Brisbane Festival Opera at the Racecourse will be held Eagle Farm Racecourse.
Brisbane Festival Opera at the Racecourse will be held Eagle Farm Racecourse. Justin Nicholas

Brissie really has the works

IN 1982, we were told Brisbane had come of age with the Commonwealth Games. Then World Expo put the river city on the international map in 1988.

Now, more than two decades later, Brisbane has matured into a cultured city offering world-class performances, restaurants, activities and a lifestyle we could only aspire to in the heady days before the new millennium.

And like a lover whose hand was on the door, the devastating January floods reminded us of all we had to lose and the need to rekindle our relationship – preferably over a long weekend. But Brisbane has rebounded, and if you haven't tasted a sample of our capital city lately, the Brisbane Festival from September 3 to 24, is a must. Now in its third year as an annual event, the festival brings together some of Australia's and the world's best acts.

Brisbane Festival artistic director Noel Staunton is the man at the helm of this extravaganza.

Trained at England's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, at 27 he became the youngest and eventually longest-serving technical director in the history of the English National Opera. Mr Staunton considers Brisbane Festival, Australia's youngest arts festival, one of the most exciting challenges of his career and believes Brisbane is full of opportunity.

Mr Staunton said each festival created a moment in time that reflected the city, its people and their views and the environment.

“It's also about attracting people from interstate and from around the state, staying a few days and discovering the city,” he said.

“The festival should add to the regular diet of arts.''

The Brisbane Festival includes 70 productions, 400 performers, four world premieres and five Australian premieres over three weeks. It will open with Sunsuper River exploding across Brisbane's night sky next Saturday..

More than 500,000 spectators are expected to gather on the riverbanks to see 4500 fireworks at 16 locations including two bridges, six barges and eight rooftops, choreographed to a soundtrack from 7pm.

One of the highlights will be the world premiere of the Symphonia Eluvium (Symphony of the Floods): a symbolic acknowledgement of the devastating Queensland floods in January 2011.

Composer Elena Kats-Chernin's first symphony, which has been specially commissioned by Brisbane Festival, will have its premiere performance by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra on September 11 at QPAC under the baton of Asher Fisch.

Kats-Chernin is composer in residence at the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, where she has been working on the symphony for Brisbane Festival.

“I began work on composing a symphony for Brisbane prior to the January floods, but as the water subsided, I realised I had to start the work from scratch. It had to acknowledge this significant time in Brisbane's recent history,” she said.

One of the world's greatest pianists, Evgeny Kissin, will make his Australian debut on the same day the new symphony is performed for the first time.

In a stunning free event under a canopy of stars, Opera Queensland and Queensland Symphony Orchestra will perform Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata on September 24 at Eagle Farm Racecourse.

Brisbane's Raw Dance Company and Sydney's Legs On The Wall have joined forces to create a world-first production, Beautiful Noise: a stylised aerodynamic spectacular from September 5-10.

Commissioned exclusively for Brisbane Festival 2011, Beautiful Noise will herald the opening of the atmospheric QUT Festival Theatre, Brisbane Festival's purpose-built amphitheatre at Brisbane Powerhouse.

Bell Shakespeare will showcase the timeless tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, from September 20-24 at QUT Festival Theatre.

The exciting new event for 2011, Santos City of Lights, is the first laser light art show of its kind in Australia. It will fill the city's river precinct with a nightly choreographed spectacle from September 4-24.

A spectrum of lights and lasers will radiate from rooftops, the river and bridges, set against symphonic musical scores.

Festival Highlights

Nightly, September 4-24

Laser spectacular every night at 7 and 8pm. Extra show Friday and Saturday at 8.30pm

September 3

Sunsuper Riverfire

September 3-24

The Spiegeltent, King George Square

September 5-10

Beautiful Noise – a stylised aerodynamic spectacular

September 11

World premiere Symphonia Eluvium (Symphony of the Floods)

September 20-24

Romeo and Juliet

September 24

Opera at the Racecourse

Visit Brisbane Festival for program and ticketing information.

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