MUSIC NEWS. Big new arts facility at Green Square. Opera Queensland’s new artistic director will stir the possum. Parramatta Cultural Plan

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Big new arts facility to open this year at Green Square

Green Square is a 278 hectare development between Sydney CBD and the airport. It will have a population of 61,000. The City of Sydney is spending $540 million on infrastructure over ten years.

Included is the Joynton Avenue Creative Centre, to be built in the former nurses’ quarters of the former South Sydney Hospital. The Council has announced that Joynton will be managed by the already highly creative 107 Projects, a very diverse and imaginative hub in the heart of Redfern a few kilometres away. 107 MD says that Joynton will not replicate the Redfern program but will seek to serve the Green Square community.

Joynton Avenue will lease out studio and office spaces

Opera Queensland’s new artistic director will stir the possum

He is Patrick Nolan, former AD of Legs on the Wall and recently director of a successful production for the very contemporary Sydney Chamber Opera. His career has been diverse and includes large scale festival events and directing gigs with Seattle Opera and NZ Opera.

Opera Queensland has been in financial trouble and the National Opera Review was torn between excommunicating it from Major Performing Arts company status because it was not meeting the criteria, and rescue. In the event, it recommended rescue with an infusion of funds to build the balance sheet.

Patrick Nolan

But it proposed a condition be placed on the major opera companies for the minimum number of ‘mainstage’ operas presented in a year – three in the case of OQ. OQ has been presenting only one and diverting a lot of resources to building small scale opera in the regions, with local participation in the chorus. This was a passion of current director Lindy Hume, who is leaving in October.

Nolan is quoted at some length in Arts Hub: He states that expanding the operatic canon and demonstrating that opera is artistically relevant in the 21st century is of major importance. ‘It couldn’t be more important! How important? 12 out of 10 important. If you’re an arts company and you’re not engaging with the world you’re living in and you’re not exploring the form and you’re not actually exploring how you can build the form and develop the form in new and different ways, then I think you’re failing as an arts organisation. It’s as simple as that,’ he said.

‘I don’t think there is anything wrong with presenting art works that come from the past. But because it is a living art form, because it is about sharing an experience between a living, breathing audience and what the performers are doing on stage, you need that to have a frisson, you need it to have a relevance and an energy that’s speaking to the here and now,’ Nolan explained.

Nolan directed Sydney Chamber Opera’s Notes from Underground

‘And then obviously you complement that and support that by also looking to develop new ideas and new works. Because I know that there are plenty of young opera composers who are doing really interesting things in Australia … there’s a lot of really exciting new material out there and there’s an audience for it.’

We couldn’t agree more, but it will be very difficult to reconcile this objective financially with presenting three mainstage operas each year (depending upon the definition of ‘mainstage’).

This is a courageous appointment which could change the face of opera in Australia. Every success to it.

Parramatta Cultural Plan

Parramatta is a Sydney suburb 23 kms west of the CBD and roughly at the centre of the metropolitan region. Its official population is 245,000 and within a 45 minute radius live 2.3 million people. So as potentially a successful cultural centre, it can draw on a population larger than that of every other Australian city except Melbourne. The city itself suddenly is growing apace and the population will increase by 40,000 by 2021 and nearly double by 2036. It is highly diverse culturally; one quarter of its population arrived in Australia in the last five year. The CBD is growing at astonishing speed. It is about to open a high-rise campus of Western Sydney University with 10,000 students right next to the railway station. It will become a transport hub, with additional rail, ferries, rapid transport to its suburbs and relative proximity to the new airport.

Parramatta CBD. It won’t look like this next year. The Blue Mountains are on the horizon 35kms distant and there are potential participants and audience members all the way.

Parramatta is developing a cultural plan and has published a large policy discussion paper. It has invited submissions and a policy proposal will be made by mid-year. The apparent URL does not work but you can easily find the paper through a web search.

The music content so far is fine but sparse with a strong focus on popular music:

DiSCOVER THE SOUNDTRACK OF THE CITY.  Imagine our City alive with music. On the streets, in small bars, through the day, after work and into the night. The energy and diversity of a live music scene could enhance the liveability of our City and assist in creating a safe, inclusive and welcoming place.

  • How can we create opportunities for local musicians from every musical tradition to complement the development of small bars and music venues throughout the City and add to our growing night-time economy?
  • How can we make it easier for venue operators and major promoters to work in Parramatta?…
  • Develop a Live Music Strategy in consultation with key stakeholders including local artists, venues, community and businesses.
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