Richard Mills: Australian Opera Maestro

Richard Mills: Australian Opera Maestro
© Charlie Kinross

Richard Mills is arguably Australia’s own opera maestro. As a composer, as a conductor and as an Artistic Director, Mills is making a significant contribution to the world of opera.

Richard Mills as opera composer

Available on hire from Wise Music, Mills’ own operas have been well-received and applauded.

One example is The Love of the Nightingale which received eight Helpmann Award nominations including for best opera and best musical direction by Mills. In two acts, the libretto for The Love of the Nightingale is based on Timberlake Wertenbaker’s play of the same name. An adaptation of the ancient Greek legend of the rape of Philomela by her brother-in-law, it highlights the gruesome revenge undertaken by Philomela and her sister Procne.

Reviewing the work in ‘Stage Diary’, Ruth Bonetti described Mills as “a master orchestral colourist, creating a quite exhausting, gruelling roller coaster of sound.”

The Love of the Nightingale was described by Erin White (Australian Stage) as “a holistic performative experience: emotive, visually appealing, contemporary in subject matter and artful in its realisation.”

Writing for ‘The Age’, Robin Usher stated “The work's success confirms Mills as one of Australia's leading opera composers, following the acclaim for his previous work, Batavia…”.

Speaking of which, Batavia, based on historical events surrounding the Dutch sailing ship of the same name, received three Helpmann Awards and six Green Room Awards. In three acts, and written to a libretto by Peter Goldsworthy, Batavia premiered in 2001.

Reviewer, Diana Simmons (Stage Noise) noted that “[Batavia] is an absorbing dramatic work of deceptively simple poetry and ambitious, descriptive, beautifully orchestrated music”.

Of the premiere, the Star Observer wrote: “Mills, who also conducts, delivers us an epic musical and emotional journey into fear and darkness.” And also: “Mills’ cacophony of sounds is compelling and perfectly tuned to the sparse real drama of Lindy Hume’s direction”.

Mills’ chamber opera Summer of the Seventeenth Doll is also set to a libretto by Peter Goldsworthy. In two acts, the opera is based on the play of the same name by Ray Lawler.

Reviewing this work, Graham Strahle wrote: "Kaleidoscopically colourful, it recreates a 1950s urban soundscape in a sophisticatedly modern style.”  - (The Adelaide Review)

Limelight Magazine’s Brett Allen-Bayes also reviewed the work stating: "The music is a clever and highly effective blend of Richard Strauss, and the American modernism of Weill and Bernstein, which are successfully mixed with jazz and tango rhythms to create a highly effective score."


Richard Mills as opera conductor

In Adelaide, on 7 May, a wonderful opportunity exists to experience Richard Mills, the conductor. For the first time in 30 years, Voss will once more take Australia by storm as a spectacular staged concert directed by Stuart Maunder. Richard Meale’s epic score and libretto by David Malouf, will be brought to life by an acclaimed all-Australian cast. Under the baton of Richard Mills, Voss will be performed with Samuel Dundas as Voss, Emma Pearson as Laura, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and State Opera Ensemble.

Voss - State Opera South Australia

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