Circus time for opera

IF you thought opera could not be fun, sexy and a little bit naughty, you need to think again. Fresh from a sell-out season on London's West End, The Carnival, plays the new auditorium at the Fairmont Resort Gallery, Leura, every Friday night until mid-November.

The cabaret-style show offers a stunning blend of opera, classical music and circus acts, and is a first for the Blue Mountains, helping to sweep 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 joining the nightlife in the upper Blue Mountains will soon be the in-thing to do.

This is no traditional show, as audiences quickly learn from listening to singer Keara Donohoe warble through an aria repeating the lyrics "it sucks to be me".

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

Crazy characters from her imagination manifest themselves on stage, reaching out and crossing that invisible boundary between stage and the audience.

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.

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

The controversial dance genre performed by Bailey Hart in the first act is 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," he said. "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 the tourism industry needed operators prepared to take risks and to invest.

"I commend the owners of Fairmont Resort for investing in bringing The Carnival to the Blue Mountains," he said. "It is a new and colourful genre of culture."

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