Heath Ledger Theatre opening, Perth

Heath Ledger's family

Heath Ledger's mother Sally, father Kim and sister Kate attend the opening of the new State Theatre Centre and Heath Ledger Theatre in Perth. Picture: Stewart Allen Source: PerthNow


The state theatre venue where ‘Into the Shimmer Heat’ will stage it’s premiere performances opened to great fanfare on January 28th 2011

Unveiling the world-class Northbridge complex yesterday, Premier Colin Barnett called it a remarkable event to rival the opening of His Majesty’s Theatre in 1904 and the Perth Concert Hall in 1973.
theatre seating
The family of the late Perth-born film star Heath Ledger were in the gold-toned, timber-lined theatre named in his honour for the opening.

Heath Ledger’s father Kim, sister Kate and mother Sally Bell said they were overwhelmed by the construction and design.

“I think Heath would have thought it was magnificent. I have said this before, and we all agree, that he must have been a bird on the shoulder of the architect,” Kim Ledger told reporters at the opening.

Kate Ledger added: “It’s reflective of the way he was as a person. The theatre is eerily reflective”.

Ms Bell said she was humbled by the honouring of Ledger’s memory and the day was a “very mixed emotional time for us, but ultimately we’re very, very proud”.

theatre foyer

For a full gallery of images of the theatre and event, visit Perth Now

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5 Must-See Shows in Perth in 2011

If you’re into locally created original theatre and live performance, and you live in or visit Perth, Western Australia, here are my top 5 must see shows this year…

FEBRUARY: Waltzing the WilarraThu 3 Feb – Sun 6 Mar 2011
Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company (Australia)
By David Milroy
A teaming of two of Australia’s leading Indigenous theatre makers, David Milroy (Windmill Baby) and Wesley Enoch (The Sapphires), Waltzing the Wilarra is an original music theatre work featuring an all-star Indigenous cast.
MARCH: Tim Minchin vs The West Australian Symphony Orchestra – Fr1 4 Mar 2011  (Sold Out) – Sat 5 Mar 2011
Comedy rock superstar, Tim Minchin, is back on the road with his biggest live show ever. This show includes brand new songs as well as those much loved Minchin classics, but this time, as you’ve never heard them before – with the 55 piece West Australian Symphony Orchestra.
JUNE: Rising Water25th Jun 2011 – 17th Jul 2011
Black  Swan State Theatre Company
By Tim Winton
Full of the compassion and larrikin humour that are the trademark of Winton’s work, chronicling the lives of outsiders and fringe-dwellers in his unmistakably Western Australian voice
Into the Shimmer Heat
OCTOBER: Into the Shimmer Heat – October 8 – 22, 2011
Nova Ensemble
written and directed by Phil Thomson
DECEMBER: EARTH – December 1-11 2011
Resulting from a year-long process with the finest performing talent under 25 years old in Western Australia, EARTH is a performance that will speak with a contemporary and edgy youth voice. EARTH marks the first in the three year trilogy of originally devised youth theatre ‘Earth, Wind and Fire’

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Heath Ledger Theatre

The State Theatre Centre of WA, Perth

Heath Ledger TheatreInto the Shimmer Heat is being staged at the Heath Ledger Theatre in the State Theatre Centre of WA. It is a 575-seat traditional proscenium theatre equipped with the latest stage technology. The stage can be modified to accommodate an orchestra pit. The theatre has access to two bars, toilets and lifts from the foyer.

The comfortable seating is designed so that all seating rows are curved to face the stage and each row is elevated above the one in front.

To get to the Heath Ledger Theatre, enter the State Theatre Centre main entrances and go up the stairs then turn left. Lifts are also available.

The Centre is just a stone’s throw away from Perth Railway Station and Wellington Street Bus Station, making public transport a great option for travelling to and from the theatre.

“He was such a giver to the arts right across the board. I really feel that there’s not a lot of things he’d put his name to, but he’d put his name to that.”—Kim Ledger; Heath Ledger’s father

For access information visit the Department of Culture and the Arts website.

“It is wonderful that a new theatre is finally being built and I reckon it is just fine that it has been named after an extremely talented, hard-working, much-loved and greatly missed Perth born and bred actor.” – Tim Minchin (from an excellent Blog article by Podblack Cat)

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Baritone Robert Hofmann

Robert Hofmann

Over two metres tall, Robert has an imposing stage presence perfect for his role as the powerful Explorer.

Robert has a Diploma of Opera from Sydney Conservatorium of Music and Bachelor of Music Education from University of Western Australia.

a fine comic touch, allied with a resonant voice
[Opera Britannia]

For the West Australian Opera his roles include Larkens/Billy in The Girl of the Golden West, Dulcamara in The Elixir of Love, Police Officer in The Barber of Seville, John Styx in Orpheus in the Underworld, High Priest of Baal in Nabucco, The Bonze and Imperial Commissioner in Madam Butterfly, Old Hebrew in Samson and Delilah, Judge/Tzar Ivan in Candide, Dottore Grenville and Commissionario in La Traviata, 2nd Armed Man in The Magic Flute.,  Hobson in Peter Grimes and Koko in The Mikado.

For other companies roles include Apprentice in Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg for Opera Australia, Bobby in Mahagonny Songspiel (UWA), Don Curzio in Le Nozze di Figaro, The Chaplain in Dialogue of the Carmelites and Aeneas in Dido and Aeneas (Sydney Conservatorium,) Tamino in The Magic Flute (Pacific Opera, Sydney), J. Strauss II in The Great Waltz (Rockdale Opera, Sydney)

Robert’s appearances as a concert soloist include Mozart’s Requiem, Bach’s Mass in B minor, Vaughan William’s Five Mystical Songs and Messiah for St Georges Cathedral; Carmina Burana for UWA Music and Collegium Symphonic Chorus; Stravinsky’s Les Noces and Rossini’s Messe Solennelle for Sydney Conservatorium; Berlioz’s The Childhood of Christ, Bach’s Mass in B minor, Dvorak’s Stabat Mater, Haydn’s Creation, Messiah and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio for UWA Choral Society. Robert is a versatile singer who also sings musical theatre numbers and enjoys crossing over to the great popular standards of the 20th Century.

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The Silent Opera

David Pye, Phil Thomson and Lee Buddle

This from an article in the West Australian newspaper

Time will tell whether making a landmark WA opera about a teenager who can’t sing because she is mute will be a stroke of genius or madness. Perhaps the deaf, dumb and blind kid Tommy, who played a mean pinball in the Who’s 1970s rock opera, or Procne, whose tongue was cut out by her jealous husband in Richard Mills’ The Love of the Nightingale, guided the thinking of composers David Pye and Lee Buddle and librettist Phil Thomson in creating their new chamber opera Into the Shimmer Heat.

Or, perhaps not.

“It really comes out of the story-line,” says Pye of the central character, Nina, who will be played by a dancer. This production, which will have its world premiere in Perth late next year, has been brewing for 16 years. Into the Shimmer Heat has finally been given its chance to bubble into life through a large injection of cash from the State Government’s now-defunct Major Production Fund.

When it opens in the new Heath Ledger Theatre in October next year, 16-year-old Nina, rendered silent and sullen by the grief of her father’s death, will soar with her mother in a hot-air balloon above the heads of the audience. It will be a striking start to an opera about love, loss, life and the struggle of non-indigenous people to come to grips with Australia’s vast landscape.

Flying across the desert, Nina is glued to her iPod as her mother sings of her love for the huge, empty land below. But a storm strikes and her mother plummets to her death, leaving Nina trudging through the desert and hallucinating into existence a camel as her companion. Her mother’s ghost comes across a waterhole inhabited by other spirits.

Nina later arrives at the oasis but it is reserved for those who embraced the land before they died. She is cast out by spirits but rescued by her mother and father, who return her to health and encourage her to leave for good to live out the rest of her life

Nova Ensemble, the fine-music group led by Pye and Buddle, has received $390,000 from the MPF for Into the Shimmer Heat, which involves some of WA’s leading independent performing artists across music, theatre, dance, puppetry and design. Also on board is Opera Australia artistic director Lyndon Terracini in a mentoring role.

The two-year fund concluded last year after dispensing $2.1 million between six projects. They include Marrugeku’s 2009 Burning Daylight national tour, Yirra Yaakin’s Aboriginal musical Waltzing the Willara for the 2011 Perth International Arts Festival and a Thin Ice/WA Opera’s co-production of Richard Strauss’ Elektra in 2012.

Pye says the development and production costs for Into the Simmer Heat will be about $800,000, so half will need to come through sponsors, philanthropists and the box-office during its likely two-week season.

The announcement of the MPF in late 2007 came like drought-breaking rain for Pye, Buddle and Thomson after years of perseverance but diminishing expectations that the opera would be anything more than presented in concert version.

“I think it is an awesome, heaven-sent opportunity to make a bit of a splash and create something on a grander scale because there is the money to do something properly,” Pye says. “The whole concept of putting together a pot of money that the smaller companies can access to realise their vision is extraordinary.”

The project began in 1995 with a chat between Pye and Spare Parts Puppet founder Peter Wilson about the junk opera Shockheaded Peter. “We were just having a discussion about puppet operas generally and the lack thereof,” says Pye, who commissioned Thomson to write the libretto.

A series of music and puppetry workshops followed. “We came to the conclusion that we had a good opera but that singing puppets wasn’t the way to go,” Pye says. “They are very impersonal and tended to make people laugh rather than address the serious emotional message behind the opera.”

What they settled on were some small marionettes to alter the scale of characters walking across a distant sand dune and Philippe Genty-style manipulation of objects such as wicker, sticks and fabric from the wrecked balloon morphing into the hallucinatory camel.

Pye says the opera is intended to ask questions about how outsiders find a place in the ancient Australian landscape. “We all feel very strong that it is very important that non-indigenous people also find a relationship with the landscape . . . because a lot of people feel quite dislocated and many people in the city are afraid to go out into the bush. I think if we are truly going to look after the country we live in, we are going to have to find a way to form a relationship with the land.”

A young WA dancer, who is yet to be named, will play Nina with the other roles taken by soprano Sara Macliver, mezzo-sopranos Xiaojia Zhang and Fiona Campbell and baritone Robert Hofmann. The Nova Ensemble will perform in the pit, from which the spirits will rise up on to the stage aided by designer Alan Murphy, choreographer Danielle Micich and puppeteers Ian Tregonning and Joanne Foley.

“There are spectacular visual scenes, high emotion, love arias, death and so on and so forth,” Pye says. “We tried very deliberately to make it very approachable for the average person. We are not writing for ivory-tower listeners and we are certainly not aiming for just the opera public. We are trying to present a 21st century version of opera which tells stories that are relevant to us today as West Australians.”

‘A lot of people feel quite dislocated and many people in the city are afraid to go out into the bush.’

The Nova Ensemble will hold more workshops in the new Heath Ledger Theatre in December to test technical aspects of the venue.

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Nova Ensemble

Nova Ensemble is a contemporary music group based in Fremantle, Western Australia. The group’s music explores aspects of music technology, contemporary instrument design and building, cross-cultural music, collaborative composition and improvisation. The members of the group are all involved in creating repertoire for the group, and each brings a diverse range of skills to our performances.

David Pye

David Pye

David Pye is a composer, percussionist and conductor working principally in the areas of contemporary music and dance. In 1983 he founded Nova to perform the classical music of the twentieth century and has overseen the development of the group into a contemporary music organisation which commissions, writes, performs and records

music, principally by Western Australian composers. As Artistic Director of Nova, he has been responsible for commissioning and performing works by every major composer resident in Perth. David took up composition in 1989 with commissions since for Nova, Chrissie Parrott Dance Company, Festival of Perth, Independent New Choreographers, 2-Dance Plus, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, WA Academy of the Performing Arts School of Dance, Graduate College of Dance, Myth Maker Films, Mostly Baroque and the W.A Mandolin Orchestra.

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