Sydney Opera House : 18 Jul – 15 Aug
State Theatre, Arts Centre : 18 Nov – 6 Dec
Shakespeare’s tragic story, Verdi’s music and the soaring voices of Dennis O’Neill, Cheryl Barker and Jonathan Summers. Sparks will fly.
Otello has triumphed over the Turks, but his real enemy lies at home. His ensign Iago covets absolute power and sets out to play Otello and his wife Desdemona in a deadly game of sex and politics.
Harry Kupfer’s acclaimed production sets Verdi’s stormy score in a war-torn palace where friends become foes and lovers become victims. Dennis O’Neill and Cheryl Barker, as Otello and Desdemona, fling passionate duets into the furthest reaches of the theatre, Jonathan Summers is the dark and fascinating Iago and Simon Hewett conducts Verdi’s exhilarating music, a giant of the romantic repertoire.
The role of Otello is among Verdi’s most demanding singing and acting roles and so we were fortunate to find American tenor Franco Farina available to take Mr Shin’s place. Mr Farina’s reputation as a Verdi specialist is well known, particularly at the Metropolitan Opera in New York where he has sung 11 leading roles. The downside of this last-minute casting is that he is not available to sing on Thursday 11 December and so our decision was made to cancel the performance that day.
Dennis O’Neill – Otello
Born in Wales of Irish and Welsh parents, Dennis O’Neill CBE is one of the world’s leading tenors and a specialist in the works of Verdi.
He has enjoyed a long association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where his many roles have included Rodolfo (La bohème), Duca (Rigoletto), Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly), Edgardo (Lucia di Lammermoor), Macduff (Macbeth), Gustavo (Ballo in Maschera), Foresto (Attila), Otello, Don Carlos, Radames (Aida), Aroldo (in concert), Carlo (Giovanna d’Arco), and Jacopo (I due Foscari).
For the Metropolitan Opera he has appeared as Alfredo (La Traviata), Radames (Aida) — conducted by Levine and Domingo – La Bohème, Rigoletto Turiddu (Cavalleria Rusticana) and Canio (I Pagliacci). Other North American engagements have included Chicago Lyric Opera, San Francisco, San Diego, Vancouver Opera and concerts with the Philadelphia, Cleveland, Montreal, and Ottawa Symphonies, and for the Cincinnati Festival. He has appeared in Sà£o Paolo and Santiago.
A frequent guest at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich, his debut in Ballo in Maschera was followed by a new production of Manrico (Il Trovatore), Der Rosenkavalier, Tosca, Lucia, Gabriele Adorno (Simon Boccanegra), Aida and the title role in Otello. Elsewhere in Europe he has visited the opera houses of Vienna, Berlin, Bonn, Cologne, Hamburg, Nice, Zurich, Paris, Oslo, Brussels, Barcelona, Oviedo, the Arena di Verona and Turin. He enjoys a close relationship with Welsh National Opera.
Dennis O’Neill is also a very busy concert artist and is well known for his performances of Verdi’s Requiem which he has televised no less than seven times, and has sung throughout Europe with conductors including Muti, Sir Colin Davis, Sinopoli, Simon Rattle and Sir John Pritchard. Notable concert performances have included Idomeneo with Sir Charles Mackerras at the BBC Proms, Oberto at the Edinburgh Festival, Aida in Tel Aviv with Mehta, Le Damnation de Faust in Paris with Dutoit, Tosca in Cleveland with Slatkin and The Dream of Gerontius in London with Svetlanov. He has given recitals at Covent Garden and La Monnaie in Brussels.
Dennis O’Neill’s own television series for the BBC were enormously popular (the accompanying recording went to the top of the classical record charts) and he has subsequently completed a television film on Caruso another featuring famous movie themes. His many recordings include solo albums, videos of Der Rosenkavalier with Solti, Die Fledermaus with Kiri te Kanawa conducted by Domingo, Macbeth with Sinopoli, and Mefistofele from San Francisco. Recent releases include La fanciulla del West with Slatkin and Verdi’s Requiem with Sir Colin Davis, both for BMG/RCA ; Tosca, La bohème, Cavalleria Rusticana, I Pagliacci, Aida and Turandot, and a solo disc of operatic arias, all for Chandos. His anthology of Italian Song featuring songs by Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi is shortly to be released on Naxos.
He has recently sung performances Cav and Pag, Tosca and Il trovatore for Opera Australia and Cav and Pag in Perth, Australia, Otello in Hamburg and Munich, Lucia di Lammermoor in Munich, Aida in Munich and Dresden, Ballo in Lisbon and Munich, La Gioconda in concert for ENO, Turandot at the Met and Covent Garden, Ballo in Rome, Aida in Munich and Catania, Norma in Barcelona and I Pagliacci at Covent Garden ; a tour of Verdi Requiem with La Scala and Muti, and The Dream of Gerontius in Munich with Mehta and in London with Elder. Recent commitments include Tosca for Welsh National Opera, Otello in Brazil, Turandot for Opera Australia, Leopold Halévy’s La Juive for Covent Garden, and Canio for Netherlands Opera, as well as concerts throughout Europe.
Cheryl Barker – Desdemona
Cheryl Barker studied in Melbourne with Dame Joan Hammond and in London with David Harper.
She appears regularly with Opera Australia, where her roles have included Nedda in I pagliacci, the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, Mimà¬ in La bohème, Violetta in La traviata, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Tatyana in Eugene Onegin and the title roles in Madama Butterfly, Tosca and Jenufa. She has also sung Violetta for Opera Queensland, and Madama Butterfly and Violetta for BTR New Zealand Opera.
Internationally, Cheryl Barker is particularly noted for her performances of Madama Butterfly, singing this role for English National Opera, De Vlaamse Opera, Hamburg State Opera, Deutsche Oper, Berlin, Netherlands Opera and Houston Grand Opera for whom she has also performed Sarah in the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s The End of the Affair. Other international appearances include Jenifer (A Midsummer Marriage) for the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Tatyana and Adina (L’elisir d’amore) for Scottish Opera, Oksana (Christmas Eve), Foreign Princess (Rusalka), Governess (The Turn of the Screw), Musetta (La bohème), Donna Elvira, Tosca, Salome and Emilia Marty (The Makropoulos Case) for English National Opera ; the title role in Maria Stuarda for ReisOper ; Violetta for Hamburg State Opera and the Deutsche Oper ; Suor Angelica, Giorgetta (Il Tabarro),Mimi, Desdemona (Otello) and Liu (Turandot) for De Vlaamse Opera and Katya Kabanova for Welsh National Opera and in Geneva.
On the concert platform, Cheryl Barker has appeared at many prestigious venues including London’s Barbican, Royal Albert Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Wigmore Hall, St John’s Smith Square, and with the Halle Orchestra. She has sung in the Edinburgh, Spoleto and Melbourne Festivals.
Recent and forthcoming engagements include the title role in Rusalka, all three soprano roles in Il Trittico, her role debut as Arabella as well as Desdemona and Emilia Marty for Opera Australia, concerts with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Miss Jessel (The Turn of the Screw) for English National Opera. As a result of a highly successful national tour for Musica Viva in 2005 she will tour again for them in 2008.
Jacqueline Dark – Emilia
Jacqueline Lisa Dark (also Jacqueline Moran) was born in Ballarat, Victoria and attended the University of Ballarat from 1986 to 1988, receiving a Bachelor of Science (Physics) and a Graduate Diploma of Education in 1989.
A mezzo-soprano, Dark trained at the Victorian College of the Arts from where she received first class honours in the Graduate Diploma of Opera 1995. Jacqueline has performed with Opera Australia, Victorian State Opera, was young artist for Opera Queensland in 2000, Vienna State Opera (roles of Giovanna (Rigoletto), Grimgerde (Die Walkà¼re), Annina (La Traviata), Mercedes (Carmen), and Il Pastore (shepherd) in (Tosca) – Wiener Staatsoper in 2001).
Jacqueline Dark performed the roles of Sally Lowe in the world premiere of Lindy and the title role in Iolanthe for Opera Australia, and covered the role of Pearl in the world premiere of Richard Mills” Summer of the Seventeenth Doll. She has also appeared as a soloist with groups including the Melbourne Chorale, the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra (concert series), Orchestra Victoria, The Australian National Academy of Music, The Royal Philharmonic Society and Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
Among Jacqueline’s awards and major prizes are a Green Room Award for her role of in Opera Australia’s La Cenerentola (2004), an Overseas Study Grant, Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust (2001), the Vienna State Opera Award (2000), 3rd place in the Metropolitan Opera finals (1999), as well as a finalist in McDonald’s Operatic Aria (1999, 2000), Herald Sun Aria (1998, 2000), National Liederfest (2000), Covent Garden National Opera Studio Scholarship (1998). She has won the Ringwood Aria 1997, Geelong Aria (1997), Fletcher Jones Memorial Aria (1994), Shell Aria (1993), Victorian Theatre Guild Award (Performance of Distinction) (1989), Encore Award for Performance of Excellence (1986).
Kanen Breen – Casio
Kanen Breen is a graduate in drama and dance, of DEAKIN UNIVERSITY, in 1994, being the top ranking graduating student and leading him to be accepted as an Associate Member of the AUSTRALIAN COLLEGE OF EDUCATORS.
His early operatic rôles included Remendado in EASTERN METROPOLITAN OPERA’s season of CARMEN and Ferrando in FRANKSTON ARTS CENTRE’s season of the COSI FAN TUTTE as well as the title rôle in Anthony Crowley’s VINCENT-AN ACAPELLA OPERA. Of his performances in this rôle, THE AUSTRALIAN wrote, Kanen Breen’s powerful portrayal of the tormented artist provides a central core around which all else radiates. His is a gripping and dramatically astute reading with superb vocal impact. He sang the rôle of Almaviva for OPERA AUSTRALIA’s OZ OPERA touring production of THE BARBER OF SEVILLE during 1999 appeared in the MELBOURNE FESTIVAL’s production of Jonathan Mills” THE GHOSTWIFE, performances which he repeated at the ADELAIDE FESTIVAL in 2000, at the 2001 SYDNEY FESTIVAL and in London, during 2002, at the BARBICAN’s BITE festival.
Kanen Breen joined OPERA QUEENSLAND’s YOUNG ARTIST PROGRAM in 2001 as part of which commitment he appeared as Nadir in performances of THE PEARLFISHERS and Monostatos in THE MAGIC FLUTE. For OPERA QUEENSLAND, during 2002, he sang Ramiro in CENERENTOLA and created the rôle of Rory in OPERA AUSTRALIA’s world premiere production of Grabowsky’s LOVE IN THE AGE OF THERAPY in the 2002 MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL, and again, in the SYDNEY FESTIVAL season in 2003. In June 2003, he made his international debut in the rôle of Rodolfo, in Baz Luhrman’s Broadway production of Puccini’s La Boheme in New York.
Kanen Breen has been a contracted principle artist for OPERA AUSTRALIA since 2004. His first engagements included Camille in THE MERRY WIDOW and Nanki Poo in THE MIKADO and, during 2005, Truffaldino in THE LOVE FOR THREE ORANGES, Florville in IL SIGNOR BRUSCHINO, Alfred in DIE FLEDERMAUS, Monostatos in THE MAGIC FLUTE and Ralph Rackstraw in HMS PINAFORE.
Roles during 2006 for OPERA AUSTRALIA included Sellem in THE RAKE’S PROGRESS, Marco Palmieri in THE GONDOLIERS, Dr. Caius in FALSTAFF and Pong in TURANDOT and during 2007 he has appeared as, Andres/Cochenille/Pittinaccio/Frantz/Nathanael in THE TALES OF HOFFMANN, Pirelli in SWEENEY TODD, Almaviva in THE BARBER OF SEVILLE, Rinuccio in GIANNI SCHICCHI, made a return to Marco Palmieri in THE GONDOLIERS and sang Nadir in the company’s performance in the MYER MUSIC BOWL in Melbourne, of The Pearlfishers. During 2007 he has also made his debut for VICTORIAN OPERA in its premiere season of THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS.
His recent concert engagements have included OPERA UNDER THE STARS for the BRISBANE FESTIVAL and performances of CARMINA BURANA for the BRISBANE RIVERFESTIVAL, and at the TOWNSVILLE CIVIC THEATRE, for OZ OPERA’s opera concert at OLYMPIC PARK in Sydney and in OPERA AUSTRALIA’s gala farewell concert for Maestro Carlo Felice Cilario.
Andrew Brunsdon – Roderigo
Brilliant young heldentenor Andrew Brunsdon completed his Graduate Diploma in Opera at the Sydney Conservatorium, with a high distinction in performance in 1996. As a baritone, he performed the roles of Speaker and Second Armed Man with Opera Australia’s OzOpera tour of The Magic Flute (1997) and Figaro in their tour of The Barber of Seville (1998).
Other achievements included the roles of Paco for the Sydney Festival’s presentation of Manuel de Falla’s La Vida Breve (1997), Eumee for Australia Ensemble’s production of Penelope (1997), Cassandro in the Sydney Conservatorium’s production of La Finta Semplice (1996), the bass role in both Haydn’s Creation and Mozart’s Requiem with Willoughby Symphony Orchestra, the bass in Olivert to Calvery by Maunder and a solo recital of Schubert’s Swanengesang.
Mr Brunsdon was also a regular competitor in various scholarship competitions. In 1997 and 1998, he was named as a finalist in the Covent Garden Scholarship competition. In 1996 he reached the finals of the McDonald’s Aria Competition.
2001 engagements included the role of The Celebrant in Bernstein’s Mass for the Intervarsity Choral Festival and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, the role of Siegmund in the Tiroler Festspiele production of Die Walkà¼re in Austria (which he repeated in 2004) and Anthony Hope in Opera Australia’s new production of Sweeney Todd. His roles since then for Opera Australia have included Strephon in Iolanthe, Mercury in Orpheus in the Underworld, Narraboth in Salome, The Steersman in The Flying Dutchman and Tenor Soloist in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. For State Opera of South Australia, he has sung Father Grenville in Dead Man Walking and Froh in Das Rheingold (recorded and subsequently released by Melba Recordings).
In 2005, Andrew Brunsdon sang Alfred in Die Fledermaus, Tybalt in Romeo et Juliette and Ralph Rackstraw in HMS Pinafore for Opera Australia and Siegmund and the title role in Oedipus Rex for the Tiroler Festspiele. In 2006, he appeared in La Traviata, The Magic Flute, The Gondoliers and The Pirates of Penzance — all for Opera Australia — and appeared as soloist with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. He returned to OA in 2007 for principal roles in Pirates, Tannhäuser and A Streetcar Named Desire. In 2008, Andrew Brunsdon will sing Rodrigo in Otello for OA and appear in concert with the Queensland Orchestra.
Jonathan Summers – Iago
Jonathan Summers was born in Australia. His repertoire includes the title roles in Simone Boccanegra, Macbeth, Falstaff (Verdi) and Wozzeck (Berg), Amonasro in Aida, Iago in Otello (Verdi), Scarpia in Tosca (Puccini), Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde and Amfortas in Parsifal (Wagner).
He has performed at the ROH Covent Garden, the English National Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, Opera Australia, and in the opera houses of Munich, Frankfurt, Kôln, Chicago, Venice, Florence, Hong Kong, Tokyo and others. At the Israeli Opera he has performed Germont in La traviata, the title role in Rigoletto and Renato in Un ballo in maschera (Verdi).
OA repertoire : Germont in La traviata (debut 1981), di Luna in Il trovatore, Anckarstroem in Un ballo in maschera, Iago in Otello, the four villains in Les contes d’Hoffmann, Michele in Il tabarro, Balstrode in Peter Grimes, Alfio in Cavalleria rusticana, Tonio in Pagliacci, Scarpia in Tosca, Wolfram in Tannhäuser and the title roles in Nabucco, Falstaff, Rigoletto, Simon Boccanegra, Wozzeck, Gianni Schicchi.
Other Companies : He was a member of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden 1976–1986, and now appears as a regular guest. He sings with all the other British opera companies ; all major European opera houses ; and in San Diego, Chicago, New York, Houston, Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Tel Aviv. Recent engagements : Gepetto in Jonathan Dove’s new Pinocchio (Opera North) and Barnaba : La Gioconda (Israel Opera). Future engagements : Iago (Opera Australia, Melbourne)
Kanen Breen playing Cassio
and Andrew Brunsdon playing Roderigo