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Opera Australia changes as season starts

by Shamistha de Soysa
It’s time for re-assigning roles at Opera Australia – and that’s not confined to the stage! It was recently announced that Rory Jeffes was to be Opera Australia’s new CEO, (Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini has managed this position since the departure of Craig Hassall). Jeffes is currently Executive Director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and so not as well known to Melbourne audiences. Classic Melbourne nevertheless wishes Mr Jeffes well in his new position, and looks forward to seeing what he brings to the company.
Unfortunately, as preparations are under way for Opera Australia’s Melbourne autumn season, starting with Carmen on May 4, in Sydney the company is also farewelling Anthony Legge, its longtime Associate Music Director. It may be part of the tyranny of distance that Melbournians feel when considering the activities of the national company that, despite his achievements, Legge is not a household name in this city, even for opera-lovers. This is perhaps due to his role, as discussed in an interview with Sounds like Sydney. Editor Shamistha de Soysa explains:

“Much of Anthony Legge’s work at Opera Australia has been behind the scenes, guiding the singers in the sound they make and helping them understand their roles. However, audiences would have seen him conducting a range of operas from Mozart to Puccini to Prokofiev”.

Ironically, Legge himself is well aware of the importance of Melbourne to the company he has been with for seven years, telling de Soysa:

“Another achievement with which I was partly involved and am proud of, was performing The Ring in one go. I talked to Adrian [Collette] a lot about this. Not one opera each year, which takes four years of performing one of the four operas each year and in the fifth year making the cycle, by which time you’ve run out of money. That’s what’s happened in a lot of places where they’ve never achieved a cycle. We decided to be really dangerous and do the whole cycle together. It was easier to raise money – all the Wagnerites are absolutely enthusiastic about going to the whole thing so that’s what we did in 2013 which was a Wagner anniversary year anyway and then we repeated it in 2016.

“It was an enormous success. We were lucky to get international singers to give up that amount of time to sing in Australia. If you’re only in one of the operas like Sieglinde, for example, you’re hanging around in-between your performances, so it’s very hard to pin down international singers for that length of time, but we achieved it and to achieve two Ring cycles like that is more than most opera companies have done.”

It seems that Legge reserves his praise for others in the company, and the wider world of opera, but his own achievements are significant. Read the whole of Shamistha de Soysa’s interview with Anthony Legge to understand why he is so well regarded, why his departure is a great loss to Opera Australia – and what he plans to do next.



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