Speaking last year to newly appointed State Opera of South Australia Artistic Director Stuart Maunder, he stated that he was committed to bringing a new generation to the opera through innovation, but not at the expense of the faithful.
True to his word, his debut production in charge, Bizet’s 'Carmen', simultaneously thinks outside and inside the square: Victoria Square, to be exact.
This March, for one night only, the state’s peak opera company will leave home, the Festival Theatre, and take a brief tram ride south for a lavish picnic in the park beneath the stars in Victoria Square/Tarntanyangga. Stuart couldn’t be happier with the venue for the first production in his 2019 programme.
“We weren’t sure where the hell we were going to do it, so we’ve really fallen on our feet as far as Victoria Square is concerned.”
“For one night, we will have upwards of five thousand people seeing this 'Carmen' and it’s in the middle of the city.”
Adelaide has embraced the revitalised square in the last five years, with the masses revelling at popular events such as Tasting Australia and The Royal Croquet Club. 'Carmen' in the Square seeks to capture the outdoor foodie atmosphere that the city loves so much, Stuart says.
“There’s a relationship with East End Cellars. Let’s face it, if you go anywhere near Victoria Square, it has to have something to do with the fact that Adelaide is a great taste capital of the world.”
While East End Cellars will cater for those in the seated areas, there will also be food trucks and outdoor entertainment in the picnic area.
“We’re doing everything we can to break down those barriers of attendance and this should be fun.”
One of the other perceived barriers to attending the opera is cost; productions requiring 48-member choruses and symphony orchestras don’t come cheap. With 'Carmen' in the Square, world-class live opera will be accessible to almost everyone, as Stuart explains.
“We’ve got seats for adults in the southern end and children under 16 go free. So most of the people who go to the show will get their experience from the live screens; it’s like going to a pop concert, where you know Billy Joel is miles away but on the big screen live and personal. So everyone will feel like they are in the best seat in the house.”
Stuart, who will direct 'Carmen' in the Square alongside Russian conductor Oliver von Dohnányi, has assembled a cast of some of Australia’s most promising talent.
“What we’ve tried to do, as I’m trying to do generally with the company, is that if there’s ever an Australian doing fantastically out in the world, we want to bring them back here to sing for their home audience. In this instance, the lead singer, Helen Sherman, is having a very good career in Europe.”
Other new faces that will be joining Sherman’s Carmen are Morgan Pearse, who is touted as one of the finest young baritones of his generation, as Escamillo and soprano Emma Pearson, who Stuart describes as “formidable”, as Micaela.
The trio of young singers will be joined by SOSA favourite tenor James Egglestone as Don Jose, a supporting cast that Stuart says consists of “some very fine Adelaide singers at the top of their tree” and a chorus that is “hot to trot”.
'Carmen' is “probably the world’s most popular opera”, Stuart says. With 'Carmen' in the Square, there has never been a more compelling reason to find out why.
'Carmen' in the Square plays Victoria Square on 23 March.