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For months, the Sydney Opera House has kept ghost lights shining in its otherwise dark and empty theatres as part of an age-old tradition. But soon the overhead lights will be flicked on, as the venue opens its doors once more.
The Opera House has revealed its program of summer shows – including the revival of a popular musical, the return of a circus troupe and a dash of magic – as it tries to encourage audiences to add culture back to their calendars in the wake of the coronavirus.
Callum Francis and Seann Miley Moore will star in Rent at the Sydney Opera House.Credit:Edwina Pickles
"We have had A, B and C summer programs in the air for a few months," said Olivia Ansell, the Opera House's head of contemporary performance. "We got the news at the end of September that we could open at 50 per cent capacity and it's a testament to the team at the Sydney Opera House that we have moved as fast as we could to launch this program."
The summer season – to run between December and February – will start with a revival of the Hayes Theatre Co production of the musical Rent, which was first staged in 2015. Marking the 25th anniversary of the original Broadway production, the show's star Callum Francis said the musical about diversity, inclusion and friendship during the AIDS crisis remains relevant and important.
"It's pretty impressive how timeless it is, it could have been written and released this year. I think it will be really interesting for people to see it again," Francis said.
Francis, who was born in the UK and now lives in Australia, said it was a major honour to perform at the Opera House.
"Growing up, that picture of the bridge and the Opera House was so iconic," he said. "As a British man, I am just peaking that I get to perform there."
Sydney Opera House head of contemporary Olivia Ansell.Credit:Edwina Pickles
His co-star, Seann Miley Moore, who will play performance artist Angel, a role he also acted in America in 2005, said performing in the show and as the character had helped him personally as well as professionally.
"When I played this role I hadn’t officially come out yet but the power of theatre and the power of Angel literally lead me on my journey," Moore said. "The freedom and the joy and the celebration they felt within the show, knowing the life they have is limited but to live that life to the fullest is incredibly special."
Following Rent, magician James Galea will bring his Best Trick Ever show to the Studio along with guest magicians Helen Coghlan, Raymond Crowe, Dom Chambers and Vincent Kuo from February, while Circa will bring their circus cabaret Peepshow to the Drama Theatre.
"Peepshow is a voyeuristic take on the allure and desire of things you can't have and is another one of Yaron Lifschitz’s wonderfully metaphysical works," Ansell said.
The final production on the line-up is the musical The Choir of Man, which attracted positive reviews from critics and audiences alike when it played at the Opera House last year.
Ansell said she was proud to deliver a program to connect artists and audiences again after the Opera House was forced to close its doors and move to a digital-only program due the coronavirus.
On Sunday, the venue opened to the public for the first time since lockdowns began, to pay tribute to the late Australian jazz musician Don Burrows who died in March.
Some 750 socially distanced audience-goers filled the 1500-seat venue, as jazz luminaries including James Morrison, Emma Pask, Andy Firth, Phil Stack and Kevin Hunt celebrated Burrows' life.
"It was spine-tingling during the Don Burrows tribute," Ansell said. "You have this connectivity between audiences and artists where the most extraordinary performance has been delivered in that incredible space, and you have that pin-drop moment of silence before the audience erupts into applause.
"You could dine out on a moment like that for the rest of your life."
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