Review: GALILEO at Palais Theatre

On Demand streaming of this production and many others are included as part of Victorian Opera’s Digital Access Season.

By: Dec. 26, 2023
Review: GALILEO at Palais Theatre

It is not every day that I get to attend the World Premiere of a new Australian Opera, particularly when the composer himself is conducting the performance. It was therefore my privilege to witness Richard Mills AM, conduct his tour de force operatic composition, Galileo. Sung in Italian, with a quasi-terza rima libretto by the talented Malcom Angelucci, Galileo tells the story of the polymathic Renaissance scientist and astronomer Galileo Galilei, well known by many as the father of modern physics and astronomy.

This two-act Opera tells Galileo’s story from boyhood through to old age, in a series of episodic vignettes, which as detailed in this Opera’s program, are stylistically crafted around late sixteenth and early seventeenth century operatic conventions, particularly those of Italian composers Cavalli, Monteverdi and Peri. Elements of Mythological Pageants, Madrigal Comedies and Renaissance Intermezzo are also incorporated into this Opera’s portrayal of Galileo’s personal/family life, and his professional beliefs as a scientist.

In particular, the incorporation and interjections of an ensemble of Angels and Demons through the storytelling process, helped contextualise for the audience the presence of mischievous conflict in the spiritual realm. Something that was pertinent, given Galileo lived in Renaissance Italy, and that his heliocentric belief, that the earth was not the centre of the universe and instead rotated around the sun, came into conflict with the Catholic Church’s geocentric belief of the time.

Review: GALILEO at Palais Theatre
Richard Mills AM​​​​​
Photo by Charlie Kinross

Baritone, Samuel Dundas, as Galileo gave a strong vocal performance, as did baritone, Christopher Hillier, as Vincenzio Galileo, Galileo’s father. Stacey Alleaume was sensational as Soprano della Peste and was a true highlight of the performance. Mezzo soprano, Dimity Shepherd, as Marina Gamba, and baritone Raphael Wong, as the lead demon in the demons’ ensemble, also gave memorable and strong vocal performances.

Richard Mills’ orchestration of Galileo was simply stunning and the performance by both Orchestra Victoria and the Renaissance band, La Compañia, brought a rich, vibrant, and authentic orchestral timbre to Galileo that was a pleasure to listen to.  With this performance of Galileo bringing an end to Mills’ illustrious and remarkable decade as Victorian Opera’s Artistic Director, music lovers can only now wait in anticipation to see what his genius produces next.

Galileo’s debut was at the Palais Theatre on Wednesday 20th December 2023. On Demand streaming of this production and many others are included as part of Victorian Opera’s Digital Access Season.