It has been a rich year in the Perth arts scene. Looking back it was the theatre shows where I was most enthralled. The work of two WA artists, a conductor and a director, have also made a strong impression.
Performance of the Year
I’ve been brooding all year on the metaphors in Dmitry Krymov’s Opus 7 (Perth Festival). The production was a requiem for lives obliterated by the Nazi and Soviet regimes. Puppetry, mime, dance, string, cardboard and buckets of flung black paint constructed an immersive journey underpinned by the swagger and pathos of Shostakovich’s music.
Lost & Found’s innovative Trouble in Tahiti was similarly provocative, presented so physically and emotionally close to the audience that the work took on an uncomfortable personal resonance. The opera was set in a home in Perth’s affluent western suburbs where Bernstein’s critique of consumerism and silver screens couldn’t be clearer to the audience watching with voyeuristic fascination from the patio.
In contrast the rippling energy of WA Opera’s The Merry Widow was sheer fun. A young, versatile cast premiered Graham Murphy’s dance-infused, truly beautiful production where every act was a party fizzing with romance and comedy.
Joseph Nolan and the St George’s Cathedral Consort made another outstanding contribution to Perth’s musical landscape with the WA premiere of Handel’s Solomon. The choir were in top form and Nolan’s unerring rhythmic poise and the ferocity of his dramatic intent was the perfect combination for Handel’s music.
Artist of the Year
Jessica Gethin’s tireless work as a conductor has taken her on national and international tours this year. Her approachability makes her a favourite with orchestral players and her interpretation of repertoire is consistently spot on, revealing the kernel of the music whether it is Margaret Sutherland or Nirvana.
Thomas de Mallet Burgess‘s thought-provoking opera direction at WAAPA, Lost & Found Opera and Pinchgut Opera is significantly shaping opera in Australia. His use of pointed irony, uncomfortable metaphors and outrageous humour means his operas always pack a punch.
These are my highlights for 2017, but I didn’t make it to everything so let me know what I might have missed and what your favourites were.