May Highlights

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This month, Sydney has a feast of fare with concerts that feature some fabulous performers, ensembles and composers. 


Opera megastar Dame Kiri Te Kanawa is celebrating her 70th birthday with a gala tour  performing a selection of her personal favourites with Terence Dennis at the piano.

Dame Kiri’s career has spanned over 40 years during which time she has sung in opera houses and recital halls round the world, and even appeared as Dame Nellie Melba in the TV series Downton Abbey. She has been honoured by the Queen, by academia and by the recording industry.

Sydney: May 20, Joan Sutherland Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House.


In a complete change of style, later in May Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra get together with The Presets to present  Timeline a sonic and visual journey, which Tognetti says will be “shocking but also highly revealing”.

Beginning with Australia’s ancient Aboriginal culture, around 40,000 years ago, the programme moves through the centuries culling repertoire from Sumerian drones, the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical and Romantic before landing in modern times, with a piece that The Presets and Tognetti have co-composed, completing a journey that is 42,000 years long.

Expect engrossing visual elements, with the performance marshalled by acclaimed major-events director, Ignatius Jones.

Sydney season:  May 20–29, City Recital Hall

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The Melbourne based Flinders Quartet takes to the road with its delightfully titled programme Pure Quartet Bliss, performing Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 77, No. 1 in G major, Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 7 in F sharp minor, Op. 108 and Dvorak’s String Quartet Op. 96 in F major (American)

Sydney: May 14, Utzon Room, Sydney Opera House

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The mandolin is rarely heard in performance in Australia so this is a rare opportunity to hear this member of the lute family which dates back to 17th century Italy.  It is the centrepiece of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s May series with virtuoso Avi Avital performing the music of Vivaldi, Albinoni, JS Bach, Bartok and Falla.

The orchestra showcases its own virtuosity in Pachelbel’s Canon.

Sydney:  May 7-16, City Recital Hall.

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In an Australia-wide tour Musica Viva presents The American Brass Quintet with music that ranges from the grand Italian Renaissance to the contemporary. The quintet whose members are all graduates of the Juilliard School is visiting Australia for the first time in 4 decades. In two different concerts programs they will play music by Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Lovelock, Sampson and more.

Sydney May 19 and 31, City Recital Hall

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The Sydney Opera House will be shaken to its rafters when conductor Paul McCreesh, founding director of the Gabrieli Consort recreates the 1846 premiere of Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah with a vast array of musical forces including the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, soprano Gillian Webster, mezzo- soprano Deborah Humble, tenor Thomas Walker and bass-baritone Andrew Foster-Williams, with Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and the Conservatorium High School Choir.

May 14-18, Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House.


Following Elijah – and fresh from her superb performances as Erda and Waltraute in last year’s Melbourne Ring Cycle – mezzo-soprano Deborah Humble performs another concert before returning to her home in Europe.

Great Australian Wagnerians in Recital features Wagner’s mighty Wesendonck Lieder and an array of Brahms’ most famous pieces for voice, viola and piano, with Stephen Mould at the piano.

May 28, Verbrugghen Hall

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The Art Gallery Society of New South Wales presents pianist Alexander Boyd, another member of the illustrious Boyd dynasty, in its Resonate series. The program, Evocations of Spain, begins with Mozart’s Sonata in A minor, followed by a Chopin Scherzo and two Nocturnes, concluding with Albeniz’s evocative music from Iberia Books I & II.  

The concert will be preceded by a champagne reception and private viewing of Afghanistan: hidden treasures from the National Museum, Kabul. 

Quote SoundsLikeSydney to obtain members’ rates.

May 30, from 7 pm, Art Gallery of New South Wales.


More glorious brass as Paul McCreesh return to his Renaissance roots conducting A Venetian Coronation, featuring his sumptuous reconstruction of a 16th century coronation mass in St Mark’s Basilica.

The Choirs of St James’  King Street and of St Mary’s Cathedral are joined by Australian Baroque Brass for this splendid concert. which will feature the music of Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli and their contemporaries.

May 21, St Mary’s Cathedral Sydney 


The Marais Project directed by Jennifer Eriksson, presents the music of  Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764),  contemporary of Marin Marais after whom the ensemble is named. Commemorating the 250th anniversary of Rameau’s death The Marais Project presents a selection of his works including his famous Pièces de clavecin en concerts for harpsichord, violin and viola da gambatwo cantatas and a new piece for viola da gamba by Alice Chance. The instrumentalists are joined by soprano Belinda Montgomery and baritone David Hidden. 

May 25, 3 pm Recital Hall West, Sydney Conservatorium, Macquarie St, Sydney.


The unusual sound of the vibraphone reverberates when vibes virtuoso Nick Parnell re-visits classics like Gershwin’s Summertime, Albeniz’s Tango, Ravel’s Alborada del Gracioso and Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba to create a whole new soundscape. Parnell is accompanied by pianist Amir Farid, Winner of the 2006 Australian National Piano Award.

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The Northside Opera Study Group’s weekly Monday morning meetings continue through May and June. May highlights include insights into Pinchgut Opera’s production of Salieri’s The Chimney Sweep, and Francesco Assenza’s look at Puccini’s early operas.

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