Critic Reviews of Pacific Opera


What do you do? You’ve spent three to four years working hard on your voice to perform some of the greatest music in the world to the best of your ability. Then what? Sydney is lucky to have Pacific Opera to step in at this point, the company that has risen from the turmoil of 2016 to stamp itself clearly on the landscape as the premiere ensemble for emerging singers. Pacific Opera was established in 2003 to create a platform for young Australian artists to transition from higher education to full time careers in the opera industry. There’s nothing else like it in Sydney and the team of supporters and professionals behind the recent rebirth are all to be soundly congratulated for keeping this company alive and kicking. CLASSIKON REVIEW BY LLIANE CLARK [13 April 2017]


... the fifty-seven piece orchestra, under the baton of Alex Briger, was, for the most part, in fine fettle. And that the singers were, at the very least, uniformly strong, probably as much so as in any opera production I’ve seen or heard; a number far exceeding what may be regarded as relatively faint praise. Bearing in mind these are performers on the cusp of careers, the praise is, in fact, not at all faint... Given that Pacific Opera is, essentially, set up and dedicated as an educational company, it augurs well indeed for the future of operatic performance in this country and well beyond... As far as I could hear, opera and symphonic education must be close, at, or exceeding, world’s best practice. SYKE ON STAGE [3 November 2015]

Thinking about the performance a few days down the track, I think what most impressed me the sheer ambition of the project, and what it says about Pacific Opera’s ongoing role in the artistic ecology of Sydney and beyond. The logistics for this, their biggest ever production, were considerable. There were compromises. There were problems. They didn’t solve them all. But it was a huge achievement, for the entire ensemble — principals, chorus and orchestra alike — and one which gives me the hope that I long for, but don’t always feel, for the future of opera. HARRIET CUNNINGHAM [9 October 2015]

The musical preparation of the young orchestra, and the singers, by Simon Kenway, the Artistic Director of Pacific Opera, is greatly impressive - the level of difficulty is palpable, even to a naive ear such as my own... Alexander Knight, singing The Forester; Sarah Wang, singing Fox and Alexandra Flood, singing The Vixen, make musical impressions. Particularly, Mr Knight... I felt wonderfully excited after the performance - undoubtedly, to hear the score so clearly and beautifully with this very large body of players, created a memorable visceral affect. The sheer excitement of the performers with their concentrated and committed effort was a great thing to witness and admire. I was energised, incredibly, for many hours after the performance. A kind of adrenaline 'high' from the musical talents of the Sydney Youth Orchestra. The music score was beautiful. KEVIN JACKSON [9 October 2015]

Two of Australia’s finest young performers, Alexandra Flood  and  Alexander Knight, play the two leads with Ela Ray Marksteinplaying gypsy girl Terynka and Michael Gioiello as the Schoolmaster also impressing in substantial roles. A large ensemble cast lend great support. Musical  highlights include the Act 1 female chorus of the Battery Hens, the Act 2 love duet between the Vixen and her best friend, and the glorious closing apotheosis for the Forester which is a vast blessing for all life. This tableau opera explores some major themes,- the sacredness  and guiding force of love, and the credo that goes back to the Bible (Ecclesiastes 3:2- to everything there is a season)- that everything has its time and timing. It is a quirky, fascinating, almost at times surreal piece- there are characters who transform  from human beings into animals, a Doctor injects a sedative and  becomes a mosquito drinking blood, objects transform- tables become dog kennels, umbrellas become sunflowers... Well worth a visit... DAVID KARY [3 October 2015]


Two gondolier brothers, Marco and Giuseppe, have been living in Italy for 20 years on temporary visas so they must marry quickly or be deported. Plenty of laughter and intrigue accompany their resulting adventures, including their unwitting association with the Kingdom of Barataria and with the KGB! Personal highlights of the performance included the acting of the farcical Duke (Blake Parham), the singing of the gondolieri Marco (Rocco Speranza) and Giuseppe (Nikolas Roglich), including a rendition of O sole mio from the former, and the diction of The Consul-General (Sepehr Irandoost). Interestingly, members of the audience were chosen to be part of the performance on a couple of occasions. What I call really engaging the audience! Sullivan’s score was re-orchestrated to suit the intimate venue and a small cast of sixteen (eight couples). Music director Adrian Bendt conducted an ‘orchestra’ comprising of 12 musicians (5 strings, 4 woodwind and 3 brass) seated on one side of the stage. As a bonus, one of the tenors played a piano accordion at one point, thus helping to immerse the audience in the world of a lovely foreign land. I would recommend this production to those seeking a fun-filled 90 minutes full of classic tunes, high spirits and clever lines. JENNIFER FOONG [22 August 2014]

In this tradition of imagination and flair, comes a new and welcome realisation of some achievement from the respected and versatile librettist and arranger, George Palmer. Director Nick Cannon also displays flair and a real understanding of the humour of his subject. He also provides many humorous touches so essential to a night of G&S. Central to the performance was the sensitive work of conductor Adrian Bendt... The young cast generally acquitted themselves with distinction. DAVID MACFARLANE [26 August 2014]


The intimate setting of the Glen Street Theatre is conducive to an excellent rapport between the enthusiastic audience and the talented performers, transporting us into a mystical and magical land of smoke and dreams, delightfully complemented by the artistic team’s accomplishments. Now set in Sydney’s Rocks during The Depression, clever use of minimalist props helps focus to remain with the ensemble, the costuming simple but effective. So, with this emerging talent promising exciting things to come, the delicious taste of Pacific Opera’s fresh and talented cast will ensure the operatic legacy will flourish far into the future.  CHARLOTTE MOORE (Young Critics' Award entrant)

Would you take candy from a bag lady who lives inside an evil clown? Probably not, but starving children from the Depression might risk it. Pacific Opera has again delivered accessible opera, achieving that spark of recognition with audiences that will save the art from decline. The music is expressive and the orchestra, lead by charismatic conductor Russell Ger, are deservedly in the limelight. Those adjusting to operatic English will give thanks for the handy screen translations, a helpful tool for keeping everyone up to speed. So gulp down your breadcrumbs and set your GPS for Glen Street Theatre, and see Hansel and Gretel in a new light. They’d love to have you for dinner. TIFFANY HOY (Young Critics' Award entrant)

Everyone is familiar with the tale of Hansel and Gretel, most of us having grown up with it. However not until Pacific Opera’s production have I enjoyed it so thoroughly, witnessing a humour and wit that was certainly not present in my childhood storybooks! LIAM MCNAMARA (Young Critics' Award entrant)

This was an engaging performance by already highly-skilled young artists with exceptional potential from whom we will surely be hearing and seeing more in the future. PAULO MONTOYA (Young Critics' Award Winner 2010)


Anyone interested in opera should support this, because it is fun and because it provides such essential proving ground for young talent. PETER MCCALLUM (Sydney Morning Herald)


A major problem with Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte (All women are like that) is the way it chooses to debunk the notion of women’s “virtue”. The message is not so much that men are scarcely in a position to cast the first stone, but simply the number of stones which would need to be cast renders the exercise impracticable. Where do you find that attitude in the modern world? For Christine Douglas’s production for Pacific Opera, football clubs seemed a reasonable place to start. As an idea, it could have fallen awfully flat in the first 10 minutes, but instead was sustained by energy and unlaboured inventiveness, and promising young talent. For opera fans: recommended. For Tigers fans: indispensable. PETER MCCALLUM (Sydney Morning Herald)


SHARP TAKE ON A CLASSIC: The performers wore trackies, trainers, hoodies and leather pants, sang of dreadlocks and hepatitis – and managed to successfully turn Rossini’s much loved opera, The Barber of Seville, on its head. Sydney company, Pacific Opera’s clever new production is a fun, energetic and cheeky interpretation of the original opera. JENNIFER VEERHUIS (Daily Telegraph)


…the quality confirms Pacific Opera’s importance in a landscape dominated by Opera Australia. JOHN SHAND (Sydney Morning Herald)

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