14 May 2019

CSO's night at the opera to pay tribute to Richard Gill

| Ian Bushnell
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Richard Gill was to have conducted this weekend’s Opera Gala. Photo: Nick Gilbert.

If watching Antony Green on election night isn’t your cup of tea, why not swap the political opera for the real thing and join the Canberra Symphony Orchestra at Llewellyn Hall in a tribute to its first Artistic Director and Chief Conductor, Richard Gill?

Gill, who died last year aged 76, was to have conducted this year’s Opera Gala but instead it will be a moving tribute to the great man who was dear to so many.

In his memory, the CSO will take audiences on an operatic journey from Monteverdi to Sondheim, featuring excerpts from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro to the spurned Micaela’s heartbreaking aria in Carmen and Colline’s touching love song to his favourite coat in La Bohème.

Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Nicholas Milton said the CSO would not exist in its present form were it not for the love and dedication that Richard Gill poured into the organisation.

“He programmed it exactly as it will be heard, and I had the pleasure to have many conversations with him about his ideas for this concert,” he said.

The CSO Opera Gala will be conducted by Jessica Cottis, and two of opera’s most exciting young stars — soprano Jacqueline Porter and bass-baritone Jeremy Kleeman — will join the orchestra.

Cottis worked with Richard Gill a number of times when she was assistant conductor at the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in 2012-2014 and he left a big impression on her development as a young conductor.

“His insatiable intellectual curiosity, his extraordinary musicianship, and his tireless advocacy for music education. I hope this concert honours all these aspects, but most especially his irresistible enthusiasm for communicating a love for and appreciation of classical music,” she said.

Jessica Cottis: Gill left a big impression on her as a young conductor. Photo: Supplied.

For Cottis, orchestral works and opera have a symbiotic relationship.

“I find it very inspiring to do both as they give motivation and energy to each other,” she said.

“Because the form is ultimately abstract, symphonies, even programmatic ones, demand a high level of imagination. In other words, symphonic works require the dramatic verve that runs naturally through opera, whilst opera—a very complex machinery of singing, playing, staging, lighting, props—requires the kind of incredible focus, flexibility, and calm multi-attentiveness that I’ve found can be perfectly honed through music-making with top symphony orchestras. The art of conducting is infinitely subtle yet hugely collaborative.”

Her personal favourite is The Marriage of Figaro, calling Mozart a genius whose music is endlessly fascinating.

“I’ve had the huge pleasure of conducting many of his symphonic and concerto works with orchestras across the world,” she said.

“His operas are among some of the highest achievements of our civilisation, and Figaro is without doubt one of his greatest.”

Cottis praised the CSO as an orchestra going places with a wealth of musical talent, and ‘bags of vision for the future’.

“Canberra is a dynamic capital, the development of creative energy is almost palpable, and the CSO is an important part of this. I’ve been really taken by the huge spirit and heart of all the musicians and staff,” she said.

“Most of all, whenever I come here, I feel we make music not just as colleagues, but as friends. Canberrans are very lucky to have this gem of an orchestra right in the heart of the city.”

CSO Opera Gala
Saturday 18 May, 2019
Llewellyn Hall, ANU, 7:30 pm

Richard Gill AO In Memoriam
Jessica Cottis Conductor
Jacqueline Porter Soprano
Jeremy Kleeman Bass-baritone

Ticket Prices – $29 to $95

More information: https://cso.org.au/event/cso-opera-gala/

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