The arts and entertainment curtain calls of 2013

Escaping the day-to-day routine of domestic drudgery - however briefly - is one of great attractions of a cruise, discovers Mike Dolan.

Blockbuster events in Australia — whether they're music, art or food — are acting as powerful drawcards on the travelling public, writes Mike Dolan.

It was a spectacular gamble … more Wall Street than Bennelong Point. Some say $11milllion was at stake, including the reputation of Opera Australia … and it all rested on the fickle weather.
Staging a full-scale production of La Traviata on Sydney Harbour was always going to be risky. Staging it in one of wettest years in decades seemed insane. And yet, it paid off with dividends, re-invigorating Opera Australia and boosting tourism in NSW.
All this, thanks to the vision of one man, Opera Australia’s Artistic Director, Lyndon Terracini. “I had four weather apps on my phone and each one told me the sun was going to shine,” says Terracini. And even though it had rained for a month, the sun did shine on the opening night and 3000 people leapt to their feet and roared with applause.
“The next day we sold more than $200,000 tickets in a day. Sixty per cent of the people who came had never been to an opera before,” says Terracini. And 40 per cent of the audience came from interstate and overseas, proving that the arts can be a dynamic factor in getting people to travel.
Who knows what would have transpired if the rain had continued to fall. But that’s all in the past and Terracini has every right to feel vindicated. 2012-2013 has seen Opera Australia sell more tickets than in any year of its 56-year history. And thanks to La Traviata’s success, Carmen — one of the sexiest, most thrillingly incandescent operas in the repertoire – is being staged alfresco from March 22 to April 12. And it’s not just Bizet’s fiery Spanish rhythms under the inspired direction of Gale Edwards that will attract people in their thousands to Sydney’s Royal Botanical Gardens, it’s the sheer novelty of the event: the “floating stage”, an auditorium among the trees, the bars and restaurants specially built for the occasion and the spectacular harbour backdrop.
It’s a package with huge international appeal and is expected to generate millions in new tourist dollars. For Sydneysiders, it’ll be one of city’s great nights out of 2013. For more information and tickets, visit Opera Australia.
An equally exotic event takes place at the Qualia resort when The Australian Ballet showcases some of its star dancers in front of another spectacular backdrop - the Whitsundays at sunset. Now in its sixth year, Pas de Deux in Paradise returns to Queensland’s Hamilton Island on the weekend of November 23-24.
It’s a multi-dimensional weekend where guests get an unprecedented insight into the workings of a ballet company and how the magic is weaved behind the scenes and on stage. Spectators get to mingle with the dancers and the company’s artistic director, David McAllister, at a beachside cocktail party before the show, watch rehearsals and partake in a question-and-answer session. There’s also a sensational dinner at the resort’s Long Pavilion. For ballet lovers or anyone in search of romantic getaway, this is the event … perfect for an anniversary. More information at Australian Ballet-Qualia.
Art and food are also moving Australians and one not to be missed is the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival. Celebrating its 10th year, the festival will host 200 of the world’s top chefs, winemakers and food personalities from May 16-19. For southerners facing the onset of winter, it offers a warm weekend on the Sunshine Coast with fabulous food and wine at a resort town loved the world over.
The Gala Opening Concert, Edible Music, sounds intriguing. A world-first, it will see some of Australia’s and the world’s most-acclaimed chefs creating their canapes to the music the QLD Virtuosi Orchestra. And, of course, ticket holders get to eat them! When punters have had their fill of gourmet events, Noosa offers pristine beaches and beautiful coastal walking tracks. For information, visit Noosa International Food & Wine Festival 2013.
The biggest and the oldest food bash in Australian is the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year from 1-17 March 2013. Each year, it showcases a dazzling array of food and wine talent that reflects what’s on offer in Victoria, the state identified with our earliest food and wine renaissance.
This year, the Chef MasterClass presents Australians Martin Boetz (Longrain), Guillaume Brahimi (Guillaume) and Matthew Evans (Huon Valley) and American Sean Brock, otherwise known as the Son of the South. But there is also an intriguing Earth MasterClass with events, such as Origin of the Hangi, The Food at the Beginning, Farm Philosophies, The Life of Vegetable and Love of the Land. As well as the celebrated Perfect Match wine event and Theatre of Ideas. Visit Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2013.
Much smaller, but a gem of an event that celebrates regional produce and its talented producers is the second Yarra Valley food & Wine Festival from April 12-14. Along with “world-class dining events”, there’ll be tractor tours, tea parties and produce demonstrations – all in the pastoral perfection of the Yarra. For more information, visit Yarra Food & Wine Festival.
Two of the three year’s biggest art exhibitions bring 19th century Britain and France into sharp focus. At the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, is Toulouse-Lautrec: Paris & The Moulin Rouge — a celebration of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s life and works in the bars, nightclubs and back streets of the French capital. Of the 110 works, the paintings and posters stand out with their often poignant fly-on-wall portrayals of the people who filled the demi-monde of Parisian nightlife. This not-to-missed exhibition is on until April 2. Visit National Gallery of Australia.
More than 100 works — some which have never been seen outside London — of the celebrated landscape painter of J.M.W. Turner can be seen at The Art Gallery of South Australia from February 8-May 19. The exhibition, Turner from The Tate: The Making of a Master represents some of the finest work from the iconic Tate Britain gallery. Turner, who is said to have dabbled with Impressionism before the Impressionists, is known for his representation of land- and sea- scapes in which figurative form often dissolves into pure light. Visit The Art Gallery of South Australia.
And then, there’s Francis Bacon: Five Decades, an exhibition of works by the enfant terrible of post-war British art that many may find challenging. Some 50 paintings can be seen in this, the first major exhibition of his rarest works ever to be seen in Australia (at the Art Gallery of NSW, until February 24). The art of Bacon has always been controversial. Much of his work is harrowing and people are said to either love it or hate it. Visit The Art Gallery of NSW.

read more from