Reception in support of Opera Queensland’s production of Candide
Kaye and I are delighted to welcome you all to Fernberg this evening to join us in celebrating Opera Queensland’s forthcoming production of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide.
Let me begin by congratulating the company – whose representation here tonight includes board members, staff and the fabulous artistic talent – on taking the bold decision to mount a new and exclusive production of this marvellous work.
As most of you know, Candide is well outside the top fifty most-performed operas in the world, so it takes a confident and adventurous company to embark on such an undertaking.
Indeed, as Patron, I see the decision as symbolic of the commitment, passion and, not unlike Candide himself, optimism, which remain central to the spirit of this company.
Rather than retreat into the comfort of tradition, Opera Queensland has continued its commitment to innovation and creativity, and I, as Patron, and Governor, congratulate them warmly on that.
Kaye and I are very much looking forward to seeing this work performed on stage in this State for the very first time. We hope that Queensland audiences will take this rare opportunity to explore the operatic world beyond the borders of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
I am sure you all know this, but those borders were really I am told defined by just five composers – Mozart, Verdi, Rossini, Puccini and Bizet. Of their ‘top ten’ operas, only Puccini’s Tosca and Madama Butterfly were first performed in the 20th century, and then at the very beginning. The others date back as far as Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, first performed 230 years ago!
Not for one moment to “tilt” at that ‘top ten’, but certainly, if anything can blow away any established predictable perception of what opera is, it is Candide, with its bizarre cast of characters, improbable plot, Bernstein’s wonderful music, and lyrics which are faithful to the spirit of Voltaire’s original satire. And as vital, engaged Queenslanders, we all welcome variety!
As Kaye and I are comprehensively discovering, our peak arts bodies are wonderfully committed to exposing Queenslanders to newly uplifting experiences – and I truly congratulate Opera Queensland on this latest initiative.
I was interested to find out just how often Australian audiences had actually had the opportunity to see this gem, and was delighted to discover that the Australian première production was presented in nineteen eighty-two.
That was by another of our nation’s most innovative and adventurous companies, Sydney’s Nimrod Theatre. (That production, incidentally, featured the now internationally celebrated actor and singer, Philip Quast, in the title role, and Australia’s own theatre legend, John Bell, as director.)
Among other productions in the intervening thirty-three years has been Lindy Hume’s own semi-staged production for Opera in the Domain in Sydney back in 2010. I know she has absolutely relished the opportunity to direct this sparkling, fresh, fully-staged production, including a chorus of local singers who have been working with a team of professionals to prepare for their appearance in the marvellous final chorus on the closing night. What an experience!
And on an additional historical note, Kaye and I are so very pleased you are all here tonight. This edifice is now 150 years old. And as part of that, I note that you are the first of our guests to be visiting the newly refurnished Eastern Balcony. I hope you will take the opportunity to go out and take a look at it.
We are very much looking forward to seeing the production and to hearing some of Queensland’s and Australia’s finest singers and actors when the season opens on the twenty-third of July.
Kaye and I particularly acknowledge those long term Queensland donors and supporters present here tonight; your support for opera culture is imperative.
We wish Lindy, her creative team and the performers well for the final weeks of preparation – it will be challenging, but I trust that, after eight exhilarating performances, they will conclude, like Doctor Pangloss, that “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds”.
Thank you — and enjoy your evening.