Only Sydney could host a season of opera as fabulously colorful as La Traviata staged on a floating platform on top of Sydney Harbor.
Okay, there’s nothing special about outdoor opera, I hear you say – it’s been done in amphitheaters, parks and gorgeous gardens all over the world for decades. True, but how many times have you seen it performed on water? Not only has Opera Australia pulled off a production on a floating stage resembling a vast, framed mirror on top of Sydney Harbor – its cast also performs underneath a 3.5 tone, 9m high x 9m wide chandelier glittering with the refracted light of 10,000 SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS, suspended from a crane. Yes, that got our attention, too. So, when it’s time for the ravishing but, sadly, consumptive Violetta’s famous ‘Sempre libera’ aria about how she intends to spend the rest of her days having fun and frolics, the chandelier descends to collect her from the stage, and she soars heavenwards to sing it from on high. Fortunately, neither of the two superb sopranos who alternate in the role suffers from vertigo.
Directed by internationally acclaimed Francesca Zambello, the jaw-dropping stage set was created by Brian Thomson, with costume design by the talented Tess Schofield. With a cast populated by gloriously attired beau monde and demimonde, drag queens and pink matadors – even Violetta’s deathbed is covered in decadent black satin – she has served up an exotic riot of SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS and gaudy burlesque.
There has been nothing quite like this massive undertaking, which cost a cool AU$11.5 million and involves around 130 performers, 240 staff and 60 volunteers. Staged under the night sky, with the twinkling lights of Sydney’s famous shoreline cityscape as a backdrop, punctuated with fireworks from five barges moored around the stage and the occasional blast of a horn from a passing ferry, it truly is something to tell the grandchildren about in the future.
With unanimous plaudits for the sensational performances from a stellar cast who dance, act and sing as though their lives depend on it, as well as the sheer spectacle and creative imagination of the production, it has deservedly earned Opera Australia a place in the history books.