The best international arts events of 2014

GIVEN the weather we’ve been enduring here lately, you have to envy the Australian lifestyle. They can plan open air events with confidence, and if you were thinking of celebrating the first months of 2014 down under, then Sydney is the place to head for, where on Feb 1 you can enjoy Opera in the Domain free.

The best international arts events of 2014

Every year, Sydneysiders head to the park in their thousands to hear their brightest stars under the stars, and anyone who claims opera is an elitist art form should look at the size of the crowd at this cultural, communal celebration.

A little later (Mar 21-Apr 12), you can try for a ticket for Madama Butterfly performed on Sydney Harbour. This is the event where two enormous cranes lift a 40-tonne stage from 10 barges onto 16 pylons buried deep in the ocean floor. It’s quite a task each year for the production team, with more than 8,000 hours of manual labour to build the stage and the elaborate underworld of the orchestra pit and dressing rooms. Making the costumes takes another 10,000 hours. The inventory of batteries, light globes, nuts, bolts and screws adds up to mindboggling numbers. To hear Butterfly sung in such a setting is truly unforgettable.

www.opera.org.au

PARIS IN THE SPRING

Head for Opera Bastille for Tristan und Isolde (Apr 8 – May 4), the saga of a love which was too huge for the material world. Under Philippe Jordan’s baton, this production brings together two great artists: producer, Peter Sellars and video director Bill Viola. On stage, the latter has conceived a world of parallel images: a world beyond life, a reflection of the world of the spirit in the mirror of time.

http://www.operadeparis.fr/en/

THE BIG APPLE

Or how about New York and a chance to see two of our greatest actors interpreting Waiting for Godot? Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart are at the Cort Theater on Broadway until March in this most complex yet witty Beckett play. Famously, nothing happens, yet we’re glued to our seats. That’s some achievement.

Stay on in the Big Apple and get to a preview of the new revival of Cabaret from Mar 21 at Studio 54, a star-studded affair indeed with Alan Cumming reprising his Tony-winning role as the Master of Ceremonies, and Michelle Williams (Dawson Creek, Brokeback Mountain, Oz the Great And& Powerful) as Sally Bowles. Directed by Sam Mendes, it opens officially on Apr 24 and is likely to run for years.

www.newyorkcitytheatre.com

CLOSER TO HOME

We are really fortunate in having the Bord Gáis Theatre on Dublin’s Grand Canal, purpose-built to take those really large and demanding touring shows. Because otherwise we might not have had the opportunity to see the National Theatre smash hit War Horse, based on the original book by Michael Morpurgo. It’s running Mar 26-Apr 26. They’re also bringing in Shrek: The Musical, from Oct 21 to Nov 9, and the kids are going to be demanding that too, once they find out.

www.bordgaisenergytheatre.ie

STRATFORD FESTIVAL

The Stratford Ontario Festival has been running for over 60 years now, with British theatre legend Tyrone Guthrie as its first artistic director. Alan Bates has played here, as have James Mason, Christopher Plummer, Jason Robards, Paul Scofield, William Shatner, Maggie Smith, Jessica Tandy and Peter Ustinov. It’s on this year from May to Oct, and you simply cannot miss Colm Feore as King Lear. Also on the programme is the wonderful though alas rarely seen Hay Fever by Noel Coward. This is the play that demands starring roles from every single member of the cast — not surprising, since it’s set in a household of actors and writers.If you’re visiting Canada in 2014, check it out now.

www.stratfordfestival.ca

GLOBE TO GLOBE

London’s Globe Theatre is embarking on quite a challenge, with Hamlet on tour to every country in the world. Yes, that’s right, Globe to Globe in fact. The Dane is setting out on his voyage April 23 (the Bard’s birthday, naturally) and will continue to roam until the same date in 2016. In the actual Southwark Globe, among other delights, they will be staging All’s Well That Ends Well from May 5 to 10. So, you ask?

Well, this version is set in India and played in Gujarati. Just as we have had Romeo and Juliet among modern high-rise flats, so All’s Well takes on an entirely new face when re-interpreted in Bollywood mode. Should be fascinating. Details on the same website as above for Hamlet.

www.shakespearesglobe.com

PHILEAS FOGG EPIC

Speaking of world tours, a stage adaptation of Around The World in Eighty Days is set to open at the Pavilion in London’s 02 Arena in London in June.

Described as an immersive theatrical event, it will feature a 20-foot steam-powered elephant and a hot air balloon that flies over the audience’s heads to recreate the true magic of Phileas Fogg’s epic journey.

www.whatsonstage.com

LONDON CALLING

And summer in London wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. From May to Sept they will be presenting no fewer than five new productions. Arthur Miller’s All My Sons opens on May 15, followed by Hobson’s Choice from Jun 12. Twelfth Night Re-Imagined for Everyone Aged Six And Over will run alongside Hobson’s, supported by in-school workshops by the Young Shakespeare Company. A landmark piece of American theatre, George & Ira Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess plays from Jul 17 to Aug 23. Songs like Summertime, and It Ain’t Necessarily So will sound perfect in Regent’s Park. The season will culminate with Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, from Aug 28 to Sept 13.

ITALY'S OPERA CITY

Finally, the 92nd Verona Opera Festival runs Jun 20-Sept 7 this year, and tickets are already on sale. Six different operas, three special events, 54 performances overall. Un Ballo in Maschera, Carmen, Aida, Turandot, Carmina Burana, and more.

www.arena-verona.com

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