Curtain call for Brisbane Festival’s director

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What shows didn’t go to plan?
The opera Peter Grimes was an ambitious piece to stage – our own production – and to have to walk on at interval during the first performance and announce that our star, Stuart Skelton, couldn’t continue because of a severe pollen allergy … it wasn’t a disaster but for the lead to go down for the most human of reasons, that was a moment!

What shows surprised you?
Yang Liping’s Under Seige. I knew she was famous in China but unknown elsewhere so I had no idea how that would go. It was challenging to find a way to communicate with our Chinese community but the surprise was how much Western audiences liked it, too.

Also, Symphony for Me: the concept for this free event, which we came up with and launched at 2015’s festival, enables members of the public to share their stories about their favourite orchestral music, and hear that music played live – often for the first time. The first one booked out in 15 minutes. So many stories have emerged in the years since of refugees, people coming to Brisbane through so many surprising ways and means … This year we’re moving it to the Riverstage, where it will have an audience of 5000.

What will you miss?
The regular conversations and the bond with artists around the world. It’s a very friendly environment and one that places art first. I’ve really loved that.

Do you have anything in the pipeline beyond the festival?
Not at the moment. But in Washington recently, I saw 59 Productions’ Apollo 50: Go for the Moon, an extraordinary show projected onto the Washington Monument, and you couldn’t get anything more spectacular. It was such a thrill to be in that city, and exploring companies that have a very different way of thinking about theatre was so invigorating. The world is a big place.

NEED TO KNOW
Brisbane Festival September 5-28

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