Leo Schofield’s renowned baroque music festival ‒ which began in Hobart but was refused adequate funding by the Tasmanian Premier ‒ has moved to Brisbane.
The dates, 10 to 18 April, and the main program for the nine-day festival will be the same as those planned for Hobart before the government pulled the plug. The festival will be launched by the federal Arts Minister, Senator George Brandis.
‘The Queensland government, and Senator Brandis, have a much better grasp of arts policy and cultural tourism and what those can do for a state,’ Schofield said.
‘But I felt no sense of allegiance to the Tasmanian Premier as he has shown us nothing but disdain. Put bluntly, he just didn’t get it.
‘And it’s nonsense to suggest that Tasmania is too small or too poor to afford such “luxuries” as a baroque music festival. As an extreme example Salzburg, a city smaller than Hobart, has one of the most renowned festivals in the world with a budget of $65 million. And even that investment has repeatedly been shown to contribute many times that to the Austrian economy.
‘If Mr Hodgman had been prepared to put in $450,000 – $50,000 more than the year before – and with a three-year guarantee, Hobart Baroque would have continued. To say the state government could not have found that money is utter nonsense.’
Instead, the Premier would not budge from his initial offer of $300,000, a reduction of $100,000 on the year before, which made the project unviable.
The inaugural Brisbane Baroque will celebrate the music of George Frideric Handel. The centrepiece will be an acclaimed production of a late rarity, the opera, Faramondo, from the Göttingen International Handel Festival in Germany. The Scottish-born director, Paul Curran, will come to Brisbane to recreate his production in the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. He is currently directing a Rossini opera for the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
The festival’s own music director, Erin Helyard, will conduct the Sydney-based Orchestra of the Antipodes.
Another major event, a concert by one of the world’s leading counter-tenors backed by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, has yet to be announced. This event will mirror the exceptional concert given at the final Hobart Baroque by the young Russian soprano, Julia Lezhneva, which won a national Helpmann award*.
The Brisbane Excelsior Band will feature in a free opening-night outdoor concert of Handel’s spectacular Music for the Royal Fireworks, which was originally composed as a suite for wind band.
A free opening night concert by the QSO at the QPAC Concert Hall will again showcase Handel, conducted by British conductor Oliver Gooch and starring three young Australian soloists.
Other items will include Purcell’s one-act opera Dido and Aeneas, and Bach’s Coffee Cantata. A young British star organist, Richard Gowers, will play Bach in three recitals in three of Brisbane’s inner-city churches; and a top baroque violinist, Julia Fredersdorf, will perform all fifteen of Biber’s Rosary Sonatas, accompanied by harpsichordist and organist Donald Nicolson.
A series of five-dollar recitals by top young Queensland performers will be held in the Brisbane City Hall.
The backing of Brisbane Baroque ‒ greatly more money and other help than was available in Hobart ‒ will for the first time allow artistic director Leo Schofield and executive director Jarrod Carland to be paid for their work rather than having to fund the event themselves. They will earn much less than the average wage ‒ but it’s something.
And for the first time, they will have a permanent office and access to a permanent expert staff. They will be housed by the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, whose staff will be available to work on Brisbane Baroque.
The main sponsor is the state government, through Tourism and Events Queensland. The Performing Arts Centre, with its four theatres, follows with support in cash and in kind. The theatres, office space and staff support are being provided free.
Major funding and collaboration is also coming from the Conservatorium of Music, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and the Lisa Gasteen Opera School. The federal government gave $100,000.
‘There’s been an extraordinary coalition of people and organisations supporting us,’ Schofield said.
‘Tourism and Events have a much better grasp of cultural tourism and far more experience of it than their opposite numbers in Tasmania. They’ve got experience in bringing some of the world’s leading orchestras, ballets and other events ‒ much of which I’ve worked on, bringing the Bolshoi, the Cuban National Ballet, the Hamburg Opera and Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre to Brisbane.
‘There’s a sense of collegiality that you don’t find in Tasmania. People co-operate with one another.’
*EARLIER on Tasmanian Times ...
• Tom Bailey, in Comments: No 9 Again not very gracious. Why should Mr Schofield continue to butt his head against a vision-lacking brick wall? It certainly will be Brisbane’s gain - long-term vision is recognised there. Now for your comments on lack of funding and worthiness of artists. As Tasmania has more artists per capita of population, then, of course, there will be ‘lots of artists’ unsuccessful with grant applications. Perhaps you are one of them. Regional Arts Fund successful applicants undergo the Peers and Peer Assessment panel selection - very inclusive and just brimming with social justice. I have heard from unsuccessful artist applicants that you have to be good buddies with at least one of the panel to ‘progress’ and that it is often the same ‘artists’ who, year after year, continue to get funding - another form of living off the ‘government welfare drip’. You gotta have maaaates.