West Australian Opera has launched our 2016 season  – the office is full of brochures, which will be with our subscribers and supporters in the next few days. Subscriptions open next week and  I urge you to book early and book large – sales are up for our current season of Faust, and I expect this to continue in our coming seasons.

In this post, I want to share my thoughts, motivations and particular enthusiasms for the coming season with you. This blog is my personal means of communicating with you, and your responses tell me that it is also of value to you.

It was very important to me that, in my first programmed season, West Australian Opera increased the vigour and variety of our offering to you, our audience. There are three principal ways of achieving this: new works, new productions of existing works, and casting. I’m proud that our 2016 season ticks all of these boxes, in abundance. In fact, as I hoped would be possible, every production in 2016 has something significantly new about it. I’ll go through each production in turn, highlighting aspects which I want to bring to your notice.




Saturday February 6 2016: Opera in the Park (Langley Park) – Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi
Opera in the Park is our calling card to Perth, and represents our biggest audience event each year. When I took up the position of Artistic Director, I said that I would want to lead this event each year – it’s an important outreach to our community, and a key element in both increasing our visibility and emphasising our accessibility.

We spent a lot of time considering how to make Opera in the Park even more welcoming in 2016, and in choosing Puccini’s final completed opera, Gianni Schicchi, I wanted to bring a great work to the Park which WAO had never presented. Often Gianni Schicchi is presented together with the other two operas of Puccini’s triptych, but it stands perfectly on its own as a sublime comedy. It’s a little over an hour in length, which we think will make the evening even more attractive to families and older attendees. It has a cast combining well-loved artists and debutants, made up entirely of Australian singers, and is directed by our friend Lindy Hume, well-known to many of you from her time in Perth. We aim to improve the presentation and sound on previous years, and to continue to raise standards throughout 2016. Please come along and bring your friends.




13,14,15,16 April 2016 – The Riders
I was at the world premiere of The Riders in Melbourne last year, and I am delighted that WAO is giving a second airing to this major new Australian work. So often new work gets only one outing, and many of the benefits of repeat exposure are lost, for audiences, creative artists and companies.

Based on Tim Winton’s novel, and composed by Iain Grandage, The Riders has a strong West Australian profile, and I hope that it will take its place alongside Batavia as one of WA’s flagship operas. The cast features West Australian artists, and Iain will be embedded in the preparation and production process. This production inaugurates another of my programming strands as Artistic Director – the telling of distinctively Australian stories through song. And it’s a strand which we are actively engaged in promoting throughout coming seasons. More of that in due course!




14,16,19,21,23 July 2016 – The Elixir of Love
Another way of telling distinctively Australian stories through song is to filter the well-worn operatic repertoire through an Australian sensibility, something triumphantly achieved by Simon Philips’ much-loved production of L’elisir d’amore. Simon’s outback, corrugated-iron scenario goes to the heart of the story – one small, pre-industrial country town is very much like another in some important ways, whether it’s in northern Italy or West Australia. And chooks are chooks, whichever hemisphere they root around in!

I conducted this production for Opera Australia in 2006, but in 2016 I am delighted to welcome Stuart Stratford, newly-appointed Music Director of Scottish Opera, to the podium. My WA friends and colleagues Rachelle Durkin and Aldo di Toro are joined by Jose Carbo and the baritone Marco Nistico (making his Australian debut), and I can guarantee that together they will create a riot on stage. I anticipate that this will be a sell-out show, so get in early!




25,27,29 October and 1,3,5 November  2016 – The Pearl Fishers
I can only programme operas in which I have full artistic confidence, and in The Pearl Fishers West Australian Opera brings what I fervently believe to be a masterwork to life, in a new Opera Conference production by Michael Gow. Again, the Australian-ness of our work is expressed through a regional sensibility – the production is set in a period of the nineteenth century European imperial presence, in what is now Sri Lanka. Emma Matthews, our magnificent West Australian lyric soprano, is complemented by a young cast which includes WAO Mentored Artist Sam Roberts-Smith as Zurga. The orchestral and vocal beauty of Bizet’s score lies very close to my heart, and I am delighted to bring the 2016 season to a close as its conductor.

In general, these are exciting times for West Australian Opera. In the midst of a National Opera Review, a change of Minister for the Arts, and shifts in the funding climate for opera, we hold fast to what we do best: to produce the core operatic repertoire, whilst renewing it from within by judicious production and casting choices. We are entrusted with the promotion of opera as an artform throughout WA; we support the operatic industry as an employer of local, national and international artists and craftsmen; most of all, we do this because we passionately love opera. We believe in its power to touch the spirit, to elevate us, and to invigorate us all.

Welcome to our 2016 season.


Until next time,

Brad Cohen
Artistic Director