West Australian Opera announces 2023 season

at Bizet Carmenstaged on the hallowed turf of WACA, Sondheim’s magical musical In the woodsa new production of Bohemian and the world premiere of a work by composer WA Lachlan Skipworth will be among the works for West Australian Opera’s 2023 season.

On top of that comes exciting news that in 2024 he will stage a new work commissioned from Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse titled Wundig wer Wilura. Performed in the Noongar language, it follows the success of their first opera Koolbardi wer Wardongwhich received a five-star review from limelight when it premieres in October 2021.

Into the Woods, Opera House of Northern Ireland, 2022. Photo © Steffan Hill

“Australian talent is at the fore in everything we do and we are particularly pleased to see singers from Western Australia take to the stage in lead roles,” said the company’s artistic director, Chris van Tuinen. “Our artists, including conductors, directors, designers, singers and musicians, are at the heart of this season, reminding us that this part of the world has something special.”

The season begins with the famous opera by Bizet Carmen, presented in association with the Perth Festival, which was originally scheduled for February this year but had to be delayed due to COVID restrictions. The large-scale outdoor show will be presented on a specially designed stage in the famous WACA ground, which will be animated by projections. Directed by Stuart Maunder and directed by Dane Lam, it will feature over 150 singers and musicians, with rising star Ashlyn Tymms making her debut as Carmen.

In March, WA Opera presents Stephen Sondheim’s 1986 musical In the woods. The production was directed by Cameron Menzies for the Northern Ireland Opera, of which he is artistic director. Inaugurated in February this year, it was critically acclaimed.

Irish news described it as “an exciting, moving and entertaining evening of musical theatre”. In a four-star review, The temperature said, “Cameron Menzies’ output comes with such irresistible zest and unwavering energy that it has earned packed houses throughout its run.” In another four star review, The Sunday Times described it as an “outrageously stylish revival”.

The production will be directed by Jen Winley and will star Maria Mercedes as The Witch and Samantha Clarke as The Baker’s Wife.

In April, the company will present Bach’s Easter Oratorio in association with the UWA Conservatory of Music. Featuring the UWA Symphony Choir and the UWA Symphony Choir with WAO’s Wesfarmers Arts Young Artists, it will be conducted by van Tuinen and conducted by Margrete Helgeby Chaney. Composer WA Lachlan Skipworth has been commissioned to write a new work, “responsive and interlocking with the Bach”, to be performed alongside the oratorio.

In July, WAO will stage Verdi’s fine Opera Australia production otellooriginally directed by Harry Kupfer in 2003. Review of an OA revival for limelight in 2014, Clive Paget said, “Hans Schavernoch’s setting with its dramatically dramatic and potentially perilous steps, reflects the decaying Empire with bomb craters, providing excellent hidden spots for an Iago or Otello.” Paul O’Neill will play the title role, with van Tuinen on the podium.

The 2023 season ends in October with Puccini’s Bohemian, in a new co-production between WAO and Opera Queensland. Directed by Matt Reuben James Ward and directed by van Tuinen, the production stars Elena Perroni as Mimì and Paul O’Neill as Rodolfo.

Gina Williams Koolbardi with Wardong

Gina Williams as Ngaank Boodja during rehearsals for Koolbardi wer Wardong. Photo © James Rogers

The new opera by Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse Wundig wer Wilura will be staged in 2024. Reviewing their first opera Koolbardi were Wardongwhich told the traditional Noongar story of Koolbardi the magpie and Wardong the crow, limelight said: “Sung in the Noongar language with supertitles, composers Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse have created a melodious and engaging hour-long score for the young cast, with jazzy rhythms mingling with the strings and winds of the orchestra, skillfully orchestrated by Chris Stone.”

Summarizing the season, WAO Executive Director Carolyn Chard said, “Our dream is to speak to the heart through the human voice. We share the joy of music through opera and the powerful stories opera tells. We are unique and proud of Western Australia and bring audiences and performers together to celebrate sung stories that are relevant to our people, times and places.


Subscriptions are available starting at 9 a.m. AWST on November 24. General tickets go on sale at 9:00 a.m. on December 1. More information can be found here.

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