Director in Demand | Cameron Menzies, Tait Music Board Profile

International Stage Director, Cameron Menzies has been a member of the Music Board for the Tait Memorial Trust since 2014. Having been a part of the professional industry for over 20 years he brings a wealth of expertise, and experience to the Music Board both musically, and theatrically. Originally training as an actor at the Ensemble Theatre in Sydney Kirribilli under the tutelage of the legendary American actor and stage director Hayes Gordon AO OBE, Principal, Zika Nester and well loved Television and Theatre Actor Denise Roberts, he then went on to gain his Bachelor of Music in Performance from the Victorian College of the Arts in Classical Voice.

He is both a Helpmann Award and Multiple Green Room Award Nominee and has been the recipient of many prestigious awards and scholarships including the 2008 Bayreuth Opera Award and the 2011 Berlin New Music Opera Award both through the Opera Foundation Australia for Young People and the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst he is also a recipient of a Besen Family Artist Program, Direction Malthouse Theatre.  He is also a joint recipient of The Silver Plaque, Chicago International Film Festival for Opera Therapy, A Documentary.   Cameron has worked for the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Opera Australia, DivaOpera UK, Sydney Theatre Company, Malthouse Theatre, Victorian Opera, Short Black Opera (Australia’s National Indigenous Opera Company) Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival.

Helpmann Awards 2016 Best Direction of an Opera - Nominees
Helpmann Awards 2016
Best Direction of an Opera – Nominees

As well as being a highly in-demand freelance director of Opera, Musicals and Theatre he has also held the positions of Creative Director/Artistic Director of the prestigious Opera in the Park for the City of Stonnington, and a Lecturer in Stagecraft at Melbourne University.  Cameron is fast becoming one of Australia’s leading and hardest working directors in the industry and his reputation is fast growing overseas on the international platform.

I spoke to the exceptionally busy director while he was preparing to direct a new commission he has been also been co-writing for Victorian Opera along with Artistic Director and Composer Richard Mills and International Chanteuse Meow Meow called ‘Tis Pity – An operatic fantasia on selling the skin and the teeth that will premiere at the Melbourne Recital Centre, Melbourne in February 2017.

I asked him about his year in 2016, the highlights and what it was like to have his work premiered over four continents this year and what is coming up for him next year:

“Firstly, its such a pleasure to be a part of such a wonderful organization like the Tait Memorial Trust and a real honour to be a Music Board Member.   It really is a total joy to work alongside the ever amazing and effervescent, fearless Chairman of the Trust, Isla Baring OAM and her team.  Her endless energy and enthusiasm to provide support for young artists looking to study and refine their training and skills in the UK is unwavering and it becomes very infectious.  I love working with her and trying to keep up with her and the passion she has for the arts.”

Cosi fan Tutte advertising in the South of France, 2016
Cosi fan Tutte advertising in the South of France, 2016

2016 was a wonderful year for him professionally with productions over four continents this year. His production of Le Nozze di Figaro premiered in Cape Town South Africa, Cosi fan Tutte opened in Guernsey and toured Europe both for DivaOpera UK. La Traviata and Die Zaubeflöte premiered, and toured all over China with the Australian International Opera Company and here in Australia he directed a production of Lucia di Lammermoor starring the incomparable Jessica Pratt in the title role.

lucia

“I was also very very chuffed when it was announced while I was in London rehearsing Cosi fan Tutte that I had been nominated for a Helpmann Award for Best Director for a new opera commission that I directed for Victorian Opera, called ‘The Grumpiest Boy in the World’ by Finegan Kruckemeyer and Joe Twist.  I was also fortunate enough to workshop an exciting new music theatre piece based on the life of Nancy Wake called ‘The White Mouse’.  Attached to this workshop process was the opportunity to direct the Australian Cast Recording of the work starring the amazing talents of Alyce Platt as Nancy Wake.  It has been a very rewarding year with a lot of great variety.”

Lucia di Lammermoor Photo Credit: Jeff Busby, 2016
Lucia di Lammermoor Photo Credit: Jeff Busby, 2016

He said it was hard to pick a highlight from this year as it would be like choosing your favourite child… but if I was forced to make a choice I would have to say… directing Pecan Summer by Deborah Cheetham for the National Indigenous Opera Company, Short Black Opera Company has to be right up there.  It also marked his Sydney Opera House Directorial Debut.   Directing Pecan Summer was the culmination of 6 years of learning and working with Deborah and Toni and working with the piece before directing this brand new production for Sydney.

In his  director’s notes for the Sydney program he said the following:

“2016 sees me very proudly engaged as the director of Pecan Summer, a project that has already been a huge part of my artistic and personal life. This year as part of the preparations for this Sydney premiere I was taken out onto country to the very places where Pecan Summer is set in 1939 on Yorta Yorta Land.  I have now stood on the banks of the Dhungala, at the school house on   Cummeragunja mission station, the site of the crossing where the old punt still sits and walked through the Shepparton Flats and the Barmah Forests, all places which hold a huge significance to the story being told in Pecan Summer tonight.  I have spoken with Yorta Yorta elders and they have generously given me more insight into this powerful Australian story.  I am certainly no expert on these matters, but the way in which this story has been shared with me, through working and talking with Deborah and Short Black Opera Company and through visiting these places has given me a clarity and an understanding about how to create this living history on the stage for you tonight….To all the indigenous artists from Short Black Opera company I want to thank you for your generosity and patience in teaching me things I should have known as an Australian growing up as a young kid.”

2017 is set to be an interesting year for this talented Director.  Cameron is directing and designing a new work for Victorian Opera called ‘Tis Pity – An operatic fantasia on selling the skin and the teeth composed by Richard Mills, starring International Singing Sensation Meow Meow.  They have worked together over the years since their first meeting in Berlin in 2008, but this marks the second time he gets the opportunity to direct her in a piece. In 2015 he directed Kurt Weill’s Die Sieben Tödsunden with Meow Meow in the roles of Anna #1 and Anna #2.   ‘Tis Pity also stars Operatic and Cabaret star Kanen Breen, it is set to be an exciting romp looking at some of the famous prostitutes through the ages and also singing the praises of the unsung and unnamed  lost ladies of history as well.

Cameron returns to London to direct a new production of La Boheme for DivaOpera UK and will also be directing two Shakespeare plays and an opera in China, still to be announced.   He will be working again with Haute Couture designer Linda Britten as the Creative Director on a piece that was curated for the Arts Program of the Fashion Festival in March and is directing and writing a few cabaret shows for some very diverse artists and working as a creative on a major ball at the Town Hall for a big Festival in Melbourne next year,  all yet to be announced, but it is another year of great exciting work and with a lot of variety for him to sink his teeth into. “

Tis Pity Victoria Opera
Tis Pity Victoria Opera Page from the Victorian Opera Website

As you can see Cameron is truly in demand from all sectors of the industry and is building a very respectable career both here in the UK and throughout the world.  I know we at the Tait Trust are keen to see where he will end up next, with all that talent, drive and his growing reputation as a highly skilled director we are sure it will be an impressive next few steps.  We wish him all the very best and am so pleased to have him as part of the Music Board for the Tait Memorial Trust.

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