Pinchgut Opera: 2017 – 2018 Series of Early Opera Delights

Viv Genaux
David Hansen and Celeste Lazarenko, Pinchgut Opera production Cavalli's Giasone December 2013, photograph Keith Saunders

David Hansen and Celeste Lazarenko, Pinchgut Opera production Cavalli’s Giasone December 2013, photograph Keith Saunders

Pinchgut Opera based in Sydney has recently announced its 2018 Season of early opera delights featuring the music of love and life, which reflects the classical maturity of our society.

A dynamic duo George Friderich Handel’s Athalia and Johann Adolph Hasse’s Artaserse, will be sure to dazzle followers who enjoy the Pinchgut’s performances of rarely performed early music gems. Why? Well they consistently reach a pinnacle of perfection, which is reflected in their streamlined productions and passionate pursuit of high standards in performance.

erin helyard

Dr Erin Halyard, Artistic Director, Pinchgut Opera

Achieving excellence the Pinchgut Opera as a company, is driven forward by their Helpmann award winning artistic director and founder Dr Erin Helyard who conducts The Orchestra of the Antipodes, whose players all perform on period instruments.

A virtuosic soloist performing on harpsichord or fortepiano, Erin Halyard is Senior Lecturer in Musicology and Historical Performance at Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, inspiring historical enquiry for the next generation of musicians, who are completing their studies at the University of Melbourne.


George Frideric Handel

Athalia by London based German born composer George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) was an effective starting point for English oratorio, a moral musical entertainment sung by various styles of voice.

Its text is usually based on a story from the Bible, which is narrated. It was not intended for liturgical use and was first presented to the people who could attend, in churches and concert halls.

Achieving a balance between austerity and exuberance, Athalia was completed in 1733.

It was performed first in Oxford at the Sheldonian Theatre, followed by London at Covent Garden theatre in 1735. It comes from a tradition in which dancing, choruses, instrumental interludes, and dazzlingly complex stage settings were the norm during a time when intellectuals debated the merits of opera seria (serious) and opera buffa (sentimental) works.

This is an example of opera seria, presenting a tale of ‘usurping a tyrannous monarch’, so certainly seems to reflect contemporary times.


Soprano Emma Pearson

Combining solos with chorus in a vivid characterisation through music, Athalia features soprano Emma Pearson as the daughter of King Ahab of Israel and Queen Jezebel, who is hell bent on murdering the heirs to the throne.

Handel was balancing on a fine line here, hoping his work would appeal to England’s Roman Catholic Jacobite sympathisers many of whom were based in Oxford without offending his Protestant Hanoverian patrons in London.

Rejoice, oh Judah, this triumphant day!
Let all the goodness of our God display;
whose mercies to the wond’ring world declare;
His chosen people are His chosen care!

Viv Genaux

Mezzo Soprano Vivida Genaux, courtesy Pinchgut Opera

Artaserse has not been performed in Australia before and it is the first time in the Pinchgut Operas 18-year history they have presented a work by Johann Adolph Hasse (1699 – 1783), who was an incredibly popular composer in his day.

Melodic beauty and formal balance were all hallmarks of Hasse’s works. He had been a singer himself in his youth, but chose to go to Italy to study opera.

Augustus the Strong

Augustus the Strong

The version Erin Helyard has chosen was produced in Dresden in 1740, where Hasse had been the Kapellmeister (musical director) for Augustus the Strong of Meissen porcelain fame, since 1731.

It is where Hasse met and married the celebrated Venetian mezzo-soprano of his day, Faustina Bordoni (1700 – 1788).

Genaux 2

Mezzo Soprano Vivica Genoux

Four time Grammy award-nominated American soprano Vivica Genaux will feature alongside Australian born internationally based countertenor David Hansen, a guy who sings high. They are both in great demand.

Guy Who Sings High

Guy Who Sings High, countertenor David Hansen

Just organising the calendars of these two very talented people so they would be able to perform together must have been no mean feat.

Genaux will feature as Mandane, sister to the Prince Artaserse who becomes King of Persia. Arbace, the role David Hansen will sing, was a friend to the Prince and in love with his sister. Tenor Andrew Goodwin will sing the role of Artaserse.

She is taking on the role first sung by Francesca Cuzzoni (1696-1778) who became a great rival of the composer’s wife and eventually died in awful penury. He is taking on the role once sung by the most famous castrato Carlo Broschi, who was called ‘Farinelli’.

Farinelli and Friends

Portrait group: The singer Farinelli and friends c.1750–52, courtesy National Gallery of Victoria

Augustus staged magnificent entertainments at his Dresden court, which included dance, fireworks and music. He inspired the expansion of a musical culture when became a keen patron of the arts, especially for the opera and ballet.

When ArtaSerse was first produced at the Teatro di San Giovanni Grisostomo in Venice on 11 February 1730, it was following the libretto’s first setting by Leonardo Vinci, which had premiered in Rome some six days earlier.

Melbourne Recital Centre

Melbourne Recital Centre

The good news for Melbourne followers of the Pinchgut Opera is that Vivica Genaux will, under the direction of Erin Helyard and the support of the Orchestra of the Antipodes, come to Melbourne to present a concert of arias in the sublime acoustic of the Elizabeth Murdoch Recital Hall at the Melbourne Recital Centre.

The idea of the aria being a ‘refreshing melodic oasis in the midst of an otherwise featureless desert of recitative’ was and remains, very appealing.

Genaux 3

Mezzo Soprano Vivica Genaux

Erin Helyard and Vivica Genaux worked together at Brisbane Baroque in 2016 and for this special event she will sing works by Handel, Hasse, Antonio Vivaldi and other Baroque contemporaries.

Helen Sherman, Irene

Soprano Helen Sherman, Irene

Sung in Italian with English surtitles, the opera Coronation of Poppea, which completes the Pinchgut Opera’s 2017 Season, will be performed at the City Recital Hall in Sydney between November 30 and December 6, 2017.

It will feature the lovely Australian mezzo-soprano Helen Sherman as Poppea Sabina and countertenor Jake Arditti as the Roman Emperor Nero.

The Coronation of Poppea will celebrate some 450 years since the birth of its composer, Claudio Monteverdi who was an important developer of the then new genre of opera.

Monteverdi sought to combine words and music that would ‘move the whole man’ and have both the listener and the player to exceed the constraining boundaries of tradition. He would surely be pleased to know the music of love and life retains the power and the passion to still astound.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, August 2017

Pinchgut Opera 2018 Season


City Recital Hall, Sydney

Thu 21 June 7pm  |  Sat 23 June 2pm  |  Sun 24 June 5pm  |  Tue 26 June 7pm 2018


City Recital Hall, Sydney

Thurs 29 Nov 7pm  |  Sat 1 Dec  2pm  |  Sun 2 Dec 5pm  |  Tues 4 Dec 7pm | Wed 5 Dec 7pm

Subscriptions on Sale August 15, 2018

Vivica Genaux in Concert with Erin Helyard

Melbourne Recital Centre

Friday December 7, 2018

Tickets on Sale August 15, 2018

Pinchgut Opera 2017 Season

Coronation of Poppea,
City Recital Hall, Sydney

Thurs 30 November 7pm | Sat 2 December 2pm | Sun 3 December 5pm | Tues 5 December 7pm | Wed 6 December 7pm 2017


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.