|The cast of Oz Opera's Don Giovanni at Marysville Community Centre|
By Bryce Hallett
Victoria, they destroyed almost the entire town.
The February 2009 inferno claimed 40 lives and destroyed 536 homes. More than three years after the tragedy, residents are looking to the future as new accommodation, schools and houses are built. Most prominent of all is the new $9.3 million Marysville Community Centre.
In recent months, the Community Centre has hosted concerts and comedy festivals,
and, most recently, an ambitious performance of Michael Gow's entertaining
version of Don Giovanni by Oz Opera, the touring and access arm of Opera Australia.
For one night only, the centre was transformed from a utilitarian and austere space into an elegant banquet hall befitting a Mozart opera. It was the result of a year of planning by the General Manager of Oz Opera, Sandra Willis, and her production team. “From the outset, there was an overriding desire to make the event happen, come what may.” said Willis.
"When I came up to Marysville a year ago to look at the site and meet with Graham Taylor, [a member of the Lions Club and Operations Manager for Rochford Estate] he was excited by the prospect of Oz Opera performing in Marysville,” said Willis. “He was determined that it should happen and facilitated our visit... In talking to Graham, I was moved by the personal stories."
|Marysville lighting rig|
It was decided that Oz Opera would conclude its extensive 2012 national tour in Marysville. It didn't matter that the population of the town numbered little more than 200 or that Oz Opera would not only be bringing its scenery, costumes, props and lighting rig but also its own purpose‐built stage.
Graham Taylor is proud to have Oz Opera in the town's midst and has no doubt that the performers and musicians will have an impact. "Now is the time for people to be supporting the community and to realise that we are still on the map," he said. "It's a vulnerable time and [it's] vital that everyone pitches in... Having the opera here means a lot and we hope it won't be the first or the last [time]."
Oz Opera tours widely. This year alone it has been to Newcastle, Orange, Tamworth, Mt Gambier and Bendigo, among many other suburbs and towns, where its scaled‐ down yet lovingly staged production of Don Giovanni has seduced audiences, many who have not experienced opera before.
Oz Opera veteran, Eddie Muliaumaseali'i, has toured 10 times with the company. He said, "'I'm very fortunate because I enjoy the pressures and the lifestyle. It's an exhausting schedule; it makes you fit and prepared. In terms of developing the art form and audience reach, the touring arm of the company is fundamental to the future of opera.”
|Setting up in Marysville|
Gow locates the action in the main square of a small 1950’s Italian village ‐ a
versatile and handsome design by Roger Kemp, lit by Matt Scott ‐ which manages to look convivial one moment and foreboding the next as the story progresses. The cast assembled are at varying rungs of the ladder but most are experienced company singers who offer confident, intelligent and brightly acted characterisations. Among them are Luke Gabbedy, Adrian Tamburini, Eddie Muliaumaseali'í, Emma Castelli, Sam Roberts‐Smith, Katherine Wiles and Samuel Dundas. They are well supported by a fine orchestra reduction by Andrew Greene and, for this performance, conducted by Tahu Matheson with insight and verve. The nine‐piece orchestra is highly accomplished and brings not only a lightness of touch but also gravity and majesty to the comedy and drama.
It is the first time that an Oz Opera audience has been seated at round tables with the musicians at ground level and in close proximity to the audience.