Adelaide festival launches 2022 program with a free open-air spectacular and international acts

Rock music legends Icehouse and an African chamber ensemble are among the acts featuring at Australia’s premier arts festival

Adelaide festival directors Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy are banking on 100% capacity houses with fully vaccinated audiences for their festival program in March 2022.

Australia’s premier arts festival will welcome international acts and artists after this year’s event had its wings clipped due to border closures.

The opening weekend of 4-6 March will feature an orchestra drawing its musicians from the cream of the African continent’s musical talent, a rarely performed opera and a free open-air spectacular.

Chineke!, a classical chamber ensemble of black and ethnically diverse musicians led by Nigerian-Irish double bass exponent Chi-chi Nwanoku, will feature new commissions by William Barton and Deborah Cheetham, along with works by Schubert, Prokofiev, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, William Grant Still and Valerie Coleman at the Adelaide Town Hall.

The already announced Barrie Kosky-directed opera The Golden Cockerel, by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, will star the British bass-baritone Pavlo Hunka, the Russian soprano Venera Gimadieva and the Russian tenor Andrei Popov, alongside the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. It has never before been performed in Australia.

The Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov opera The Golden Cockerel
The Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov opera The Golden Cockerel will be performed for the first time in Australia at the 2022 Adelaide festival Photograph: Supplied

The Adelaide Oval will host a free world premiere by the South Australian physical theatre company Gravity and Other Myths of its show Macro. It teams up with dance troupe Djuki Mala from north-east Arnhem Land, along with a mass choir, in a show featuring fireworks and giant projection scrims.

The oval will also be the venue for a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Icehouse’s classic hit Great Southern Land. The Iva Davies-led band will be joined by didgeridoo master William Barton for the opening weekend concert.

Iva Davies on stage
Icehouse lead singer Iva Davies. Photograph: Tony Mott

Healy said putting together the 2022 program had been even more challenging than the 2021 program, plagued as it was by uncertainties and limited capacity audiences.

“Last year the entire world was closed down, and so there was a willingness to do things like live streaming, because [artists] were sitting around doing nothing overseas,” she said.

“Now the rest of the world has opened up. And so one of the hardest things has been having companies agree to come and do 14 days’ hotel quarantine … we’re just not that competitive at the moment.

“Not that we want to complain because the Edinburgh festival, for example, has had it far worse than us.”

In 2020 all of Edinburgh’s summer festivals were cancelled and, although the international festival went ahead in August, organisers were forced to present a significantly pared-back program largely confined to open-air auditoriums.

Healy said returning to Europe this year had given her and Armfield a strong sense of optimism and clarity about what the future would look like in Australia. Judging by Europe’s “new normal”, proof of vaccination before entry to any event would become standard practice for Australian theatregoers, she said.

The 2022 festival will host nine world premieres in total, and six Australian premieres, including a reinterpretation of Pina Bausch’s choreography for Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, performed by more than 30 dancers from across Africa; and a companion piece, common ground[s], by co-choreographers and dancers Germaine Acogny and Malou Airaudo.

Senegalese choreographer Germaine Acogny has drawn dancers from across Africa for The Rite of Spring
More than 30 dancers from across Africa will perform The Rite of Spring. Photograph: Supplied

The UK’s Lost Dog dance theatre company will stage Juliet & Romeo, based on the premise that the star-crossed lovers went on to live not-so-happily ever after and are now grappling with a midlife crisis.

New Australian works include an oratorio commemorating the 50th anniversary of the gay hate killing of Dr George Ian Ogilvie, with a score by the Brisbane composer Joe Twist and libretto by Alana Valentine and Christos Tsiolkas.

The 2022 festival will also feature two one-woman shows.

The Sydney Theatre Company’s critically acclaimed The Picture of Dorian Gray, in which Eryn Jean Norvill plays 26 characters, will make its Adelaide festival debut next year, before returning once more as part of the STC’s 2022 season.

Eryn Jean Norvill in the Sydney Theatre Company production of The Picture of Dorian Gray
Eryn Jean Norvill in the Sydney Theatre Company production of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Photograph: Daniel Boud

And Mitchell Butel will direct Justine Clarke in Dennis Kelly’s show Girls and Boys.


Kelly Burke

The GuardianTramp

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