Irishman Noel Staunton has enjoyed a stellar international career in opera production, and is looking forward to his fourth year at the helm of the Brisbane Festival.
Staunton is the artistic director of the popular arts event and he enjoys bringing in groups from around the world to the city.
“Brisbane asked me would I be interested in running a festival and I thought, ‘I’ve done everything else except a festival so why not’,” he said.
“The great thing about festivals is that because I love the theatre, dance and music, I can work with all those genres.
“It’s about creating an environment where we stimulate the whole arts scene in a city, and encourage local arts. It’s a really fantastic time putting all these groups and people together for the city to have fun.
“It’s about creating and growing it and making it bigger and stronger, which is what we are doing, and it’s very exciting.”
Staunton grew up in Limerick and after leaving Crescent College he left Ireland to study at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
After a six-month stint in the Abbey Theatre he worked in London for two decades behind the scenes in the opera world and was invited by Opera Australia to work in Sydney in 1987.
He worked with the company for 10 years as technical director and was then approached by Great Gatsby director Baz Luhrmann to become the executive producer of his theatrical company. He worked on an award-winning production of La Boheme on Broadway and afterwards he became the executive producer of the $15 million sell-out production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle for the State Opera of South Australia.
“It was fun to do a Broadway show and it was really exciting that a group of people from Australia could work for three years and have a big opening on Broadway and have great reviews. It was a fantastic experience,” he said.
“I’ve known Baz since he was at college. He and I are very close friends … Baz of course is known in America for his movies but not his theatre work.”
Staunton was then asked to join the Brisbane Festival and has been contracted for five festivals after initially signing up for three.
His ambition is to bring Ireland’s Druid and The Gate theatre companies to the festival and this year is bringing the ground-breaking dance company Fabulous Beast.
“It’s important to bring the best of Ireland and, of course, Australia has very strong Irish connections,” he said.
“We constantly keep working on Druid but we’ve never been successful and The Gate Theatre are amazing. We are always in negotiations with Druid and The Gate but we will get there somehow. They are very important theatre companies worldwide, so they are sought-after all over the world”.
Staunton’s sister lives in Perth and he returns home to Ireland every two years, where his two brothers and another sister live. He believes the Galway Theatre Festival is one of the best events in the world.
“There’s some nice festivals in Ireland. The Galway festival is one of the most important theatre festivals in the world. The Dublin one is also extremely good,” he said.