
            Reminds me of the time that several contributors to Opera Insider Australia questioned the fact that Mills’ conducting of Elektra took 10 minutes longer than what could be considered normal (despite cuts), and were refuted by an army of contradictors who could be traced to be Mills’ staff !
            My favorite comment was “The tempi was right” (sic).

  17. Screen Name says:

    More tittle tattle here about a ‘spectacular blow up’ between Mills and one of the guest singers. Meanwhile, the assertion that Mr Mills is an experienced Wagner conductor because he has conducted a T&I with the Australian Youth Orchestra, and what’s more, an Etektra, continues.

  18. Screen Name says:

    Resending that link here.

    • Terracini said last week that no one had complained to him about Mills, writes The Australian.
      Short term memory? To say that, knowing that there were so many witnesses…
      Just name the “senior cast member” and get it over and done with.
      It certainly would not have been one of the “local” singers, who all hope to be reemployed by the Victorian Opera (although Mills’ future with them will probably now be very shaky).

  19. Annarosa and Brian, art or entertainment? Terracini has made his choice, are you sure you know what yours is?

    • Annarosa Berman says:

      Some of the world’s greatest art is entertaining. For me, it comes back to the cultural environment in which an opera company performs: in Germany, with its plethora of subsidised opera companies, there is plenty of room for experimentation that may or may not appeal to audiences. In Australia, with its modest public subsidies for the arts, opera companies do not have that luxury; they live or die by the box office, and so, they are always thinking of their audience. To my mind, Opera Australia is well adapted to its environment and regularly ( not always) produces opera of a high artistic standard that also appeals to a wide audience; it would not survive otherwise. As an opera lover, I am grateful for German taxpayers’ willingness to support work that does not have to have wide audience appeal. It seems to me that opera thrives in both environments, in different ways.

      • Hoffmann says:

        Annarosa, please… live or die by the box office, really? You are going to pull that line out now?

        Opera Australia did amazing work through the 80′s, 90′s and early 2000′s, every season was balanced with opera from the baroque, classical, romantic and modern periods in Italian, French, German, Czech, Russian and English. It was not unusual for the company to produce 17 operas in a given year. The standards were as high and were the result of hard work, determination and dedication in an atmosphere of adversity.

        Under Lyndon Terracini we have 12 pieces in the opera season in Sydney:

        1) La Boheme 22 performances including New Year’s Eve (Italian)

        2) Un Ballo en Maschera 8 performances (some amplification of the orchestra) (Italian) (NEW)

        3) Il Trovatore 9 performances (Italian)

        4) Falstaff 8 performances (Italian)

        5) Orpheus in the Underworld 14 performances (English)

        6) Carmen on the Harbour 24 performances (amplified) (French) (NEW)

        7) La Forza del Destino 8 performances (Italian) (NEW)

        8) Tosca 19 performances (Italian) (NEW)

        9) Don Pasquale 8 performances (Italian) (NEW)

        10) La Traviata 10 performances (Italian)

        11) Albert Herring 5 performances (English)

        12) South Pacific 62 performances (amplified) (only one opera singer in the entire cast) (English)

        And if possible, next year appears to be even worse. My above description does not even deal with the appalling productions, dismal singing, the cut scores or the amplification in a theatre that has never required it and still doesn’t. Of course there has been one good production and stellar cast so far this year, that of Falstaff, and some good individual performances in Il Trovatore, Carmen and La Boheme. Unfortunately the rest was a waste of money.

        With what I have heard of next year, who could be bothered subscribing??

        • Annarosa Berman says:

          Hoffman, for some reason I am unable to reply to your previous post, so I reply to it here. Re Julie Taymor’s Magic Flute production: its first run sold more tickets than a run of any other Magic Flute production in Sydney, and was particularly well attended by children. For many of them, a full-length opera would have been too long. You mention hard work: that production required very hard work from everyone but especially from Workshop, who built the complex set and giant puppets. As for quality of singing, Emma Pearson’s Queen of the Night was among the best that I have heard, and I could hear every English word that she sung. In all, I would have to disagree with you on the virtues of that production.

          As for living or dying by the box office, unfortunately that is the reality for arts companies that operate in a world where neither public subsidy nor philanthropy is strongly supportive of the arts.

          I am sorry to hear that you won’t be subscribing next year and hope that you are in a position to travel and see opera elsewhere. I certainly intend to subscribe; Opera Australia has its shortcomings but I continue to enjoy most of its productions.

          • Hoffmann says:

            Emma Pearson’s singing has always been superb here, but she was even more spectacular in the previous production of The Magic Flute which was very very popular and did not cut large holes in Mozart’s score or Schikaneder’s Libretto. Maybe when you get to see a full production you will understand the difference I am getting at Annarosa. Particularly galling is that Opera Australia charged the same ticket prices for this version, with an hour cut, as any other production they did that year.

            The quality of the production, whether it was to your taste or not, and the singing, whether it was great or not, is beside the point when the argument is whether a cut down version of any piece still retains the integrity of the original creation. If you want to introduce people, children included, to opera, introduce them to opera, show them the beauty of the singing, the complexity of the stories and the magic of theatre. This is the major point I am making. More people I know were attracted to opera by Opera Australia’s recent Peter Grimes and Lucia di Lammermoor and than by any spectacle on the harbour.

            Lyndon Terracini’s philosophy that to gain audiences you need to change opera into something more palatable is wrong headed. People should be given the resources to learn and appreciate opera, not make opera fit into people’s preconceived ideas of what it should be. This is reverse thinking and will ultimately do untold damage to the future for opera in Australia.

            The reasoning behind my not planning to subscribe next year is not a knee jerk reaction, it has been long and thought out. If you care about having an opera company that produces varied excellent work that could stand on any world stage, then we need to say that dumbed down productions and frequently repeated popular classics are not good enough. Since the company, and particularly Lyndon Terracini, treat any criticism with condescension and contempt, then the only way to let them know that aspiring to just be good is not good enough is to not continue to subscribe. If Lyndon Terracini can not produce work of the same quality and variety that the company has a long proud history of producing, perhaps he should stand aside and let someone who can take over.

  20. Hoffmann, I fully agree with you. People will appreciate the art form when it is explained. To cut down something in the hope others come means that they will not appreciate it.

    I took my kids to their first opera when they were 5 and 8 years. Musically it was not cut down but it was a low budget with great singers. There was no orchestra, just a piano. The scenery was simple back drops with minimal props. It was done in a small theatre. They took out the seats and had us sit at tables so it was like a cabaret. The “chorus” sat in the audience and through the magic of theatre we, the audience, became part of the crowd. The costumes were of the era the opera was set in. It was one of the most magical experiences of my life. It left such a mark on the then 5 year old daughter, that she began classic voice training and began to dream of a being an opera singer. There was something about the intimacy, something about hearing the voice up close and personal that kept these kids glued! They did not sleep. They were not fidgetting. Kids just need to be given opportunity to enjoy. They may not get the plot line, but the music, the costumes, the lighting, the acting, and the sets will keep them glued.

    I know that OA would never do such a simple production, but perhaps they could. They can. We do need the big flashy productions. My daughter is yet to see a full, grand opera production. We are hoping that this holiday will be it. But please let it be a full score…as the composer and lyricist intended. Only then will we experience the power of opera in its true form.

    • Annarosa Berman says:

      I agree that knowledge improves the expwrience of an opera performance – of any performance reslly. Unfortunately, opera appreciation is not being taught at Australian schools; it has fallen to OA to bring the art form to children,and it does so through its Oz Opera Schools program, which performs 50- minute versions of major works to around 70,000 primary school kids each year. Oz Opera’s touring program brings condensed versions of major works to regional audiences all over Australia. Both initiatives also give inexperienced young singers to gain performance experience in smaller theatres. I have seen many Schools Co productions and they are a delight to kids and adults alike.

      If the score is not to be cut/ condensed, both these initiatives would have to go, and with them, the training oppotunities for young singers that they offer. Opera education would become a privilege destined only for the children of parents who already love the art form and who take the trouble to ‘explain’ it to their offspring. It is difficult to imagine a more elitist scenario, snd even more difficult to imagine continued public subsidy of opera under such circumstances.

      Interestingly, you mention that the full- length performance that had your five-year-old glued to her seat, was performed in piano score version. This amounts to cutting the score and eliminating a major part of opera – the orchestra. I don’t take issue with the fact that it did not bother you – opera can be enjoyed in many different ways in my opinion – but it seems to me that you are contradicting yourself when you say “But please, let it be a full score…”.

    • I suppose one could suggest that cutting the orchestra down to a piano reduction, or the staging down to a minimum is just as much a production cut as omitting some parts of the more dreary arias / recits / choruses. Neither fulfils what the composer intended. If the story is still told, if the drama is intact… does it matter which way it is cut?

  21. Several of the comments in this thread (and in other, as well) absolutely reflect the kind of elitist arrogance that is killing the performing arts.

    We can — and should — applaud quality without denigrating those whose tastes differ from our own.

    • Annarosa Berman says:

      I could not agree more. It also strikes me that elitism is not courageous – it flourishes where anonymity is the order of the day.

      • And what’s wrong with being elitist when it comes to such a sophisticated art form as opera?
        To appreciate it fully in all it’s facets is for most an impossibility.
        Dumbing down the opera and the audience will not help anyone except the artistic director craving his bums on seats.
        And for a society that doesn’t revolt against something like it’s now defunct Ringleader (who, in a talk at the SOH, admitted to learning the Ring -remember the Ring?- by “watching DVDs and taking notes”, all is lost anyway…

        • Annarosa Berman says:

          What is wrong with being elitist or snobbish is that it alienates the general population, on whose tax contribution the opera world depends for its survival. It also alienates the very audience that opera needs to attract if it is to be less dependent on public subsidy.

          • To constantly equate opera with something as banal as taxes is very small minded.
            Elitist does not mean snobbish.
            The “general population”, as you probably mean it , is something I would never want to see in an opera house.
            OPERA IS NOT FOR EVERYBODY.

          • Annarosa Berman says:

            Yet everybody is expected to contribute to its maintenance through taxes? Sorry, that notion is as unrealistic as it is unfair.

          • Hoffmann says:

            I was not being elitist by any means. I expect opera to be “for the people, by the people”. But the central question is doing less opera and more musicals or doing cut versions rather than full operas anti-elitist?

            Actually I think it is a very cheap solution and a complete cop-out. Expecting musical and theatrical excellence and professionalism should not be thought of as snobbish or elitist. Actually taking public money and then doing cut down versions of operas and musicals is rather insulting to the entire population.

            I am all for bring people to the opera and big audiences and people talking about opera, but you don’t change opera in order to attract people. Otherwise what we will have in 2018, won’t be an opera company but a repertoire musical theatre company with some opera singers…

            It really is a terribly sad situation…

      • It appears that , Annarosa, if you are, according to the net, writing a book about the OA, you are constantly having to find something positive to say about this pathetic situation.
        Unless you are contemplating writing DECLINE AND FALL OF THE OA…

  22. Paul D. Sullivan, Boston US says:

    ” The “general population”, as you probably mean it , is something I would never want to see in an opera house. ”

    A truly tasteless remark, and must top out as one of the worst for denigrating a large swath of people. but, as usual for here at SD, under anonymity. I wonder if he, she (or possibly it) would have the courage to post the same remark under their true name. I doubt it.

    Tell us RW2013 (whoever you are), what you believe Ms Berman means by “general population”. I think we’d all just LOVE to hear more of your insight into this!

  23. For the cricket enthusiasts out there I would put it this way:

    Lyndon Terracini is to opera as T20 is to Tests; good for money and hype, anathema to the real art form and any semblance of class.

    Those at AO now speak openly of his megalomania, an ego derailed: the Reign of Terrorcini, one might say.

    • Annarosa Berman says:

      It is impossible to take the vitriol spouted from the safety of pseudonyms seriously. Mr Terracini publicly stands by his decisions, and the results are there for all to see. One could say that he has the courage of his convictions.

      As far as the quality of the work performed under his watch is concerned: we’ll have to agree that our views on the subject differ.

      • Pseudonyms are a necessary evil when Lyndon holds the guillotine cord.

        However, since you presumably have some sources you can ask, I recommend you do some investigations into, for example, the real story behind the new Tosca set. Or indeed the real story behind Richard Mills’ departure.

        You do mention Germany as an example, which is cogent to the extent that there is actually no lack of Australian influence there right now. Of course the audience might be different, but Kosky’s tenure at Komische has already shown that bright lights, picnic hampers and gaudy costumes are not the only way to pack houses.

        I do, however, find this rabid defence of mediocrity for cash by some parties here quite mystifying. I’m sure SBS broadcasting enjoys higher ratings these days too, but at what price? A flagship for foreign cinema has been metamophosed into one endless cooking show, and LT is doing the same to OA.

        Bread and circuses…

        • Yes Boris, it’s amazing that so many contributors are seemingly still unaware of the real reasons for Mills’ departure.
          And as far as Baroness Kosky (not my nickname) is concerned, a glance at the Komische Oper’s website also provokes some interesting questions.
          Why Mazeppa in Russian and the upcoming A Midsummer Night’s Dream in German, when, with their apparently sophisticated personal surtitle arrangement, it is possible to have your opera texts even translated into Turkish?
          But if the house is (quoting the website again) the “hippest in the city” anyway, then the answer probably doesn’t matter.
          Full of color and movement, signifying whatever…

    • So much of this debate reminds me of the movie, Bridge Over the River Kwai, with Alec Guinness running on to his bridge defying the US fighter-bombers who dare to destroy his creation. Yes Terracini is doing things you don’t like. Yes it’s worrying that it might be ego-fuelled. But it has to be judged on its success and, so far, it has been successful. And these sorts of things are never achieved by someone without an ego – just dealing with the nay-sayers would put the rest of us off.

      And, if it hadn’t been for Kerry Packer, test cricket would now be comatose.

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