Il Viaggio a Reims at the Arts Centre Melbourne
If Rossini made a showreel of his best work, it would sound like Il Viaggio a Reims (The Journey to Reims). The prolific composer was unabashedly showing off when he wrote this incredible work, destined to dazzle the aristocracy at the crowning of Charles X and then disappear forever. The simple plot is a marvellous excuse for a string of fantastic arias and impressive ensemble pieces.
In Damiano Michieletto’s playful take, the eccentric cast of characters find themselves in a gallery filled with the master works of art history. Velázquez’s enormous dresses jostle for space with Keith Haring’s cheerful murals. Frida Kahlo and van Gogh compare self-portraits. It’s a surreal world, where artworks step out of the frame and come to life the moment the lights go out.
Rosie spoke with performer Agnes Sarkis about everything we're going to love in this grandiose production, and why this production has never been able to be staged in Australia... until now. Read the full interview below:
What has been unique about preparing and rehearsing for Il Viaggio a Reims compared with other operas you have worked on? What can audiences look forward to in this production?
Il Viaggio a Reims is my first Rossini opera and I absolutely fallen in love with the music. It brings everything to the stage at the same time, the comedy, the drama and the gorgeous melodies. The production itself is magnificent, the set design, the costumes and the way all the characters come together at the end is out of this world.
The scale of this production has meant that, before this year, Il Viaggio a Reims has not been able to be performed in Australia. What's it like taking on the Australian premiere of this grandiose opera? Have you been involved in a production of this scale before, and can you give us a sneak peek of what this 'demanding and expensive' set will look like?
It is such an amazing feeling to be able to work on this set, to be able to be a part of this production has been such an exciting adventure and also the different materials used for the surface makes it a little challenging for the singers but certainly not as challenging as our fabulous Opera on the Harbour, HOSH, in Sydney. Opera on the Sydney harbour would be the biggest opera set I was ever performed on and Il Viaggio a Reims is certainly the second largest.
Il Viaggio a Reims is full of exciting arias, which should the audience watch out for and what has been the most rewarding piece to sing?
My character Modestina doesn't have an aria in the opera, there are so many wonderful arias and duets in this opera but I have to say my favourite aria is La Contessa di Folleville's aria, it's breathtaking. It's funny, it's exciting, the wonderful staging and the beautiful singing makes it even more attractive.
In 2019 you're touring across Sydney and Melbourne for this production. What does a typical day look like and is it a struggle to maintain contact with family and friends when on tour?
Singers might be involved in more than one opera during the season so it could be a busy schedule but at the same time very rewarding.
It is easy to keep in contact with family and friends now days but definitely miss visiting them in person.
What are some unforgettable experiences you've had with Opera Australia and what are you looking forward to in the future?
I have to say touring around Australia on our Regional opera tour and taking opera to every city and town possible in the country has been the most rewarding experience for me but the moment I will never forget would be my first appearance on the main stage for one of my favourite roles, Suzuki in Madama Butterfly.
Will be working on Madama Butterfly in Sydney and I'm very much looking forward to performing Suzuki in OA's brand new production of Madama Butterfly.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS:
Favourite production you have ever seen?
Carmen on the harbour
You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?
I'll travel to Iran to see my parents
Dream show to perform in?
I have to say Carmen
Plays or musicals?
A hobby you have beyond the theatre?
Road trips on my motorbike
What’s next for you after this show?
Suzuki in Madama Butterfly
Il Viaggio a Reims is showing at Arts Centre Melbourne until June 1st before bringing this magnificent show to Sydney in October. For more information and to get your tickets, visit the Opera Australia website here.