Opera Australia will be the first opera company in the world to present a fully digital season of three brand new productions when it opens its Sydney Winter Season on 28 June 2019 in the Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House.

Madama Butterfly

28 June-10 August

Constrained, cocooned, caught in a moment of desire, Butterfly is incandescent. In her exotic embrace, Pinkerton finds paradise, then carelessly condemns his bride to purgatory.

Graeme Murphy’s arresting new production of Madama Butterfly is a contemporary look at Puccini’s alluring heroine.

Fragments of film flutter across the stage, creating a dynamic backdrop for Murphy’s vision of Butterfly. He draws on his roots in choreography to capture the grace and gravity of a tale that begins in rapturous love and ends in the cruellest heartbreak.

Puccini’s sublime music imbues this ageless story with impossible beauty, from the irrepressible, famous aria ‘One fine day’ to the intense finale.

After staging a fully digital production of Aida in 2018 to great acclaim, Opera Australia is moving into the next phase of its digital program and producing three new productions; Madama Butterfly, Anna Bolena and Whiteley. Incorporating fourteen 7 metre (23 feet) high, suspended LED screens that are choreographed to move seamlessly around the stage, creating a visual landscape that needs to be seen to be believed, and taking opera to a whole new level.

Celebrating its boldness as a contemporary arts organisation still steeped in tradition, Opera Australia’s 2019 program is indicative of its forward thinking approach to the art form, with the introduction of the fully digital productions along with a mix of crowd-favourite revivals and concert presentations throughout the year, it will be a showcase of the finest talent both on and off the stage.

Internationally acclaimed Italian Director Davide Livermore returns to Sydney to direct Anna Bolena after achieving huge success with Opera Australia’s first digital production, Aida in 2018. Hailed by Time Out as “…not having had a more exhilarating night at the opera in a long time”, audiences are waiting with bated breath to see what magic Livermore will create with the first instalment of Donizetti’s Tudor Queens Trilogy.

For Madama Butterfly the creative dream team of Director/Choreographers Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon, designer Michael Scott Mitchell and costume designer Jennifer Irwin have reunited along with digital artist Sean Nieuwenhuis to bring us the most innovative and visually stunning version of this opera ever seen on the Australian stage.

In keeping with the Company’s vision to create new and exciting opera’s that audiences actually want to see, Opera Australia has commissioned a new work about the tumultuous life of iconic Australian artist Brett Whiteley. Directed by David Freeman, composed by Elena-Kats Chernin, libretto by Justin Fleming, design by Dan Potra, and digital art by Sean Nieuwenhuis, Whiteley will be the most keenly anticipated production of the season.

Anna Bolena

2-26 July

Anne Boleyn won the king’s desire first, his love second, but only an heir could deliver his loyalty. In a court full of secrets and spies, the Tudor Queen’s time is running out.

Donizetti’s opera rips the best bits from a bloody time in history to create a thrilling ride through the last days of Anne Boleyn’s marriage to King Henry VIII. Jealous courtiers and scheming royals have the queen caught fast in a tightening trap. And her lady-in-waiting is waiting indeed, consumed with guilt, to take her place on the throne.

With ardent melodies, fiery singing and acrobatic coloratura, every minute of Anna Bolena is a masterclass in bel canto opera. It depends on a stellar soprano to throw herself into the role.

Ermonela Jaho is that singer, “a fiery angel” (The Economist) renowned for offering her heart and soul up on stage. “Don’t even try to resist,” warns the Financial Times. This starry cast includes Leonardo Cortellazzi as Lord Percy and Teddy Tahu Rhodes as the ruthless, passionate king.

Brett Whiteley (Australia; England, b.1939, d.1992)
Self portrait in the studio 1976
oil, collage, hair on canvas, 200.5 x 259 cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased 1977
© Wendy Whiteley


15-30 July

He burst onto the international art scene, all golden curls and bravado. He was dynamic, damaged, a big idea and a bold brush. With the vivacious Wendy on his arm, Brett Whiteley was magnetic.

He abhorred straight lines, adored drugs, alcohol, women.He worked in vivid colour and ravishing curves. Heroin was both muse and merciless master. Out of this tumultuous life spilled a messy array of brilliant artworks and astonishing self-reflection.

In 2019, this Australian icon meets two of Australia’s greatest artists in a brand new work for the Australian stage: Whiteley, by Elena Kats-Chernin and Justin Fleming.

Kats-Chernin is peerless among contemporary composers,celebrated for her enormous output and music that bursts with colour, life and tenderness. Fleming is a respected playwright and librettist whose work is renowned for its warmth, wit and poignancy.

Together they’ve created an opera to honour the life and work of a man who could not extricate his talent from his demons.