Richard Mills AM has announced he will step down as the Artistic Director of Victorian Opera at the conclusion of the state opera company’s 2023 season.
The distinguished composer and conductor has overseen a period of significant growth for Victorian Opera and continued the company’s commitment to commissioning new Australian opera. Renowned for his body of orchestral works, Helpmann Award-winning operas Batavia and Love of the Nightingale, and re-orchestrating the ABC’s iconic news theme, Mills commenced his tenure with Victorian Opera in 2013.following his previous position as the Artistic Director of West Australian Opera from 1997 – 2012.
Since 2013, Mills has commissioned 21 new Australian operas including celebrated Green Room Award-winning works such as The Riders and Lorelei. He recently commissioned and conducted the world premiere of Deborah Cheetham’s First Nations opera Parrwang Lifts the Sky in a collaboration with Short Black Opera.
During Richard Mills’ tenure, Victorian Opera was invited to join fellow state opera companies in the National Performing Arts Partnership Program after being recognised for its unique contributions to Australia’s operatic landscape and its high artistic standards.
Highlights of Mills’ legacy include:
- Establishing ties with Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra to present opera in Tasmania annually with notable performances in Hobart and Launceston, as well as Melbourne.
Hugely popular cycles of Stephen Sondheim musicals, as well as concerts of Bellini’s major operas headlined by internationally acclaimed artists and conducted by Mills.
- Nurturing an important artistic relationship with celebrated Australian soprano Jessica Pratt with her Australian debut in 2014 and many subsequent performances.
- Major collaborations with New Zealand Opera, Circus Oz, and Musica Viva as well exploring the incorporation of 3D digital scenery in performances.
- Returning opera to the Palais Theatre, St Kilda after a long absence from the iconic venue. Since 2015, Victorian Opera has staged seven productions there including an acclaimed production of Strauss’ Salome in February 2020.
- Forming the Victorian Opera Youth Chorus Ensemble (VOYCE) in 2014. VOYCE offers weekly professional training for classically focussed young singers aged 13 – 19.
- Major community and regional engagement projects, including new operas The Magic Pudding, Remembrance, The Snow Queen, and The Pied Piper.
- A substantial commitment to the development of orchestral talent via collaborations with the Australian Youth Orchestra on notable productions of Wagner’s Parsifal and The Flying Dutchman, as well as a collaboration with the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) Orchestra on Debussy’s Pelleas and Melisande.
Victorian Opera will now commence an extensive search for a new Artistic Director to join the company in 2023 and program its 2024 season.
Richard Mills AM, Artistic Director, Victorian Opera:
I will finish my time at Victorian Opera at the end of 2023. The search begins now for a new Artistic Director. Ten years at the helm is a good span of time for an Artistic Directorship, after that, there is a risk of self-repetition. It is time therefore for a fresher energy for our State Company to ensure continuing and growing artistic vibrancy.
My thanks to the Chair, board, executive and to each and every member of Victorian Opera’s staff for their unfailing support, and especially to CEO Elizabeth Hill-Cooper for her contribution to a most productive working relationship during our years together at the company, especially during her tenure as Chief Executive. I must also mention my happy collaboration with Phoebe Briggs, Head of Music, and Phillipa Safey, Repetiteur, who at the most practical and immediate level helped me realise my musical vision for our company on a daily basis; we have been a team in all aspects of our work.
The stage is now set for Victorian Opera to grow and to enhance its status as an important company in a major city in a state that is noted for its commitment to culture. I look forward to a slightly less hectic schedule from 2024, with some extra time for some major creative projects under discussion for the future, but I am also very excited about our plans for 2022 and 2023.
Thank you, Victorian Opera, for a wonderful and fulfilling decade in my life as a musician.
Genevieve Overell AM, Chair, Victorian Opera:
What an immense privilege it has been to work alongside the tremendously talented musical phenomenon, Richard Mills AM.
Since my appointment as Board Chair in 2018, I have been honoured to collaborate closely with Richard and our outstanding Chief Executive, Elizabeth Hill-Cooper.
To say that Richard is the creative furnace that fires Victorian Opera is no understatement. He brings enormous passion and dynamism to all he does and inspires the Company to continue to strive for continued excellence as we reimagine opera and musical theatre for everyone.
Under Richard Mills’ baton, Victorian Opera has experienced a halcyon period of creative productivity and sensational musical achievements, positioning the Company for a very exciting trajectory in coming years. We all look forward to future opportunities to continue that powerful musical collaboration.