HOBART BAROQUE is a brand new event celebrating the music of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Until relatively recently performances of music from this period were rare. Even as late as a decade ago Handel had not emerged on opera stages around the world as a 'marketable' composer. Now performances of his operas are regular fare, while the works of Haydn, Cavalli, Vivaldi, Rameau, Charpentier and Monteverdi are being re-discovered and performed to acclaim.
Simultaneously, orchestral music of this period has enjoyed equal popularity and generated hundreds of specialist ensembles.
To date, there has been no festival dedicated specifically to baroque music. That honour falls to Tasmania's capital, Hobart.
April 12 sees the inauguration of HOBART BAROQUE, nine days of exceptional performances by international and local musicians.
The generator of this unique event is the existence of a superb small Georgian theatre in the heart of Hobart, the historic Theatre Royal. Built in 1834, this is the oldest surviving theatre of its type in the Southern Hemisphere, one whose intimacy and splendid acoustics make it the perfect venue for performances of opera and recitals.
Its charms were recognised as long ago as 1946 when Sir Laurence Olivier pleaded for its retention at a time when war or developers led to the demolition of many of London's historic theatres.
Four decades later the celebrated Swedish opera director, Goran Jarveveldt, then working regularly and memorably with Opera Australia, attempted to form the Van Diemen's Land Opera Company. Jarveveldt saw the HobArt Theatre as an antipodean equivalent of the beautiful small opera house attached to the royal palace of Drottningholm in Stockholm. His vision foundered but now his, Olivier's and many other Tasmanian's and mainlander's dream of a festival in this wonderful venue is about to be realised.
"Back in 1988 I attended my first event at Hobart's historic Theatre Royal. It was a performance of Don Giovanni, given by the Australian Opera as part of our Bicentennial Celebrations. I was struck by the charm, intimacy and superb acoustic of this gem of Georgian architecture and ever since I have dreamed of directing a small specialist music festival with this unique building at its heart. Over the past eight years I have lobbied, albeit intermittently and subtly, for such a festival, and now, for my co-producer Jarrod Carland and I, the dream is About to become a reality", says Festival Director, Leo Schofield AM.
On April 12 the Royal will perform at the Royal - a production from the Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House in London's Covent Garden will debut at the Royal in Hobart - the first time the Royal Opera has ever presented a production in Australia.
HOBART BAROQUE will open with an acclaimed production by Rodula Gaitanou of a rare work by Joseph Haydn, premiered in 1776 at his great patron, Prince Esterhazy's palace at Esterhaza in Hungary.
Entitled, somewhat ironically, L'isola disabitata, or The Uninhabited Island, this intimate chamber opera was composed for four remarkable young virtuosic singers and an orchestra of twenty players, specially assembled, conducted by Oliver Gooch who has made his career at Covent Garden.
L'isola disabitata will feature Madeleine Pierard, Anna Devin, Ed Lyon and Changhan Lim, directed by Rodula Gaitanou.
Sir Antonio Pappano, Music Director of the Royal Opera said, "On behalf of everyone here at the Opera House, I'm so thrilled that we've been invited to open the festival with L'isola disabitata. This opportunity is extremely important for us to give something back to Australia – a country that has given us so many wonderful artists. I have had the honour of working with Dame Joan Sutherland and Sir Charles Mackerras on many occasions – and now we're giving something back."
Many Australians will also participate in the first HOBART BAROQUE. Sydney's Pinchgut Opera, which pioneered productions of early operas in Sydney, last year premiered Vivaldi's opera Griselda, featuring David Hansen, a sensational young Australian counter tenor who has made his mark in Europe. David returns to Australia for a one-off recital with some of Australia's fine musicians.