Pinchgut Opera presents Handel's Theodora at City Recital Hall

Valda Wilson as Theodora

Erin Helyard conducting the Orchestra of the Antipodes and Cantillation.

I've been working with Pinchgut Opera this week on their production of Handel's Theodora at the City Recital Hall here in Sydney; it's nice to be doing a bit of opera again actually, as it's a slightly different challenge to theatre or dance.

In some ways it can be easier - the pace of change is (usually) a bit slower than dance, so there can be an opportunity to change my position in the theatre and line up an image once the scene starts to unfold in front of me, where in a faster moving show more anticipation is needed.

And compared to smaller theatre, there's often a bit more lighting to work with - which is great both in terms of diverse looks over the course of a show - and also just having enough power on stage to be able to focus with!

I also enjoy working with Pinchgut because the orchestra is much more a part of the production than with a traditional opera, where they might be hidden away in the pit below the stage. Here, it's all on show - including in this case a contrabassoon, which stood so tall it was practically on stage itself!

I'd been to rehearsal earlier in the week, so I had a pretty good idea how the story would play out - though I'd in fact only seen the first half, so acts 2 & 3 were uncharted territory.

As with most Pinchgut productions, it was musically marvellous to listen to while I worked on photographing the production. They attract some fantastic soloists - including both international artists and Australians now based overseas - but also a quite incredible chorus, Cantillation, and a period orchestra whose tone has to be heard to be believed.

And of course it looked great, too - I can't wait to go back and see it with both eyes (when I'm not looking through a lens, composing, and compensating exposure metering, I mean), on Tuesday night!

Valda Wilson as Theodora

But of course, ultimately, it's all about one person: Theodora.

I enjoyed the fact that she was on stage for much of the production, even during scenes where she didn't have an active role; it reminded me of Barrie Kosky's Flying Dutchman for Opera Australia many years ago, in which Senta was on stage for perhaps the entire time - sold to the Dutchman as a bride by her father, she looked on silently as her fate was sealed.

I don't want to say too much about this production - as I've said before, I prefer images that suggest something about the show, rather than giving away all the secret treats the audience have in store - but, it's definitely worth getting there if you can.

But don't believe me - trust this five-star review in the Sydney Morning Herald! (Nice photo, too.)

The production will be broadcast on ABC Classic this Sunday for anyone who can't make it - I strongly recommend listening in if you can!


Valda Wilson                      Theodora
Caitlin Hulcup                     Irene
Christopher Lowrey            Didymus
Ed Lyon                               Septimus
Andrew Collis                     Valens

Cantillation                         Chorus

Orchestra of the Antipodes on period instruments
Erin Helyard, conductor
Lindy Hume, director
Dan Potra, designer
Matthew Marshall, lighting designer