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Carmen features in Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour this year

Sydney offers a great opera on a great harbour

John Daly-Peoples
Fri, 27 Jan 2017

Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour
Carmen by Georges Bizet
Mrs Macquarie's Chair
Sydney Harbour
March 24-April 23

It used to be that cultural tourists and opera lovers had going to an outdoor performance at Verona’s Arena at the top of their bucket list. That doesn’t apply any longer. These days it is going to an opera performance on Sydney Harbour

Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour is known internationally as one of the world’s great opera events and this year it will feature one of the most well-known and loved operas of all time – Bizet’s Carmen. 

Handa Opera productions use the iconic harbourside setting with a view of the Sydney’s skyline including the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House in the background. Into this setting is added a remarkable pop-up opera stage with outstanding singers, colourful, eye-catching costumes and spectacular dance sequences.

The NSW government, through its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW, partnered with Opera Australia in 2012 to establish Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour and continues this partnership in 2017.

NSW Trade, Tourism and Major Events Minister Stuart Ayres said the event will attract visitors from around Australia and the world to Sydney. “Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour in just five years has established itself as one of the world’s great outdoor operas.  The event showcases our spectacular harbour and one of our finest artistic companies to a global audience, providing a huge boost to the NSW visitor economy.” 

Opera Australia artistic director Lyndon Terracini said Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour was an international event where tens of thousands of people fly in to experience an outdoor opera spectacle.  “It’s one of the four most important outdoor opera events in the world now, and people have responded to it incredibly.”

Previously, Handa Opera has featured Aida, Madame Butterfly, La Traviata and Turandot. Carmen was previously performed in 2013 when it was directed by Gale Edwards.

The productions are made possible thanks to Haruhisa Handa’s International Foundation for Arts and Culture (IFAC). “Each year, Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour thrills new audiences and opera lovers alike. The International Foundation for Arts and Culture (IFAC) is delighted to be involved in an event which brings opera to people in the most spectacular fashion; outdoors, and with the backdrop of Sydney Harbour,” Dr Handa said.

Last year’s performance of Puccini’s Turandot garnered a raft of reviews with this reviewer noting that “Musically, this is a remarkable performance, even though it is the enhanced voices we are hearing rather than unmiked pure sounds. The technical accomplishment is remarkable in delivering clarity of voice.”

This new production by Gale Edwards is going to be set in mid-20th century Spain so it will probably have echoes and references to the Franco era. Expect something extraordinary from the set, which is being designed by Brian Thomson, one of Australia’s more imaginative set designers. As well as being a theatre and opera set designer, he is used to providing designs on the grand scale – he was responsible for the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games,  the 2003 Rugby World Cup opening ceremony and the closing ceremony of the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

The custom-built site has an impressive range of dining and drinking options that make the most of the magnificent harbour views and nightly fireworks. The stunning “Platinum Club” – a pop-up dining room, bar and lounge set among the tree tops – offers fine dining before the show, high tea and drinks at the interval as well as post-performance drinks. Dinner and show packages will be available with variable components that include a three-course dinner, interval drinks, program and performance. 

Carmen: the story

Carmen, who works at the cigarette factory, captivates young men but the guard, Don Jose isn’t interested in her. After a fight at the factory, Carmen is arrested but she seduces Don Jose and runs away.
Don Jose is imprisoned for letting Carmen escape but, when he is released, goes to meet her at a tavern and tells her of his feelings. She convinces him to join a group of smugglers with her.
Carmen, however, is already in love with Escamillo, a bullfighter. Don Jose’s childhood friend, Micaela, who is secretly in love with Don Jose, tells him his mother is seriously ill so he leaves to go home.
The following month, at the square in front of the bullfight arena, Escamillo is welcomed by spectators as he enters the arena. Carmen remains in the square. Jose appears and demands she leave with him but she refuses. Carmen throws away the ring that Jose once gave her and he stabs her to death with a dagger.

John Daly-Peoples
Fri, 27 Jan 2017
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Carmen features in Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour this year