EIGHT SONGS FOR A MAD KING Reviews

Directed by New Zealand Opera’s new General Director Thomas de Mallet Burgess, this production has re-envisaged the troubled king as a corporate director having a stress-induced breakdown in his boardroom. The audience is divided into two, one half experiencing the performance from inside the boardroom with the performers and the other half seated in the square outside, watching through the Ellen Melville Centre’s full-length window with headphones transmitting the audio in real time.
When indoors, the audience is crowded around an enormous boardroom table and it is on, under and around this table that baritone Robert Tucker portrays the character’s throes of madness and being in such close proximity to the performers in such a small room created an incredibly personal and claustrophobic atmosphere.
Seen through the window from the outside, it was a very different experience. Despite the crystal-clear audio from the headphones, the audience was suddenly far less connected, missing details as we tried to see past members of the indoor audience and coping with the extraneous noises of the city around us.
Performing in a setting that required him to be mere centimetres away from audience members at times meant that Tucker was incredibly exposed but he turned in a true tour de force.
This show was part of New Zealand Opera’s new stated strategy of revisioning opera in this country, of engaging new audiences and reimagining the relationship between artist and audience. On the evidence of this magnetic performance, they are off to a good start. Bachtrack, March 2020

The double performance — one inside, the other from outside, wearing headphones — ingeniously sustained an entire evening from just one short work as well as adding new and thought-provoking context…it was a moving and eerily topical experience…this is a must-see. NZ Herald, March 2020

This whole show is terrific, its well thought out, its well realised, and as you can hear it demands a really committed and skilful singer and Robert Tucker was all that and then some. RNZ, March 2020

The music is commanding, stirring, and Tucker’s performance is all consuming: just like the best most brutal car wrecks, you simply can’t look away…You’d be mad not to go. Theatreview, March 2020

Hearing the opera from the outside was extraordinary. Seeing it (and hearing it) at close quarters was amazing. Robert Tucker’s voice was fantastic, coping with the five octave range admirably. But his acting was outstanding. Intense, volatile, confused, angry, violent, fearful, flirty, manic, despondent – he had it all…The concept was inspired. DMS Review, March 2020

Eight Songs for a Mad King proves that New Zealand Opera is willing to push boundaries and challenge the status quo, a move that should be widely applauded. The production itself an absolute triumph. Ambient Light, March 2020

General Director and Theatrical Director of the piece Thomas de Mallet Burgess laid a decisive calling card on the table. This modern piece opens the door to new audiences and could reshape the traditional view of opera. On Wednesday night the theatre door was well and truly broken open and the audience led into a powerful evening. From the get-go it’s not the usual. Half the audience is seated around a board-room table and the other half is wearing headphones and on the outside looking in. At half time the scene is reset and the audience switches, getting a chance to have a different perspective. The monodrama is fully visible to the general public and the street sounds weave into the performance at times. Sometimes passers-by imitate operatic warbles, at other times they scuttle past, embarrassed by the bizarre scene of madness within…Go see NZ Opera’s surprise package, this is theatre you need to experience. Radio 13, March 2020

NZ baritone Robert Tucker offers a virtuoso display of disintegration in which his voice moves from the alto to upper bass in a manner that is nothing short of astonishing. Dominion Post, March 2020

 

THE TURN OF THE SCREW Reviews

…the way the piece is mounted and directed, its integration of action, sound and vision, is perfection on wheels…a bear-pit of mental anguish…agony in the truest sense of the word and we the audience are complicit in it…Rarely does one have the pleasure of reporting that a production has seamlessly drawn together all the elements of the drama so superbly that ‘everything works’. Here it patently does…an onstage dramatic tragedy of the top rank. Theatrereview, October 2019

From opening to ending, New Zealand Opera’s new production of The Turn of the Screw is a dark, unsettling, nerve-shredding experience – and an exercise in finely judged storytelling…a production whose restless energy and macabre tension make it a genuine tour de force. Scoop Independent News, October 2019

NZO’s The Turn of the Screw at Wellington’s Opera House had a perfect cast, was perfectly performed and sung, and had an unsettling set, galvanic lightning and a ghostly, ghastly, uneasy, psychological drama. In short – a fabulous, compelling production. dmsreviewblog, October 2019

…astonishingly vivid performances from an ensemble cast made it one of the most outstanding of their (NZ Opera) recent productions, an auspicious sign as de Mallet Burgess takes over the General Directorship of the company. Bachtrack, November 2019 ****

The Turn of the Screw has been rewarded with full houses in both Auckland and Wellington…a great achievement for New Zealand Opera. The Opera Critic, October 2019

…a gripping and unsettling night at the theatre in the hands of Thomas de Mallet Burgess…a brave venture. Opera Review, October 2019

 

TROUBLE IN TAHITI Reviews

 “5 stars…a production with which, from the originality of its conception to the excellence of its execution, it is difficult to find fault.” The West Australian 2017

​“★★★★★…This is the magic of Perth opera company Lost and Found: they present opera so physically and emotionally close to the audience that the work takes on an (often uncomfortable) personal resonance.” Limelight 2017

 

Don Procopio Reviews

“Inevitably the question is whether the opera really works, stripped of all the advantages of the opera house itself, its pit and orchestra, the glamour and prestige of its architecture and, not least, its acoustics. The answer in this case is, emphatically, yes…Credit must go to director and translator Thomas de Mallet Burgess, whose script and direction is consistently funny and contemporary…The soloists were each quite remarkable. It was astounding to see them perform with such comic timing, verve and swagger in what, I imagine, must be quite a confronting proximity with the audience, and to hear them sing with such commitment and skill in so bare an acoustic and with such meagre orchestral support…Unknown opera in a bingo hall? Don’t miss it.”
The Australian on Don Procopio staged in an Italian club and popular wedding venue in Balcatta

“Lost and Found Opera’s wildly imaginative production dissolves the boundaries between performer and audience, reality and make-believe…In an age when so-called innovative arts programming can be about as disruptive as reruns of The Bill on daytime television, Lost and Found Opera is one of the few genuinely disruptive — dare I say agile — arts organisations in Australia… This opening night performance was an absolute delight, the mix of garish costumes, physical comedy, engaging arias, duets, ensembles and choruses, audience interaction and Burgess’s witty English translation combining to make this Big Fat Italian Wedding a night to remember. In short, Lost and Found Opera have done it again.
The West Australian on Don Procopio staged in an Italian club and popular wedding venue in outersuburban Balcatta.

 

Bajazet Reviews

Bajazet rivals the company’s 2011 staging of (Vivaldi’s) Griselda for the mantle of Pinchgut’s finest production…Showing a touch of brilliance Burgess cleverly subverted the opera’s unconvincing happy ending in a manner true to both Tamerlano’s character and the context of his production…the cast of Bajazet all shone in their respective roles by successfully balancing the need to achieve dramatic intensity while simultaneously displaying flamboyant virtuosity…”
The Australian, Bajazet, Pinchgut Opera

“Pinchgut Opera’s gripping tale a glorious triumph of intensity….Director Thomas de Mallet Burgess and music director Erin Helyard have fashioned a tight, gripping piece of theatre from this torrid tale… The cast respond to Vivaldi’s muscular rhythms and rangy harmonic developments with a deep physicality, capturing the swagger of triumph and the slump of despair. Their recitative passages, in particular, are choreographed with thrilling detail, sudden emotions flashing across their faces. Then, when the time comes to consider these psychological epiphanies at more length, movement on stage slows or even stops, a character is framed in a spotlight, and the music takes over.”
The Sydney Morning Herald, Bajazet, Pinchgut Opera (4.5/5 stars)

“In a word: superb. Australia’s Pinchgut Opera and Orchestra of the Antipodes are sublime in this finely interpreted and exquisitely realised production of Vivaldi’s Bajazet (1735)…Director Thomas De Mallet Burgess and Conductor Erin Helyard finely balance the requirements of an original – newly discovered – score with the dramatic needs of a contemporary production. The results are superb.”
The Australian Stage, Bajazet, Pinchgut Opera

“Director Thomas de Mallet Burgess finds a sweet spot balancing plausibility and effectiveness against the extremities of the plotting and setting; he also adds a disturbing final twist… It’s another triumph for historical research and informed performance: the result is both thrilling and thought-provoking.”
Time Out Sydney, Bajazet, Pinchgut Opera (5/5 stars)

“This is a stunning production of Bajazet…”
Arts Review, Bajazet, Pinchgut Opera

“Although the historical resonances are felt, the action has been cleverly moved forward from the beginning of the 15th century to a decadent but dischevelled 19th European drawing room…”
Daily Review
, Bajazet, Pinchgut Opera (4/5 stars)

“All elements come together to deliver an experience that is thrillingly beautiful, psychologically grim, and—in the end—emotionally satisfying. This suggests a productive working relationship between Director Thomas de Mallet Burgess and Artistic Director Erin Helyard…A happy ending is impossible following the hatred, deceit, betrayal and cruelty that are so prominent onstage. Instead the unsettling outcome is true to the narrative, the performers and the score.”
Aussie Theatre, Bajazet, Pinchgut Opera

“What a triumph it was, wonderfully expressive, deeply emotional and very fine…. What an extraordinary work and what a powerhouse showstopping performance Bajazet was.”
The Culture Concept Circle, Bajazet, Pinchgut Opera (4.5/5 stars)

“De Mallet Burgess appeared to adhere to the punctuated progression of the aria/recitative with scenes shaped by entrances and exits, becoming rather like pieces of performance art, each as visually intriguing as the objets d’arts within, each directed with insightful detail. As events unfolded, the characters became highly sculptured, psychologically rich and just as contradictory as anyone can be. A little-known historical event gained an approachability of sorts via a thrilling reduction to a dinner party that went ghastly wrong… It takes time to grapple with and digest Bajazet but after the short season is over there is no doubt Pinchgut Opera’s production will be remembered for its splendid visual, vocal and musical form. Hold onto that because you’re unlikely ever to see it again.”
Bachtrack, Bajazet, Pinchgut Opera

“Pinchgut Opera’s presentation of Vivaldi’s Bajazet is pure joy…perfect.”
Eastside FM, Bajazet, Pinchgut Opera

“One of the most rewarding innovations of this production is its complete transformation of the regular City Recital Hall stage appearance. The set skews to the left rather than facing us straight on, with several layers and choices for entrances and exits in its design. Extremely well-directed action uses the space well during arias and recitatives, ensuring they are never static.”
Sydney Arts Guide, Bajazet, Pinchgut Opera

“The set design allows de Mallet Burgess to juxtapose the performers so that scenes interconnect adding to the simmering tension that begins with the prelude. The lights have faded. The conductor’s baton is raised. On the stage the dead body of Bajazet’s daughter, Ortubule lies awaiting ritualistic cleansing. Her sister, Asteria, enters with a lamp, which she places at the foot of the table. She takes a match, raises it above her head, and as she lowers her hand to strike it, the Helyard’s baton brings the orchestra to life. A nice opening that is followed by similar creative direction that gives extra depth to the characters as they sing.”
Stage Whispers, Bajazet, Pinchgut Opera

“Pinchgut Opera’s Bajazet is an amazing production.”
ClassikONMEN, Bajazet, Pinchgut Opera

 

Medee Reviews

“Darius Milhaud’s 1938 opera Médée was given a gripping Australian premiere by Lost and Found Opera…This production shouldn’t be missed.”
The West Australian, Médée, Lost & Found

“Innovation, intimacy and insight: this is what opera should be about…The production is a triumph of design and direction.”
Limelight, Médée, Lost & Found

Emperor of Atlantis Reviews

With praiseworthy determination and energy, the directors of Lost and Found Opera present works which, under other circumstances, simply wouldn’t make it to this neck of the woods. And at this first performance of the opera in Perth – and the first I have ever attended in a synagogue – this often profound work played out for an engrossed audience…Thomas de Mallet Burgess’ skilled directorial touch was everywhere apparent.
The West Australian, Emperor of Atlantis, Lost & Found

Thomas de Mallet Burgess and Chris van Tuinen are doing great things in Perth at the moment, and Lost and Found Opera are truly offering something different for audiences tired of seeing the same operas performed as part of the never-ending cycle of conventional repertoire in larger organisations. The Emperor of Atlantis is one of the most inventive productions you are likely to see this year.
Limelight Magazine, Emperor of Atlantis, Lost & Found

La Voix Humaine Reviews

De Mallet Burgess’ direction brilliantly plays artifice off against mise-en-scene almost as a research method: what is the nature of human despair and how deeply can we take audiences past mere empathy and into a realm of shock and awe which relies less on spectacle and more on extreme intimacy?…sustained power, searing interiority and superlative musicianship and stagecraft of this fine production.
The West Australian, The Human Voice, Lost & Found

Elektra Reviews

The singing, acting, direction, design and orchestral accompaniment were of such high calibre and force that it is hard to imagine a more consistently good production…a brilliant effort
Toronto Star, Elektra, Canadian Opera Company

This production of ‘Elektra’ does not require suspension of disbelief. It is simply ripped out of the audience…domestic horror made sublime and brilliantly rendered
National Post (Toronto), Elektra, Canadian Opera Company

The audience rewarded with a standing ovation, well deserved
National Post (Toronto), Elektra, Canadian Opera Company

 

La Traviata Reviews

“Opera at its best. Thomas de Mallet Burgess demonstrates in his staging of La Traviata in Malmö that he has completely mastered the art of directing opera.”
Skanska Dagbladet, La Traviata, Malmo Opera

“La Traviata begins incredibly suggestively with the main character Violetta slowly, slowly moving down a long sloping passage while down below Violetta as a child plays on a roundabout, accompanied by the overture; the scene later changes to a bubbling pool party in pure Esther Williams style. It is cool, elegant and stylish.”
Helsingborgs Dagblad, La Traviata, Malmo Opera

“La Traviata made the audience cry…but it is first and foremost an aesthetic production, at one with the milieu it suggests. And the opera gets an extra measure of poignancy through Violetta’s childhood and youth visiting her adult life: Violetta as a little girl is sometimes seen simultaneously on stage. As in a dream, young and uncorrupted, a memory of the purity and innocence that was there, before a more cruel reality sullied body and mind.”
Svenska Dagbladet, La Traviata, Malmo Opera

“The Anglo-Saxon team together with Malmö Opera chorus and orchestra make of La Traviata one professional and consummate opera. You can in Burgess´ production, enjoy the dramatic point of the opera, which in the midst of tragedy lovingly shows the deceived human’s capacity to satisfy the spirit with forgiveness.”
Kristianstadsbladet La Traviata, Malmo Opera

“Tragedy with sensual sweetness…”
Sydsvenska dagbladet, La Traviata, Malmo Opera

“The closing scene in the bedroom, when Violetta dies in the arms of her beloved Alfredo, becomes a dignified finale, an atmosphere spiced with impressive subtleties, for example the showing presence of figures behind the white transparent curtain.”
Ystads & Trelleborgs Allehanda, La Traviata, Malmo Opera

Thomas de Mallet Burgess proved already in his original production that he, to perfection, is a master of his craft. The production is extremely well thought-out; sympathetically thought-out would probably be the appropriate term. He really brings out the magic of the opera: in spite of the completely artificial situation you see the human beings and their feelings behind the characters. It is opera at its best.
Skanska Dagbladet, La Traviata, Malmo Opera

 

Various Reviews

“Alessandro Stradella…was saved by Thomas de Mallet Burgess’s uproarious production and Julian McGowan’s witty designs. Their inventive visual jokes gave the evening a much-needed boost.”
Sunday Tribune, Alessandro Stradella, Wexford Festival

“…the evening was lively, with a wonderfully bizarre streak of imagination.”
The Irish Times, Alessandro Stradella, Wexford Festival

“… the director’s use of masks was as inspired as it was funny. There were some magical, inventive touches that charmed the first night audience, evoking much laughter…director Thomas de Mallet Burgess must take the main honours of the evening for staging this Flotow piece with such zest and charm.”
Sunday Independent, Alessandro Stradella, Wexford Festival

“The real success of Thomas de Mallet Burgess’s production is to bind the central quartet of lovers into a credible network of relationships. Mimi and Rodolfo are lost souls clinging to a mutual lifeline.”
The Guardian, La bohème, English Touring Opera

“His (Thomas de Mallet Burgess) Mimi and Rodolfo are not trendily poor, beautiful people. Mimi is a plain girl, who wears sensible shoes and has to put on glasses to look for her lost key. Her chubby Rodolfo, in a drab brown jacket and striped pullover, dresses for homely warmth, not to look the archetypal poet. All this makes it easier for the central couple to touch the emotions…The production has given us believable people who could live anytime, anywhere.”
The Financial Times, La bohème, English Touring Opera

“…a treat…an altogether special evening.”
What’s On, La bohème, English Touring Opera

“produced with style…a production with an effective difference.”
Irish Times, Devotion, Dublin

“The proximity of players and viewers, the energy, physicality, and occasional emotion of the playing arrest and hold the viewers.”
Irish Theatre Magazine, Devotion, Dublin

“TEAM Educational Theatre Company has crafted a superb production, with artistic director Thomas de Mallet Burgess at the helm, and an inventive use of music, dance, puppets, props and sheer fun.”
Irish Examiner, How High is Up?, Dublin (also awarded Irish Examiner Best Children’s Drama for 2006)

“The Opera 2005 presentation of Rossini’s comic masterpiece is the best-integrated production of opera I have attended. Every last detail has been thought through by the gifted team of director, conductor…resulting in a unanimity of intent and vision that allowed the cast to entertain us as Rossini would have wished. It is hilariously funny and a musical delight.
Irish Examiner, The Barber of Seville, Cork

 

 

 

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