Opera Australia’s production of Die tote Stadt is sumptuous, melodic and melodramatic. Set in Bruges at the end of the 19th century, the opera tells the story of Paul, a widower who is obsessed with the memory of his late wife, Marie. His house is a temple to his deceased wife: a massive portrait of the dead woman looms over centre stage. One day Paul is introduced to Mariette (the always stunning Cheryl Barker) who bears a striking resemblance to his deceased wife. Paul’s guilt and obsession with his dead wife’s doppelganger is the basis for Eric Wolfgang Korngold’s opera.
Movie director Bruce Beresford brings the work of one of Hollywood’s greatest cinematic composers to the Sydney Opera House. Korngold was best known for writing film scores. He won the Academy Award for the score to The Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938, which starred the Australian matinee idol Errol Flynn. In true cinematographer fashion, Beresford has the orchestra perform from a separate studio (instead of from the pit). Images of the orchestra are projected onto a screen at the start of each act. The orchestra’s live “soundtrack” is broadcast into the Sydney Opera House, overcoming the House’s notorious problems with acoustics. Beresford uses cinematic devices to update a very old fashioned, modern opera.