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Shaun Rennie: Revival Productions with Opera Australia

The world of opera has long captivated audiences with its grandeur, soaring melodies, and emotionally charged narratives. In the heart of Australia, the renowned Opera Australia has been bringing to life timeless classics and captivating audiences with breathtaking performances for years. Behind the scenes, Shaun Rennie has been shaping unforgettable productions, from acclaimed revivals to Australian premieres.

Shaun Rennie, renowned for his creative vision and ability to breathe new life into cherished musicals and operas, has left a clear mark on the Australian theatrical landscape. With three Sydney Theatre Award nominations for Best Director and two Broadway World Awards for Best Direction, his talent and dedication have garnered critical acclaim.

As Shaun Rennie's creative journey continues to unfold, he has recently directed the world premiere season of The Lovers for Bell Shakespeare and the sold-out 25th Anniversary production of RENT at the Sydney Opera House. His extensive repertoire also includes successful collaborations with esteemed institutions like Darlinghurst Theatre Company, Hayes Theatre, and Neglected Musicals, where his directorial prowess has elevated each production to new heights.

Theatre Thoughts had the privilege of hearing from Shaun Rennie, delving deeper into his artistic process, his experiences with Opera Australia, and his passion for bringing theatrical magic to the stage. Join us as we explore the creative mind behind the enchanting world of opera and discover the inspirations that have shaped Shaun's illustrious career.


1. What inspired you to pursue a career in directing and creative production, and what are some of the challenges you have faced in this industry?

I started out as a performer. I toured, mainly in musicals, for about 20 years. I loved it, but as I got older, I started to feel like my personality and character were more suited to being a director. As soon as I started directing, I felt like I had found the thing that I was meant to be doing all along. The challenges are the same for any freelance worker in the Arts I imagine… making sure there is enough work lined up in the future to keep paying the bills.

2. Can you tell us about your upcoming productions with Opera Australia in Sydney, and what can audiences expect from them?

I am currently reviving Davide Livermore’s production of Aida, and following that I will work on a new production of The Tales of Hoffmann. They couldn’t be more different. With Aida, this production uses screens and technology in a really interesting way to create the physical and psychological spaces of the opera. With Hoffmann, it is much more traditional theatre making…. beautiful sets, costumes and lighting. And of course for both of them, incredible singing!

AIDA Sydney Opera House - Photo ©Jeff Busby

3. You have directed a range of productions across theatre and opera. How do you approach directing for each genre, and what are some of the key differences?

At its heart, directing is storytelling. Leading a group of people to tell a story, concisely and clearly and with as much impact as possible. So that element always is at the core of what I do. However, when you work in different genres, I have to be aware of the varied needs and priorities of each of them. For example, when you direct a musical, you need to schedule and plan time for the actors to learn music and dance etc. In an opera, the quality of the sound (which is not amplified) is at the forefront of the experience, so that will affect the way certain moments get staged. There is no point having the tenor sing his High C from the very back of the stage for example.

4. You co-founded the Light the Night leukaemia benefit concert, which ran for 10 years. Can you tell us about this experience and what it meant to you?

My brother Matthew, was diagnosed with Leukaemia when he was 21 years old. I was doing Fiddler on the Roof at the time, and felt like I needed to do something to try to help, rather than just sitting around the hospital. With my younger brother, Adam and some family friends, we started Light the Night to raise money for Leukaemia research. Each year, it got bigger and bigger and it became quite a large annual event. It was essentially the first thing I ever directed, and it was through doing this concert each year that I started to realise that I would eventually become a director. It is probably the thing in my career that I am most proud of. It was always a very special night. Sadly, Matt passed away after the third annual event in 2007, however Light the Night continued for 10 years in his honour.

5. You have directed sell-out seasons of a range of productions, including The Lovers, The Phantom of the Opera, and RENT. Can you tell us about your process for creating and directing these shows, and what elements you focus on to make them successful?

The process varies from project to project… but essentially, it starts with sitting with the script and score and trying to get a sense of what the show is trying to say, or what I think it should “feel” like. Then it’s about getting the right creative partners alongside you for the ride…. fellow creatives, cast, band. Theatre is a collaborative art form and works best when it’s a team of people working towards a common goal. So the biggest and most important decisions I make during the process is picking the creative team and the cast… then following that, it’s about trying to create a space where all those people can bring their best creative selves to the work, within some parameters that I try to provide.


Tickets to the productions of AIDA and Tales of Hoffman can be booked via the links below.

AIDA - 19 June–21 July 2023

VENUE Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House Bennelong Point, Sydney

LANGUAGE Sung in Italian with English subtitles

RUNNING TIME Approximately 2 hours and 50 minutes, including one interval.

PLEASE NOTE This production contains partial nudity and a bright lighting effect during Act 3.

Tales of Hoffman - 11–22 July 2023

VENUE Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House Bennelong Point, Sydney

LANGUAGE Sung in French with English subtitles.

RUNNING TIME Approximately 3 hours and 40 minutes, including two intervals.

PROUDLY SUPPORTED BY The Tales of Hoffmann Syndicate


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