Elijah Moshinsky
(1946–2021)

We take a look back at the director's enduring, spectacular productions at Opera Australia.

La Traviata at Sydney Opera House in 2018. Photo: Prudence Upton.

La Traviata at Sydney Opera House in 2018. Photo: Prudence Upton.

Elijah Moshinsky (1946–2021) was not only one of the greatest opera directors to ever emerge from Australia, but one of the world's true greats. He created productions that captured all of the beauty, drama and whimsy of the finest operas ever written.

Moshinsky had his first major breakthrough in 1975 when he created a low budget production of Peter Grimes for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Three years later he made his debut with Opera Australia (then called The Australian Opera), and over four decades created plenty of wonderful productions, several of which remained in our repertoire for many years.

Elijah Moshinsky. Photo: Jeff Busby.

Elijah Moshinsky. Photo: Jeff Busby.

Opera Australia Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini reflects on Elijah Moshinsky's contributions

“It is with great sadness to hear the news of Elijah Moshinsky’s passing.

“Elijah has had a profound and enduring influence on Opera Australia. His many landmark productions such as La Traviata and Rigoletto are still a vital part of OA’s repertoire.

“He directed regularly for all of the world’s great opera houses and was, in every way, a true man of the theatre. I was thrilled that despite ill health he was able to return to OA in 2015 to revive his wonderful production of Don Carlos; and what a grand occasion that was for OA and for Elijah.

“I, like many of his friends and colleagues around the world will miss him enormously, but I’m sure he’s already in discussion with Giuseppe Verdi, his great hero, about what they could, and should, be doing together!

“We will find a way soon to celebrate the life and the enormous contribution that Elijah made to Opera Australia and to the world of theatre.”

Wozzeck

1976
Moshinsky made his Opera Australia debut with a stripped back production of Alban Berg's Wozzeck. It played just three performances at the Adelaide Festival Theatre, with Raymond Myers in the title role and Lone Koppel as Marie.

Raymond Myers in Wozzeck (1976) at Adelaide Festival Theatre. Photo: Opera Australia Archives.

Raymond Myers in Wozzeck (1976) at Adelaide Festival Theatre. Photo: Opera Australia Archives.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

1978
Moshinsky returned to direct Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The production received great reviews, praised for its darker and menacing undertones, and was revived multiple times.

Neil Warren-Smith as Bottom and Graeme Ewer as Flute in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1978) at Sydney Opera House. Photo: Branco Gaica/Opera Australia Archives.

Neil Warren-Smith as Bottom and Graeme Ewer as Flute in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1978) at Sydney Opera House. Photo: Branco Gaica/Opera Australia Archives.

Boris Godunov

1980
Moshinsky tackled Mussorgsky's masterpiece in a production that premiered at the Sydney Opera House in 1980. Donald Shanks starred in the title role, and the production was revived throughout the 1980s.

Boris Godunov (1980) at Sydney Opera House. Photo: Branco Gaica/Opera Australia Archives.

Boris Godunov (1980) at Sydney Opera House. Photo: Branco Gaica/Opera Australia Archives.

Il Trovatore

1983
In 1983, Moshinsky collaborated with Dame Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge for the first time on a new production of Il Trovatore. His staging featured beautifully painted gauzes and cloths by legendary Australian artist Sidney Nolan. Watch the full production on OA | TV.

Dame Joan Sutherland and Jonathan Summers in Il Trovatore at Sydney Opera House (1983). Photo: Branco Gaica/Opera Australia Archives.

Dame Joan Sutherland and Jonathan Summers in Il Trovatore at Sydney Opera House (1983). Photo: Branco Gaica/Opera Australia Archives.

Dialogues of the Carmelites

1984
Francis Poulenc's rarely-performed 1957 opera about a group of nuns condemned to death made its Opera Australia debut with this Moshinsky production. Dame Joan Sutherland returned to the role she first played in 1958 at the opera's London premiere. Watch the full production on OA | TV.

John Fulford in Dialogues of the Carmelites (1984) at Sydney Opera House. Photo: Branco Gaica/Opera Australia Archives.

John Fulford in Dialogues of the Carmelites (1984) at Sydney Opera House. Photo: Branco Gaica/Opera Australia Archives.

Werther

1989
Moshinsky updated Massenet's Werther from the 18th century to the 20th in this stylish production. Neil Rosenshein played the title role with Bernadette Cullen as Charlotte. The production was last revived in 2019.

Bernadette Cullen and David Brennan in Werther (1989) at Sydney Opera House. Photo: Opera Australia Archives.

Bernadette Cullen and David Brennan in Werther (1989) at Sydney Opera House. Photo: Opera Australia Archives.

Rigoletto

1991
Moshinsky’s La Dolce Vita-inspired version of Rigoletto remains one of our audience’s favourite productions, three decades after its premiere. With its fabulous revolving dollhouse set designed by Michael Yeargan, this cinematic staging has stood the test of time. Over the years, many of our favourite singers have performed in this production, which was last seen in May 2019 in Melbourne.

Michael Lewis in Rigoletto (2010) at Arts Centre Melbourne. Photo: Jeff Busby/Opera Australia Archives.

Michael Lewis in Rigoletto (2010) at Arts Centre Melbourne. Photo: Jeff Busby/Opera Australia Archives.

Hansel and Gretel

1992
The playful and dark spirit of Engelbert Humperdinck's opera was at the fore in Moshinsky's production designed by Mark Thompson. Suzanne Johnston and Christine Douglas starred as the titular children in the production's premiere season.

Hansel and Gretel (1992) at Sydney Opera House. Photo: Kiren Chang/Opera Australia Archives.

Hansel and Gretel (1992) at Sydney Opera House. Photo: Kiren Chang/Opera Australia Archives.

La Traviata

1994
This lavish production of La Traviata is arguably the crown jewel in the productions Moshinsky created for Opera Australia. It captures all the glamour and tragedy of Verdi's opera and has starred some of Australia and the world's greatest sopranos as Violetta since its premiere.

Ermonela Jaho in La Traviata (2017) at Sydney Opera House. Photo: Keith Saunders/Opera Australia Archives.

Ermonela Jaho in La Traviata (2017) at Sydney Opera House. Photo: Keith Saunders/Opera Australia Archives.

The Barber of Seville

1995
With its cartoon-bright colours and laugh-out-loud gags, Moshinsky's take on Rossini's masterpiece is a firm audience favourite. The production draws inspiration from Hollywood's silent movies of the 1920s (complete with an all-Austrailan digger), and was last revived in 2016.

The Barber of Seville (2016) at Sydney Opera House. Photo: Keith Saunders/Opera Australia Archives.

The Barber of Seville (2016) at Sydney Opera House. Photo: Keith Saunders/Opera Australia Archives.

Beatrice and Benedict

1998
Moshinsky directed our first production of Berlioz's comedy in 1998, with a cast that featured Kirsti Harms, Jamie Allen, and a young Emma Matthews.

Kirsti Harms and Jamie Allen in Beatrice and Benedict (1998) at Arts Centre Melbourne. Photo: Jeff Busby/Opera Australia Archives.

Kirsti Harms and Jamie Allen in Beatrice and Benedict (1998) at Arts Centre Melbourne. Photo: Jeff Busby/Opera Australia Archives.

Don Carlos

1999
Moshinsky considered Don Carlos to be Verdi's masterpiece. The director's passion for the piece shone through clearly in this epic production. He returned to Opera Australia in 2015 to refine and revive his staging, and received glowing reviews in doing so.

Don Carlos (2015) at Arts Centre Melbourne. Photo: Jeff Busby/Opera Australia Archives.

Don Carlos (2015) at Arts Centre Melbourne. Photo: Jeff Busby/Opera Australia Archives.