Hobart Baroque festival premieres in Tasmania

Elizabeth Meister and Anna Devin Photo: Johan Persson

Intrepid arts director Leo Schofield is about to see the culmination of an eight-year dream as the very first Hobart Baroque kicks off on Friday.

This unique new event, celebrating the music of the 17th and 18th centuries, will attract music lovers to Tasmania from April 12 to 20 for exceptional performances by international and local musicians at three of Tasmania’s best venues.

One of the main attractions will be an opera direct from the prestigious Royal Opera, Covent Garden at the Theatre Royal, a superb small Georgian theatre in the heart of Hobart. Built in 1834, this is the oldest surviving theatre of its type in the Southern Hemisphere and has been in continuous use since opening.

This festival has been a long time coming for Festival Director Leo Schofield.

This festival has been a long time coming for Festival Director Leo Schofield

“Back in 1988 I attended my first event at Hobart’s historic Theatre Royal. I was struck by the charm, intimacy and superb acoustic of this gem of Georgian architecture and ever since I have dreamed of directing a small specialist music festival with this unique building at its heart,” Festival Director Leo Schofield said.

“I always loved the idea of presenting smaller scale operas in this theatre. I’ve floated the idea with many politicians over the last eight years but it never seemed to generate a sufficient spark. Last year I gave it a last shot.”

The result is nine days of “serious programming with important artists”.

And the festival has attracted some big guns, kicking off in spectacular fashion on April 12 with an acclaimed production of L’isola disabitata (The Uninhabited Island ) a rare work by Joseph Haydn that premiered in 1776.

This intimate chamber opera from the Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden will be the first time the Royal Opera has ever presented a production in Australia.

The gorgeous Theatre Royal is perfect for small scale opera

L’isola disabitata, composed for four young virtuosic singers and an orchestra of 20 players, will be conducted by Oliver Gooch who made his career at Covent Garden and directed by Rodula Gaitanou. It will feature Madeleine PierardAnna DevinEd Lyon and Changhan Lim.

“What we’re dealing with is world’s best. This is a complete restaging of the work. We rebuilt the set especially for the Theatre Royal, which is perfect for small-scale opera, ” Schofield said.

Sir Antonio Pappano, Music Director of the Royal Opera said everyone at the Opera House was thrilled to have been invited to open the festival with L’isola disabitata.

“This opportunity is extremely important for us to give something back to Australia – a country that has given us so many wonderful artists. I have had the honour of working with many great Australian artists including Dame Joan Sutherland and Sir Charles Mackerras over the years and it’s wonderful for us to now bring something back,” he said.

Many Australian artists will also participate in the first Hobart BaroqueRenowned young Australian counter tenor David Hansenwho has made his mark in Europe, returns to Australia for a one-off recital with some of Australia’s fine musicians, led by early music expert Erin Helyard.

Other festival attractions include the much-admired Hobart-based soprano Jane Edwards who will perform music of the baroque era by women composers, and the fast-rising Melbourne-based baroque trio, Latitude 37.

The spectacular ultra-modern Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) will showcase early music in two unique one-off events, Monacello and Monaorganism.

And singer Maria Lurighi and fellow musicians, violinist Peter Tanfield and pianist Mark Gasser, have chosen  the title If it’s not baroque, it’s not worth a fuque, for their specially devised late-night entertainment at Detached, one of Hobart’s most exciting small private galleries.

Baroque music has been growing in popularity, Festival Director Schofield said. Performances of Handel operas are regular fare, while the works of Haydn, Cavalli, Vivaldi, Rameau, Charpentier and Monteverdi are being re-discovered and performed to acclaim.

“There are lots of special highly focused early music festivals emerging now as the opera companies present unique previously unperformed repertoire,” he said.

“This festival is one of a kind and we have been working hard for 11 months to set it all up. People can plan a weekend, see MONA, opera, recitals, master classes, and have a great meal. Enjoy baroque music and do a bit of sightseeing – it’s a voyage of discovery, fabulous music and great sights.”

Hobart Baroque is supported by the Tasmanian Government through Events Tasmania and by Wotif and Global Mail founder Graeme WoodTasmanian Premier Lara Giddings said Hobart was honoured to host the only classical music event specifically dedicated to early music.

Book online at www.theatreroyal.com.au;
phone (03) 6233 2299 or 1800 650 277 (outside Hobart)
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