Brad’s Blog – Bringing it to the Boil

Original version appeared on the 22nd June 2015 and is available at ‘Brad’s Blog’


I write this as rehearsals for our production of The Marriage of Figaro are underway. All the cast and creative team are safely arrived, ensconced in their apartments and accommodation, and I have received the first message from the rehearsal room, even though I am currently on a train into London! Everything is apparently off to a great start. The first day of rehearsals is exciting and nerve-inducing: everyone wonders to themselves whether the ingredients in the room will gel, take fire, or collapse!

Putting a production together really is like cooking, whether the show is new or a revival. We have the work itself – the opera – and the people who have been invited to execute it, within the existing framework of the opera company. This particular Figaro collection of ‘ingredients’ is particularly appetising. We have an eminent, respected director in Neil Armfield, making his first visit to West Australian Opera to revive his own production (already successfully presented in Perth, most recently in 2009). It’s a privilege to have Neil with us – I have long been an admirer not only of his theatrical work but also of the movie, Candy, which he made with Heath Ledger.

Neil is complimented by our guest conductor, Antony Walker, also making his debut with the company. Antony has a thrilling reputation for his work in Europe and the United States, as a regular guest with Opera Australia, as well as a history of innovation and exploration with Pinchgut Opera and other companies in Sydney. We’ve often communicated over the years, but I have yet to meet him in the flesh – and I’ll get my chance next week in Perth, when I arrive to join the company.

Neil’s production – an affectionate, emotionally-rich view of Figaro – is a well-known quantity. The artists who will fill the roles on stage are a mix of the familiar and new to Perth. We are delighted to welcome back James Clayton as Figaro, Fiona Campbell as Cherubino, and Elvira Fatykhova as the Countess, as well as other much-loved members of the WAO family. Because of Emma Matthews’ recent withdrawal due to ill-health, which we very much regret but to whom we send our love and best wishes for a speedy recovery, there was a bit of concentrated activity in the office last week. We have been incredibly fortunate to have secured Emma Pearson as Susanna in Emma Matthews’ place. Emma Pearson comes hot-foot from a successful career in Germany, and although I have been planning to hear her in Perth I didn’t anticipate that we would be lucky enough to make it happen this way! We welcome her warmly, and eagerly await the opportunity to hear her in a role she has made her own over the past few years. Samuel Dundas also makes his Company debut, as the Count, and we welcome him.

Figaro is evergreen – mainly because each cast who perform it get to infuse it with their unique qualities and energy. Each cast builds their own, temporary family together, and as Artistic Director I never tire of watching how balance, communication and collaboration are built between artists. It is a wonderful example of distributed productivity – none of us can contribute another artist’s essence (only they can), so the chemistry is always unique and always fascinating. I wish you could share these excitements and challenges with us, but the rehearsal room is necessarily a private, precious space, which we harvest for you in performance. Nevertheless, I hope this short piece gives you a flavour of the process, and I very much hope to see you at a performance next month.

Until next time,

Brad Cohen
Artistic Director