An Operatic Fantasia on Selling the Skin and the Teeth 4 â€“ 8 February 2017 Melbourne Recital Centre | Elisabeth Murdoch Hall
Welcome to Victorian Opera’s first production for 2017, ’Tis Pity: An Operatic Fantasia on Selling the Skin and the Teeth.
We’re thrilled to open our season with yet another new work and one that reunites the creative forces of anarchic diva Meow Meow, director Cameron Menzies and our Artistic Director Richard Mills. In ’Tis Pity, Richard shares with us his depth of musical knowledge, and his brilliance as a composer and orchestrator. Each season, Victorian Opera continues to build its reputation for commissioning new work, and for diverse and innovative programming. The year ahead is bursting with beautiful music and wild imagination, such as our next production: a unique retelling of Respighi’s The Sleeping Beauty, featuring a cast of extraordinary life-sized puppets. It’s guaranteed to transfix audiences during its season from 11–18 March at Arts Centre Melbourne. From the Victorian Opera family, thank you for joining us at the theatre tonight and helping us launch what will be an incredible season. ANDREW SNELL Managing Director
ÂŠ Magnus Hastings
’Tis Pity Whores and Mores of Society
This project was written at breakneck speed in the month of November last year, when Meow returned from her London triumphs. I started the process writing a text which conveyed the state of prostitution through history – from the UR-Goddess to the present day – and in doing so uncovered enough material for many shows. We finally set on a sequence which turns the idea of historical survey back on itself – via a recognition that the story of ‘the courtesan’ is essentially the same in every age – be it in contemporary St Kilda (though one would not want to give this suburb a bad name) or ancient Athens.
Women were classified, regulated and enthusiastically… taxed… by men, in their patriarchal enthusiasm for the regulation of pleasure. Mostly, the girls had little choice but to conform to these patriarchal functions and get on with their work, while masculine hypocrisies tread a tortuous line of keeping virtuous wives walled up at home and prostitutes firmly under organised control in designated areas. Of course, as the history of prostitution was, until recently, written largely by men, we find not a great deal written about male whores – though it seems from the odd tidbit of information that they were pretty busy as well. The wider metaphysical resonances of the act of prostitution, the process of selling “the skin and the teeth”, find sympathetic correspondences in the arts of the stage – the business of self-presentation being not too far removed in essence from selling the body for hire. Both spheres of activity have their share of the “magnificent and strange”, comic and tragic in their attempt to forestall the flux of earthly time, provide the distraction of the marvellous, soothe existential sadness and mollify the fear of death.
Freedom from desire, through sleep or self-denial and prayer, brings peace – but a peace whose fragility is daily assaulted by the prolific and gaudy joy of sexuality whose sting touches us, humbles us, makes us able to love and reach the full richness of our human possibilities. Love and death are different sides of the same coin and our literature and history afford many examples of this dichotomy. The sting of the flesh is also a rich resource for comedy – desire strips away artifice and leaves us at our most vulnerable and consequently ridiculous – as both Lysistrata and Falstaff, restoration comedy and many more examples demonstrate.
In all of this rich material for theatre we have been guided, provoked, assisted and occasionally editorially circumscribed by the razor sharp intelligence of Meow to form a collaboration under the watchful eye of director and writer Cameron Menzies. I have explored my fascination and respect for the craft and traditions of both the “show tune” and the golden years of Hollywood (remember I made six CD’s of Franz Waxman’s film music many years ago) in what I hope will prove a diverting and entertaining romp through the raunchy, ridiculous, tragic and comic arena of human experience. Yes – of course there is a serious side to this piece: but there is a lot of fun as well in the recognition of human frailty and capacity for self-delusion, relieved by the occasional tune. Enjoy. RICHARD MILLS Artistic Director, Composer & Conductor
Director's Message Cameron Menzies
’Tis Pity: An Operatic Fantasia on Selling the Skin and the Teeth came about from discussions with Richard Mills after I directed the production of the Brecht/ Weill’s Die Sieben Todsünden in 2015 which starred Meow Meow as both Anna 1 and Anna 2. Richard was interested in exploring the idea of the history of the courtesan and so we started talks about what his new commission could be and how it might come to life. Broadening this idea, we looked at the life of the showgirl and the workers of the theatre and the ideas of transaction in life. We are all selling or buying something.
This Song Cycle of Ten Vignettes takes us on a Vaudevillian romp through the ages, in which Meow and Kanen as clowns of the theatre portray many tropes of life through song and dance. We are joined by three extraordinary dancers, who will be an integral part the way our world will metamorphose in front of your very eyes. This is the fifth new commission that I have had the great honour and joy to work on with Victorian Opera. Pulling brand new works off the page for the first time is both thrilling and terrifying at the same time. It is however a wonderfully creative way to work as there are no established rules or expectations to deal with. It has been wonderful to collaborate with Richard Mills on such a creative level and to come back together with Meow Meow for this brand new production. CAMERON MENZIES Director
ÂŠ Charlie Kinross
Production ’Tis Pity: An Operatic Fantasia On Selling the Skin and the Teeth
4–8 February 2017 Melbourne Recital Centre Elisabeth Murdoch Hall
Cast Meow Meow Kanen Breen
Composer & Arranger Richard Mills
Dancers Alexander Bryce Thomas Johansson Patrick Weir
Operatic Libretto Richard Mills Additional Material Meow Meow, Cameron Menzies Concept by Richard Mills, Meow Meow, Cameron Menzies
Orchestra Victoria Concertmaster Roger Jonsson
Running time is approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes without interval
Violin Yi Wang Principal 1st Violin~ Tomomi Brennan Associate Principal 1st Violin Erica Kennedy Associate Principal 1st Violin~ Binny Baik Alyssa Conrau ~ Lubino Fernandes ~ Rachel Gamer Matthew Hassall Rachael Hunt ~ Mara Miller ~ Philip Nixon ~ John Noble Martin Reddington ~ Christine Ruiter Rebecca Adler* Jo Beaumont* Miranda Matheson* Ruby Paskas* Ioana Tache*
Creative Team Conductor Richard Mills Director Cameron Menzies Design Meow Meow, Cameron Menzies Lighting Designer Eduard Inglés Sound Designer Jim Atkins Choreographic Consultant Kate Denborough Illusion Consultant Ross Skiffington Stage Manager Laura Hansford Deputy Stage Manager Luke Hales Production Manager Eduard Inglés Repetiteurs Phoebe Briggs, Phillipa Safey
Viola Paul McMillan Principal ~ Jason Bunn Acting Associate Principal Catherine Bishop Nadine Delbridge Suying Aw* Cello Melissa Chominsky Principal Diane Froomes Associate Principal ~ Sarah Cuming ~ Philippa Gardner Tania Hardy-Smith Andrea Taylor Double Bass Damien Eckersley Principal Dennis Vaughan Associate Principal ~ Davin Holt ~ Matthew Thorne Flute Lisa-Maree Amos Principal Karen Schofield Associate Principal Oboe Stephen Robinson Principal ~ Joshua de Graaf Associate Principal Dafydd Camp Principal Cor Anglais ~
Trumpet Mark Fitzpatrick Principal Anthony Pope Associate Principal Trombone Scott Evans Principal Tony Gilham Associate Principal ~ Benjamin Anderson Principal Bass Trombone Timpani Guy du BlĂŞt Principal ~ Percussion Richard Gleeson Principal^ ~ Conrad Nilsson Associate Principal Harp Melina Van Leeuwen Principal^ Piano Phoebe Briggs+ Ondes Martenot Jacob Abela+ * = Guest Musician ^ = Guest Musician Acting in a Principal Role ~ = OV Musician not appearing in this performance + = VO Music Staff
Clarinet Paul Champion Principal Andrew Mitchell Principal Bass Clarinet
Acknowledgements With thanks to National Institute of Circus Arts, MTC Costume Department, Professor Mel Gordon, Show Works, Technical Direction Company and sex-lexis.com/sex-Dictionary/lick-spigot
Saxophone Justin Kenealy Principal^
Supported by Victorian Opera New Work Syndicate
Bassoon Lucinda Cran Principal Timothy Murray Principal Contrabassoon~ Horn Jasen Moulton Principal Heath Parkinson Associate Principal ~ Linda Hewett Principal Third Horn ~ Sydney Braunfeld ~ Rachel Shaw 9
ÂŠ Charlie Kinross
â€™Tis Pity: An Operatic Fantasia on Selling the Skin and the Teeth PETIT FANFARE [Kanen as Puppet Master with Meow Meow as Puppet] Come now, come now, please be still Attention to our vaudeville
Ten vignettes of selling skin Through the ages drenched in sin
Lush and louche weâ€™ll form a nexus For the indiscriminate mingling of the sexes
We are both the question and the answer In this sumptuous extravaganza
We are certain to amaze ya With our free for all fantasia [Meow Meow pushes her own pedestal to centre stage]
Biographies ’Tis Pity
RICHARD MILLS AM Composer/Conductor
CAMERON MENZIES Director
Richard Mills is one of Australia’s most prolific and internationally recognised composers. He pursues a diverse career as a composer, conductor and artistic director.
Cameron has worked with Opera Australia, Victorian Opera, Short Black Opera, Malthouse Theatre, STC, ANAM, MSO, AIOC, Oper Köln, the Deutsche Oper Berlin and Diva Opera United Kingdom. Cameron is a Helpmann Nominated and Green Room Nominated Director, the recipient of the 2011 Berlin New Music Opera Award, the 2008 Bayreuth Opera Award from Opera Foundation Australia/ DAAD and The Besen Family Artist Program (Direction), Malthouse Theatre. In 2014 he made his international directorial debut with his critically acclaimed production of Don Giovanni for Diva Opera UK. His international productions have toured Europe, South Africa and China.
He has held numerous prestigious posts, and received many scholarships, fellowships and awards including an AM, in 1999. He is currently Artistic Director of Victorian Opera, and has previously been Artistic Director of the West Australian Opera 1997–2012, Director of the Australian Music Project for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra 2002–2008 and Musica Viva’s Composer of the Year in 2008. Richard regularly conducts the leading orchestras and opera companies of Australia and has an extensive discography of orchestral works including his own compositions.
EDUARD INGLÉS Lighting Designer
JIM ATKINS Sound Designer
Eduard has created lighting designs for some of the most prestigious dance, theatre and opera companies in both Europe and Australia. Since moving to Melbourne from Barcelona in 2004, he has worked as a designer for theatrical productions and exhibitions including; Laughter and Tears (Victorian Opera), The Key (Dislocate), Dance of the Bee (Astra), Rembrandt's Wife (Victorian Opera), If These Walls Could Talk…? (Dislocate), Bradman Hall Of Fame (Bradman Museum), Leap of Faith (National Institute of Circus Arts), Racing Gallery (National Sports Museum), A Newcastle Story (Newcastle Museum), Silverscreen (Callum Morton), Last Orders (National Institute of Circus Arts), and Curiosity (Dislocate).
Jim Atkins’ recent work includes sound design and operation for Nixon in China (Auckland Festival) and the 2016 Ring Cycle (Opera Australia). Recent work for Victorian Opera includes Sondheim trilogy (Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd) plus productions of Banquet of Secrets, The Riders, The Flying Dutchman, Nixon in China and Maria de Buenos Aires. Other productions include: Chroma (The Australian Ballet); Songs From the Middle (Eddie Perfect/ ANAM); Acoustic Life of Sheds, Namatjira (Big hART); En Masse (Genevieve Lacy); Pleasure Gardens sound installation (Sydney Festival/Genevieve Lacy/Jan Bang), and Jeff Mills and Derrick May (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra). Future productions include Victorian Opera’s Cunning Little Vixen and The Black Rider.
Biographies ’Tis Pity
MEOW MEOW Meow has written original repertoire with Iain Grandage, Lance Horne, Jherek Bischoff, Megan Washington and Thomas Lauderdale. In concert she performs this and the Weimar and chanson repertoire to Palmer and Radiohead, with San Francisco Symphony, Oregon Symphony, American Pops Orchestra, Pink Martini and the NY Pops. Meow most recently performed as Titania/Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night's Dream at Shakespeare's Globe directed by Emma Rice, in a programme of lost and banned Weimar works with Barry Humphries and the Australian Chamber Orchestra for Edinburgh International Festival, London Cadogan Hall and Tanglewood Music Festival US. She has also performed in concert with her show Meow Meow's Pandemonium at Royal Festival Hall with the London Philharmonic.
Theatre: Brecht/Weill's Die Dreigroschenoper/Threepenny Opera (London Philharmonic, Paris Théatre des Champs-Elysées, Royal Festival Hall, cond Jurowski, Jenny), Die Sieben Todsünden/ Seven Deadly Sins (Victorian Opera, Hamer Hall dir Cameron Menzies), The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (West End, dir Emma Rice, La Maitresse), Le Bell Indifférent (Cocteau, Greenwich Music Festival US, dir Ted Huffman), De Materie (Andriessen, LA Philharmonic, Disney Hall, cond Reinbert de Leeuw). Im wunderschönen Monat Mai (Schubert/Schumann/de Leeuw, Australian National Academy of Music, dir Rodney Fisher). Original music theatre works from Sydney Opera House to NY Lincoln Center to Berlin's Bar Jeder Vernunft commissioned by numerous international arts festivals as well as by Pina Bausch, David Bowie, and Mikhail Baryshnikov: An Audience with Meow Meow (Berkeley Rep, dir Emma Rice) (Boston Cutler Majestic, dir Leigh Silverman). Apocalypse Meow (Southbank Centre), Feline Intimate (Sydney Opera House, London Wonderground, Edinburgh international Festival Fringe prize), Meow Meow in Concert (Apollo West End), Vamp (Sydney Opera House, dir Michael Kantor), Beyond Glamour (incl. Soho Theatre), Meow Meow's Little Matchgirl, (Malthouse Theatre, Sydney Festival, Queen Elizabeth Hall London, dir Marion Potts ) Meow Meow's Little Mermaid (Malthouse Theatre/Sydney/Perth/ Auckland International Arts Festivals, dir Michael Kantor).
KANEN BREEN Kanen’s past engagements for Victorian Opera include the 2016 premiere season of Paul Grabowsky’s Banquet Of Secrets and the roles of Tweedledee, The White King and Violet in Through The Looking Glass, The Beadle in Sweeney Todd and The War Correspondant in Remembrance. Roles for Opera Australia include Camille in The Merry Widow, Nanki Poo in The Mikado, Ralph Rackstraw in HMS Pinafore, Marco Palmieri in The Gondoliers, Caius in Falstaff, Alfred in Die Fledermaus, Monostatos in The Magic Flute, Sellem in The Rake’s Progress, Pong in Turandot, Andres/Cochenille/Pittichinaccio/Frantz/ Nathanael in The Tales Of Hoffmann, Pirelli in Sweeney Todd, Albert Herring and Johnny in Bliss at the Edinburgh Festival.
Other engagements include the 2016 Brisbane Festival season of Snow White, Nanki Poo in The Mikado, Nadir in The Pearlfishers, Ramiro in Cenerentola, and Andy Warhol in The Perfect American all for Opera Queensland, and other roles include Rodolfo in Baz Luhrman’s La Bohème on Broadway. Also during 2017 he appears in the role of The Witch of Endor in the Glyndebourne production of Handel’s Saul and Rufus Wainright’s Prima Donna at the Adelaide Festival.
Biographies ’Tis Pity
ALEXANDER BRYCE Dancer
THOMAS JOHANSSON Dancer
PATRICK WEIR Dancer
Alexander trained at the Anne Fraser School of Dance on the Sunshine Coast Queensland for nine years, before being accepted into the Queensland University of Technology. Studying classical ballet from a young age, Alexander has completed the RAD syllabus. He graduated (Dux) with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Dance) and has since worked with many internationally renowned choreographers and artists such as Simon Hoy, Natalie Weir, Paul White, Lucas Jervis, Rani Luther, Tim Podesta and Daniel Jaber. Working across a wide range of genres and styles, Alexander is presently a principal dancer with the Melbourne Ballet Company.
Thomas began his formal dance training at the age of 16 at Ballarat Ballet Centre before enrolling in Dance World Studios' Diploma of Classical Ballet (2005). He was awarded a full scholarship to continue training at Ballet Theatre Victoria and graduated from their full time course in 2008. Since graduating, Thomas has amassed an impressive body of work including contracts with the Duprada Dance Company, Tasmanian Classical Ballet Company (TCBC), CATS (RUG) & Opera Australia. He looks forward to making his Victorian Opera debut with ’Tis Pity.
From NSW, Patrick has performed with Byron Ballet, QL2 Youth Dance Company and STRUT Dance in DecaDance Perth by Batsheva Dance Company's Artistic Director, Ohad Naharin. In 2012 Patrick travelled to the United Kingdom with a Cecchetti Ballet and Big Brother Movement (BBM) Scholarship. He graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Dance), where he worked with choreographers Rochelle Carmichael, Lee Serle, Anna Smith, Stephanie Lake, Rheannan Port and Prue Lang. In April, he performs in Sir Matthew Bourne's New Adventures, Re:Bourne and Arts Centre Melbourne’s production of Lord of the Flies as Simon.
Take off your skin and dance around in your bones â€Ś 15 September â€“ 8 October Merlyn Theatre | The Coopers Malthouse Presented by Victorian Opera and Malthouse Theatre. 17
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ÂŠ Charlie Kinross
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The Sleeping Beauty 11â€“18 March Arts Centre Melbourne | Playhouse
ÂŠ Charlie Kinross
ÂŠ Charlie Kinross
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