A vocal journey through art brought to life

A vocal journey through art brought to life

Conal Coad as Don Prudenzio, Christopher Hillier as Antonio and the Opera Australia Chorus in Il Viaggio a Reims.Credit:Prudence Upton

Opera Australia, State Theatre, until June 1

One of the reasons opera is given a wide berth by some is the everyman's fear they're just not going to "get it". The last thing you want is to part with $200 or so, spend 3½ hours in the theatre and walk out asking your companion what just happened.

Almost nothing happens, plot-wise, in Opera Australia's Il Viaggio a Reims. Rossini's enormous opera, written for 17 soloists and chorus, is an exercise in vocally showing off. Composed for the coronation of King Charles X of France in 1825, Rossini never intended for it to be performed again. It wasn't for nearly 160 years, and is rarely presented by opera companies today.

A motley crew of characters find themselves in an art gallery, on the way to the King's coronation. This production by Italian director Damiano Michieletto pads out the story by giving the audience a frivolous visual feast. And while it might be amusing to see Frida Kahlo, Vincent Van Gogh's self portrait and Magritte's apple-faced Son of Man walking around outside their frames, the auditorium's ratio of mild chortles to confused murmurs was about equal.

The Act III recreation of Francois Gerard's famous painting of The Coronation of Charles X at Reims, though, is an impressive spectacle.

Of the large cast, Ruth Iniesta, Emma Pearson and Shanul Sharma provide dazzling vocal fireworks and the always superb Giorgio Caoduro shows genuine comic capabilities.

The real highlight was young Australian conductor Daniel Smith leading Orchestra Victoria with laughter, lightness and typical Rossinian flair.

Il Viaggio a Reims is set in an art gallery and shows paintings coming to life.Credit:BAUS

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