Gluck's "Iphigenie and Tauride", the short and long of it....

Gluck’s Iphigenie and Tauride was written in 1779, was premiered by the Paris Opera and was Gluck’s penultimate opera that was performed more than four hundred times over the next fifty years . He wrote a revised version in 1781 in German, Iphigenia in Tauris which was staged as a tragic singspiel at the National Theatre in Vienna but proved less popular than the original French versions.


Short version of synopsis:


The supposedly dead Iphigenie reunites with her long lost brother and his best friend which ends the cycle of horrific family violence in a happy ending. This is the one sentence version!


In a bit more detail…

Diana, goddess of the hunt, has secretely saved Iphigenie from being sacrificed by her own father, Agamemnon, to aid in the abating of the winds so that he could sail smoothly to fight in the Trojan wars. Diana took Iphigenie off, unknown to all, as one of her high priestesses overseeing human sacrifice on the island of Tauris in the Black Sea. Iphigenie has been there unhappily ever since (but, thankfully alive). In the meantime, Iphigenie’s mother, Clytemnestra has murdered her husband, Agamemnon in revenge for the supposed sacrifice of his own daughter. Iphigenie’s brother, Orestes has then killed their mother in revenge for the death of their father.

The Furies, gods who avenge familial murder, have been driving Orestes mad ever since and he travels to the island of Tauris together with his best friend, Pylades, to steal treasure from Diana to placate the Furies. Pylades is nearly sacrificed himself on the island but happily sister and brother are united.


Gluck tried to pare back the embellished vocal action of Baroque opera, the long arias with lots of runs and trills and repeated words, and present a more solid form of sung drama. Dialogue and recitative have the same weight — and the same orchestral accompaniment — as the arias. Effective drama and beautiful music without vocal acrobatics. Gluck recycled his better musical ideas from earlier operas so has finessed and refined material to great effect. An unusual aspect for Paris Opera at the time was only having one dance number, a Turkish dance at the end of Act One.


Iphigénie en Tauride draws all of Gluck’s opera reforms to their natural conclusion and a work of great power and beauty is the result.

The Chimney Sweep rehearsals - Day 13

Today we made it through to the end of the opera! Parts are just sketched, but still - it's a big achievement in pretty much exactly two weeks. And even better - we got to hear the divine quintet that (almost) finishes the work. An amazing bit of writing, and so moving. We also got to meet the last of the characters on the opera - Tomaso, the master chimney sweep. So feelings of achievement, and looking forward to tomorrow when we are going to start polishing.

While all of this has been going on, we've also been working on something else very exciting - the Giasone CD. We're delighted to let you know that this went into production today, and assuming that everything goes to plan you'll be able to buy this at The Chimney Sweep performances. We're really excited about this CD, it sounds magnificent. A number of people have been working tirelessly on this and we thank them very much - the wonderful Tom Grubb (producer), Erin Helyard (between rehearsals and everything else going on in his very busy life), all the Giasone singers and players who have been listening and making comments, and the indefatigable, phenomenal Natalie Shea (booklet). Thank you all.

Here's an exciting pic from the artwork for the CD.


The Chimney Sweep rehearsals - Day 12

We started Act 3 today, and made very good inroads into this act. Everything story-wise has been leading up to this one, and there's much confusion and merriment before the end is reached. Lots of great music too - we heard today the Mrs and Miss Hawk arias from this act, and beautifully sung by Amelia and Janet they are. 

Salieri wrote the role of Miss Hawk for Caterina Cavalieri (who was his pupil at the time). He wrote the part specifically to show off her incredible virtuosity. Cavalieri went on to premier some of the most famous soprano roles of the time - Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, and Constanze in The Abduction from the Seraglio (which singspiel Mozart wrote after having heard The Chimney Sweep). 

The role of Mr Bear was also written for another very famous singer of the time - Ludwig Fischer. Mozart wrote the role of Osmin in The Abduction for him and bass David Woloszko is doing a masterly job with this role too.

Two pics today from Bridget Elliot's photos from last week again. The first is the hunters in full flight in the Ganymede opera, and the second (mostly because I couldn't resist) is Nic as Fränzl, channeling Cinderella I think.

Photo by Bridget Elliot

Photo by Bridget Elliot


The Chimney Sweep rehearsals - Day 11

We got through to the end of Act 2 today (it's much shorter than Act 1). Still this is excellent going, and lovely to see this Act take shape. Lisel (Alex Oomens) was introduced into the otherwise all male establishment of the Bear/Wolf household in today's numbers. The trio that concludes Act 2 is lovely, and very clever writing. Can't wait to hear it with the orchestra. 

Lots of props being assembled today, and the set painting continues. It all feels like it's getting very close now.

Today's pic is of some very important people that we haven't introduced you to as yet. As well as director Mark Gaal, and assistant director Troy Honeysett, in this pic are our stage manager - the wonderful Tanya Leach, and our equally wonderful ASM (Assistant Stage Manager) Alec Kensit. Alec has come up from the Victorian College of the Arts on an internship with us, and we are very grateful and delighted to have him with us. Without these amazing people the opera doesn't happen.

The Chimney Sweep rehearsals - Day 10

We're back - refreshed and ready to go after a lovely Sunday. We're on to Act 2 now. This act is in the home of Mr Wolf and Mr Bear, with their two servants Peter and Jakob. It definitely has a more masculine air than the Hawk household of Act 1. There is a very funny scene with an auction, and Stuart, Chris and David are all having to get their heads around auction techniques. 

More costume fittings today as well, and assembling the last of the material to go to Playbill for the program.

Here's a pic from Bridget Elliot's rehearsal shoot last week - Miss Hawk (Janet Todd) is trying to seduce Volpino (Stuart Haycock) with the beauty of her singing (which is glorious). She doesn't know that she is being manipulated to do this!

Stuart and Janet 2.jpg

The Chimney Sweep rehearsals - Day 9

Just a quick one tonight - it's been a long week; but an excellent one. Today we worked on a few specific bits, and then did a run of Act 1 almost to the end. It's very exciting to see it come together; can't wait to get started on Act 2 on Monday! Everyone is having a very, very well deserved day off tomorrow (or at least a day off from rehearsals).

To finish the week a pic of our three incredible sopranos - this one taken by the incomparable Bridget Elliot during rehearsals. Have a lovely weekend and enjoy!

Amelia, Alex and Janet.jpg

The Chimney Sweep rehearsals - Day 8

Finished blocking Act 1 today, and so made it to interval! Followed by a couple of runs of everything from scene 6 on to the end of the act. Scene 6 is actually not that far from the beginning, so it was almost the whole of the first part. Very exciting. A couple of people hadn't been in for a day or so, and had a great time looking at what our amazing cast and creative crew have put together in a few short sessions. 

Tomorrow we're going to do a run of Act 1, and then it's on to Act 2 at the start of the new week. 

Lots of other things happening around rehearsals today - a mammoth production meeting, Bridget Elliot came back to take some more photos, costume fittings and much more. 

Today's pic is of our wonderful director Mark Gaal, and our equally terrific assistant director and choreographer Troy Honeysett (who is also playing Peter). Very impressed with your work!

Mark and Troy.jpg

The Chimney Sweep rehearsals - Day 7

Another great day in the rehearsal room. We're heading now towards the end of Act 1 (which co-incidentally is also the end of Part 1, and will be the interval point). There's an opera within the opera, and that's what we've been rehearsing today, (also Volpino's aria leading up to this). The opera within the opera is about Ganymede (the most handsome youth the gods had ever seen!) and two nymphs Chloe and Daphne. Much hilariousness ensues with hunters, deer and lots of weeping. 

Salieri has constructed the little opera as a take-off of opera seria, complete with all its conventions. Opera seria was past its heyday by then, and Salieri was obviously comparing this with the more informal singspiel that The Chimney Sweep is. 

Today's pic is of Nicholas Hiatt playing Fränzl and Gary Clementson playing Hansel; two of the servants of the Hawk household. In this scene they are accompanying Volpino in one of his elaborate Italian arias on the household harpsichord.

Nic and Gary.jpg

The Chimney Sweep rehearsals - Day 6

We're now into the rhythm of both the Salieri rehearsals and the room, which is excellent as we push further into the opera. Today we introduced the three remaining cast members who hadn't yet been in the space: Christopher Saunders playing Mr Wolf (Miss Hawk's suitor), David Woloszko playing Mr Bear (Mrs Hawk's intended), and Sabrya Te'o as Jakob. We were also visited today by lighting designer Luiz Pampolha who will be sitting in on rehearsals whenever he can. 

Some of today's staging revolved around Wolf and Bear's first arias know respectively as 'The Nightmare Song' and 'The Music Song'. The Nightmare Song is not called that because it's fiendish to sing (though I'm sure it is, and Chris only makes it sound very easy), but because it describes a nightmare. The Music Song is a great example of a catalogue aria - you'll hear what this is all about when you see the show!

Here's a pic of Chris and David in character as Wolf and Bear. You'll glean a bit about their characters from this!

Chris and David.jpg

The Chimney Sweep rehearsals - Day 5

Today we had the exact reverse of yesterday's weather - a really wet and gloomy morning, followed by a glorious afternoon. Another lovely day in the rehearsal room though. We pushed on into Act 1, and the entry of Miss and Mrs Hawk into the piece (played by Janet Todd and Amelia Farrugia). Some very entertaining goings-on with the dummy harpsichord, and various trays and cloths. And we got to hear what is possibly my favourite aria in theopera - Miss Hawk's first piece that she sings to impress Volpino. Heavenly stuff.

We were joined today by the wonderful Bridget Elliot come to take some head shots and rehearsal pics. You'll see some of her lovely work here soon, but in the meantime a pic (not taken by Bridget!) of Stuart Haycock as the charming, scheming Volpino and Janet Todd as the ditzy, spoilt (though loveable) Miss Hawk.

Stuart and Janet.jpg

The Chimney Sweep rehearsals - Day 4

Today we moved into the lovely rehearsal space that is going to be our home for the next three and a bit weeks. Our December shows have all been rehearsed at the Opera Centre (except once), courtesy of a very generous Opera Australia. But as their winter season is well underway rehearsal-wise they don't have any space to spare at the moment. Fortunately we found a lovely room just off Harris St in Ultimo and today was our first day there.

It began - somewhat inauspiciously - with an ongoing alarm in a nearby building, which then turned into a loud siren. After a surprise visit from three firefighters the alarm and siren were eventually turned off, and we settled down to an excellent day's work. 

Director Mark Gaal is starting at the beginning of the work, and today's scenes involved the characters of Lisel (Alex Oomens), Volpino (Stuart Haycock) and Hansel (Gary Clementson). Everyone is having lots of fun and already it's sounding and looking terrific under Erin's, Mark's and Troy Honeysett's (AD and choreographer, as well as playing Peter) watchful ears and eyes. 

Here's a pic of our lovely Erin at the keyboard while a scene is being blocked behind him.

Salieri - Erin.jpg

The Chimney Sweep rehearsals - Day 3

Today Erin Helyard, our wonderful conductor and co-artistic director, joined the proceedings straight from the airport and we spent the day on music. And how terrific to hear the score for the first time live by way of our amazing cast. It's an incredible score - amazing music and gloriously sung. Particular bits to listen out for will be the opera within the opera, and the quintet which is almost at the end of the work. 

It was lovely to be joined in the rehearsal room by Mark Gaal, our director for this work, and a couple of the non-singing cast members who just wanted to come and listen. 

Erin imparts an incredible amount of information as he goes along and we all leave the room feeling much more knowledgable than we came in. It's a rare person who knows much about Salieri, and the music truly is a revelation. 

Meantime here is a picture of gorgeous Alex Oomens from yesterday's photo shoot, in her role as Lisel - one half of the cunning servant duo. (Again not the frock she will be wearing).

Alex Oomens as Lisel.jpg

The Chimney Sweep rehearsals - Day 2

Another day of dialogue and movement/action and great fun it was. We've begun to rehearse some specific parts of the dialogue, and the stage business that will accompany them. Comedy is a very different beast to rehearse as director Mark Gaal rightly points out, and requires pace, timing and sureness. Lots of laughs happening in the room - at least we are amusing ourselves! There's a great energy and feeling in the room and this augurs very well.

We're really looking forward to Erin arriving tomorrow morning and the chance to starting working in the music. Music and dialogue will be welded together to make the whole of this singspiel. But first and fore mostly we're excited to hear how it all sounds.

During lunch today we had a photo shoot with two of our wonderful sopranos Amelia Farrugia and Alex Oomens. Our marketing people are now in overdrive to make sure everyone knows about our terrific show. Tell your friends!

Here's a pic of Amelia looking amazing as the young, spoilt, recently widowed, wealthy, opera-singing Mrs Hawk. (Not the actual frock she'll be wearing; this was for the photo-shoot).

Amelia Farrugia as Mrs Hawke

Amelia Farrugia as Mrs Hawke

The Salieri rehearsal posts begin!

We're finally here.

It all seems quite strange - it's cold(ish) and very wet, the days are short and it's the middle of the year, and we're not at the Opera Centre - and yet here we are starting Pinchgut rehearsals for The Chimney Sweep. Our very first mid-year production is underway and it's very exciting.

We began today - unusually - with dialogue rehearsals. (The heavens opened torrentially in Sydney and we're taking this as an auspicious sign as we really need the rain). The Chimney Sweep is a singspiel (where the music is interspersed with dialogue), which is another first for us. Erin Helyard, our wonderful co-artistic director and conductor for the Salieri, is finishing the semester in Wellington where he teaches and won't be with us until Saturday. (He's also making the move to ANU starting in mid-July after the Salieri so it's a very busy time for him). Given this we decided to start with dialogue, and a great day it was.

Our singers/actors have come from London (x2), Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane, and closer to home, and it was wonderful to have them all in the same room and to see the start of the journey with this piece. First time professionally in more than 230 years! At the end of the day everyone sat down in a circle and discussed what we'd learnt today and where we will go next. And this is our first pic - the end of day conference and discussion.

Salieri end of day 1 rehearsal conference

Salieri end of day 1 rehearsal conference