The WA Opera is entering uncharted waters with an ambitious new collaboration between six opera companies spanning the Indian Ocean and Tasman Sea.
The companies from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa will mark the 2013 bicentenary of the birth of composer Giuseppe Verdi with a landmark new production of his tragic opera Otello.
To be realised by an international creative team led by Australian director Simon Phillips, the production will involve WA Opera, Cape Town Opera, Opera Queensland, NBR New Zealand Opera, the State Opera of South Australia and Victorian Opera.
Phillips' stage credits include the musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies and the operas La Boheme and Falstaff.
Otello will premiere in Cape Town in April followed by a season in Brisbane in October and a 2014 tour to Wellington, Auckland, Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth. It will be the first time Perth audiences have seen Verdi's 1887 penultimate opera, a tale of racism, jealousy and betrayal adapted from Shakespeare's Othello.
This is the first in a series of co-productions likely between the companies. It was conceived by WA Opera general manager Carolyn Chard and Cape Town Opera managing director Michael Williams.
"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," Ms Chard said. "This is a new model of collaboration between six companies in three countries and follows earlier co-productions between some of the companies."
Mr Williams said for such an ambitious collaboration, it was only right to begin with an ambitious opera such as Otello.
"With the extraordinary demands it makes on the lead tenor, chorus and orchestra, it's a daunting undertaking for any opera house," he said. "This co-production will allow us to share strengths between the participating companies."
Making opera is expensive. WA Opera has previously found economies of scale in such co-productions as Love of the Nightingale (Victorian Opera and Opera Queensland), Peter Grimes (Opera Australia, Houston Grand Opera, PIAF) and Il Trovatore (State Opera of South Australia, Opera Queensland).
"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," Ms Chard said.
After farewelling Richard Mills last month after 15 years as artistic director, WA Opera is awaiting the arrival of his replacement, US conductor Joseph Colaneri, in October.The company wrapped up a sell-out season of Lucia di Lammermoor on Saturday.
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