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Whiteley single work   musical theatre   opera   - 2 hrs and 40 min
Issue Details: First known date: 2019... 2019 Whiteley
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'Artist. Rebel. Icon.

'He burst onto the international art scene, all golden curls and bravado. He was dynamic, damaged, a big idea and a bold brush. With the vivacious Wendy on his arm, Brett Whiteley was magnetic.

'He abhorred straight lines, adored drugs, alcohol, women. He worked in vivid colour and ravishing curves. Heroin was both muse and merciless master. Out of this tumultuous life spilled a messy array of brilliant artworks and astonishing self-reflection.

'In 2019, this Australian icon meets two of Australia’s greatest artists in a brand new work for the Australian stage: Whiteley, by Elena Kats-Chernin and Justin Fleming.

'Kats-Chernin is peerless among contemporary composers, celebrated for her enormous output and music that bursts with colour, life and tenderness. Fleming is a respected playwright and librettist whose work is renowned for its warmth, wit and poignancy.

'Together they’ve created an opera to honour the life and work of a man who could not extricate his talent from his demons.

'Production designer Dan Potra’s technology-driven set is an immersive world created from Whiteley’s most famous paintings. Experience the works of a modern master on moving, larger-than-life screens.' (Production summary)

Production Details

  • Performed at the Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House: 20-30 July 2019.

    Composer: Elena Kats-Chernin AO.

    Libretto: Justin Fleming.

    Conductor: Tahu Matheson.

    Director: David Freeman.

    Production Designer: Dan Potra.

    Lighting Designer: John Rayment.

    Digital Content: Sean Nieuwenhuis.

    Assistant Director: John Sheedy Miranda Summers.

    Consultant: Ashleigh Wilson.

    Fight Choreographer: Tim Dashwood.

    Cast: Leigh Melrose (Brett Whiteley), Julie Lea Goodwin (Wendy Whiteley), Natasha Green (Younger Arkie Whiteley), Kate Amos (Older Arkie Whiteley), Dominica Matthews (Beryl Whiteley), Richard Anderson (Joel Elenberg), Nicholas Jones (Dark Figure / Michael Driscoll), Gregory Brown (Patrick White), Annabelle Chaffey (Queen), Alexander Hargreaves (Robert Hughes), Tomas Dalton (Bryan Robertson), Jonathan Alley (John Rothenstein), Brad Cooper (Frank Lloyd), Leah Thomas (Anna Schwartz), Ruth Strutt (Biennale Judge), Celeste Lazarenko (Fijian Backpacker), Sitiveni Talei (Fijian Police Officer), Angela Hogan (Janice), Opera Australia Chorus, and Opera Australia Orchestra.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

Works about this Work

[Review] Whiteley Michael Halliwell , 2019 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , August no. 413 2019; (p. 68)

— Review of Whiteley Justin Fleming , 2019 single work musical theatre

'Unlike the many films about the lives of artists, operas in which visual artists feature are few, though two of the most popular in the repertoire, Puccini’s Tosca and La Bohème, both have painters as central characters. The lives of artists are often messy affairs and resist convenient shaping into narrative arcs, with the actual creative process difficult to dramatise effectively. The new film Never Look Away, by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, controversially, though loosely based on the life of German artist Gerhard Richter, achieves a remarkable degree of success in showing the development of a creative artist, often actually at work on a series of paintings, while a panoramic sequence of events play out in the background. It is one of the few films that offer a plausible insight into the creative process.' (Introduction)

Brett Whiteley Partied With Bob Dylan. Now His Life Is an Opera. Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore , 2019 single work column
— Appears in: The New York Times , 26 July 2019;

'Before Brett Whiteley died from a heroin overdose at 53 — alone, in a dingy motel room on the New South Wales coast — he lived like a rock star. He was Australia’s hedonist hero, a painter of grand and voluptuous canvases who hung out with Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and Dire Straits.' (Introduction)

Opera Australia’s Whiteley Brings Together 3 Icons to Tell the Artist’s Complicated Story David Larkin , 2019 single work review
— Appears in: The Conversation , 18 July 2019;

'Opera Australia’s newest production, Whiteley, brings together three Australian icons. Elena Kats-Chernin, the doyenne of Australian composers, has written an opera on the life of a famous Australian painter and had it staged at that most recognisable of Australian buildings, the Sydney Opera House.' (Introduction)

[Review] Whiteley Michael Halliwell , 2019 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , August no. 413 2019; (p. 68)

— Review of Whiteley Justin Fleming , 2019 single work musical theatre

'Unlike the many films about the lives of artists, operas in which visual artists feature are few, though two of the most popular in the repertoire, Puccini’s Tosca and La Bohème, both have painters as central characters. The lives of artists are often messy affairs and resist convenient shaping into narrative arcs, with the actual creative process difficult to dramatise effectively. The new film Never Look Away, by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, controversially, though loosely based on the life of German artist Gerhard Richter, achieves a remarkable degree of success in showing the development of a creative artist, often actually at work on a series of paintings, while a panoramic sequence of events play out in the background. It is one of the few films that offer a plausible insight into the creative process.' (Introduction)

Opera Australia’s Whiteley Brings Together 3 Icons to Tell the Artist’s Complicated Story David Larkin , 2019 single work review
— Appears in: The Conversation , 18 July 2019;

'Opera Australia’s newest production, Whiteley, brings together three Australian icons. Elena Kats-Chernin, the doyenne of Australian composers, has written an opera on the life of a famous Australian painter and had it staged at that most recognisable of Australian buildings, the Sydney Opera House.' (Introduction)

Brett Whiteley Partied With Bob Dylan. Now His Life Is an Opera. Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore , 2019 single work column
— Appears in: The New York Times , 26 July 2019;

'Before Brett Whiteley died from a heroin overdose at 53 — alone, in a dingy motel room on the New South Wales coast — he lived like a rock star. He was Australia’s hedonist hero, a painter of grand and voluptuous canvases who hung out with Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and Dire Straits.' (Introduction)

Last amended 24 Feb 2021 07:47:18
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