In a rare instance of positive news from an Arts organization, Sydney-based Pinchgut Opera have announced that, beginning in 2014, their annual operatic presentations will be doubled from the current offering of one production each year to two productions of the seldom-heard 17th- and 18th-Century repertory to which the Company is dedicated. Acclaimed for the uncompromising musical integrity of their performances, for which much credit must be granted to Artistic Directors Antony Walker—who is also integral to the success of Washington Concert Opera—and Erin Helyard, and the innovative brilliance of their productions, Pinchgut Opera have given one opera per year for the past dozen years. ‘Our audience trust us to bring to life works that have fallen unjustly into neglect,’ says Pinchgut’s General Manager Genevieve Lang Huppert. On the expansion of Pinchgut’s season, she remarks, ‘We’ve been thinking about this for a few years. Lots of our audience members have asked when are we going to add another show.’ With such rich lodes of underexplored repertory ripe for mining, Maestros Walker and Helyard had little trouble in identifying scores to place in queue for Pinchgut productions; some scores which have never been heard in Australia. ‘The time is right,’ Ms. Huppert adds.
Founded in 2002, Pinchgut Opera have provided some of the world’s most thrilling performances of Baroque repertory during the past decade. A particular delight, especially for local audiences, is the participation of top-flight native Australian talent in Pinchgut’s productions. This was never more successful than in their 2011 production of Antonio Vivaldi’s Griselda, in which the rôle of Ottone—created in the opera’s 1735 première by castrato Lorenzo Saletti—was sung by Sydney-born countertenor David Hansen, of whose performance Peter McCallum wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald that he ‘made a minor sensation with his wide range, agility at gear changing in Vivaldi’s treacherous leaps and penetrating brilliance of sound, particularly in the upper register.’ Mr. Hansen reprises his triumphant engagement with Pinchgut in December with performances of the title rôle in Chas Rader-Schieber’s production of Pier Francesco Cavalli’s Giasone. ‘It is fantastic news that Pinchgut Opera are expanding from one to two productions each year,’ Mr. Hansen commented, ‘especially considering the lack of Baroque opera being performed by the national company in Australia.’ As in Griselda, Mr. Hansen will share the stage in Giasone with Miriam Allan and Christopher Saunders, and Celeste Lazarenko will take the rôle of the fire-breathing Medea. ‘With so many talented Australian Baroque musicians, both singers and instrumentalists, it is great to see Pinchgut consolidating and building on the talent they have,’ Mr. Hansen said. ‘May the company continue to go from strength to strength!’
Highlights of previous Pinchgut Opera seasons include acclaimed productions of Rameau’s Dardanus (2005), Mozart’s Idomeneo (2006), Charpentier’s David et Jonathas (2008), Cavalli’s L’Ormindo (2009), Haydn’s L’anima del filosofo (2010) and Rameau’s Castor et Pollux (2012). To the excitement of lovers of Baroque music who reside beyond the borders of Australia, all save one of Pinchgut’s productions have been recorded in performance and released either on ABC Classics or Pinchgut’s own label. [A Voix des Arts review of the Pinchgut LIVE recording of Vivaldi’s Griselda is forthcoming.] Dominy Clements wrote of the Pinchgut recording of Dardanus on Musicweb-International that ‘with recordings of this opera being thin enough on the ground this has to be a welcome addition to the catalogue, and is certainly worth seeking out.’ In fact, Pinchgut’s recording compares very favorably to both the ERATO recording with such accomplished singers as Christiane Eda-Pierre and Frederica von Stade and the Archiv recording with Marc Minkowski pacing a cast including Véronique Gens and Mireille Delunsch. Indeed, this is typical of Pinchgut’s recordings: their largely Australian casts almost always equal and sometimes even surpass performances by the British and French ensembles listeners in Europe and America are accustomed to hearing in Baroque repertory.
Pinchgut Opera’s 2014 projects are productions of Antonio Salieri’s Der Rauchfangkehrer, premièred in Vienna in April 1781 (three months after the first performance of Mozart’s Idomeneo in Munich) with a cast including Caterina Cavalieri and Ludwig Fischer (the first Konstanze and Osmin in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail), and Christoph Willibald von Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride, first performed in Paris in January 1779. Maestro Helyard, a dedicated advocate of the music of Salieri, will preside over the performances of Der Rauchfangkehrer, which are scheduled for July, and Maestro Walker will lend his celebrated affinity for the music of the French Baroque to the December performances of Iphigénie en Tauride.
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All photographs are used with the kind permission of Pinchgut Opera. Photos are by Simon Hodgson, © Pinchgut Opera