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Tim Burton meets Bizet in circus opera

Review by Ellen Hill    Photos: David Hill

Opera can’t be fun, sexy and a little bit naughty. Can it? Oh yes, it can.

Fresh from a sell-out season on London’s West End, cabaret-style show The Carnival plays the new auditorium at the Fairmont Resort MGallery, Leura, every Friday night until mid-November.

A stunning blend of opera, classical music and circus acts, it is a first for the Blue Mountains and sweeps aside any false notion of predictability and mustiness in Australia’s original holiday destination.

If The Carnival is an indication of the regular schedule of events promised by Fairmont general manager Geoff York, then the nightlife of the upper Blue Mountains will soon be the place to be.

Audiences know from the first note that this is no traditional piece when singer Keara Donohoe warbles through an aria repeating the lyrics “it sucks to be me’’.

The show features an all-female cast and is a very intimate introduction to Australian composer and The Carnival co-creator Chloe Charody.

Crazy characters from her imagination manifest themselves on stage and reach out to the audience, crossing that invisible boundary between the stage and the audience and stream up the aisles.

Violinist and co-artistic director Sonja Schebeck doubles as a flame eater and Donohoe and fellow songbird Michaela Leisk belt out tunes suspended from hoops. These divas have the voices of La Stupenda but the bodies of Mariah Carey.

The show centres around the beautiful young Mischa unencumbered by a job and elated by her impending marriage to a wealthy stockbroker. Her world is turned upside down when a shock encounter at her family’s annual masquerade ball reveals that her Romeo has a Romeo of his own.

Distraught and alone, Mischa stares into her bedroom mirror. Through it, a parade of bizarre characters and mythical creatures step and take her on an adventure, after which she is reborn a woman of virtue and strength.

Operatic-burlesque-music-meets-carnival in style, The Carnival debuted in London’s West End with a sell-out season in March 2011, again in October 2011, and went on to run a series of successful shows in Australia.

Charody hopes the circus tricks, outrageous costumes and more modern storylines will help entice a new generation of opera lovers – not to mention the spiciness of pole dancing.

The controversial dance genre performed by Bailey Hart in the first act is very PG, romantic rather than sexy, and the aerial tissue routines stunningly beautiful.

The show hots up in Act 2 when Miss Stacey Minx, clad in leather and attitude, wraps her lithe

limbs around the pole, shiny black thigh-high boots glinting as she moves.

Just as the temperature on-stage threatens to boil over, Hart returns to cool things down with her white and silver leotard and long red hair tied in a casual ponytail, a picture of girlish innocence.

Fairmont general manager Geoff York said he was excited to bring the work, which has been hailed “a showcase of genius’’, to the Blue Mountains and looked forward to a regular schedule of events at the hotel in the future.

“This work is a small-scale production with large-scale theatricality, combining classical musicians and circus artists in a bold new show that will delight audiences of all ages.

“The show really pushes the boundaries of theatre and will help to attract visitors from all over Australia to the Blue Mountains.’’

Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Tourism chairman Randall Walker said: “We would not have a tourism industry unless operators are prepared to take a risk and make an investment. I commend the owners of Fairmont Resort for investing in bringing The Carnival to the Blue Mountains, it is a new and colourful genre of culture.’’

The Carnival will be staged at The Fairmont Resort, Sublime Point Rd, Leura, each Friday evening until November 16. Tickets: $43.50 adults, $33.50 concession, $23.50 children (10-14 years). Bookings and information: Accommodation inquiries: (02) 4785 0000.

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Norman Lindsay Gallery, Faulconbridge.

Mountain biking on the Oaks track between Glenbrook and Woodford.

The old Lucasville Station platform and stairs on the Lapstone Zig Zag track.

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