Marina Prior New Year's Eve Spectacular

Marina Prior New Year's Eve Spectacular

Not New Year's Eve Spectacular and a New Year's Eve Spectacular

Befitting the launch of a new decade, the magnificent 60 piece Australian Philharmonic Orchestra/Australian Pops Orchestra's (APO's) Not New Year's Eve Spectacular and A New Year's Eve Spectacular boasts extra star power this year, with Australia's famous The Phantom of the Opera duo Marina Prior and Donald Cant, the brilliant violinist Sally Cooper, Operatunity Oz tenor Roy Best and The Ashton Smith Singers, under the baton of the award-winning Australian conductor Benjamin Northey.

"Sydney Opera House and Hamer Hall come alive at the end of December with performances that will ring in the New Year in the best possible celebratory style with musical hits loved by everyone," says APO Managing Director, David Ashton-Smith.

"It's a grand party that all of Sydney and Melbourne are invited to. This is truly a treasure trove of Australia's favourite artists, which invite our audiences to celebrate with them in a show that has been entertaining Australia for more than 20 years," says David Ashton-Smith.

Music treats include 'My Favourite Things' from The Sound of Music, the show-stopping duet 'Music of the Night' from The Phantom of the Opera, 'You Raise Me Up' and many more. This concert is the live equivalent of your favourite artist's Best of Album, inspiring everyone to join in the fun.

"When Donald and I sing our duet we can sense an electric atmosphere inside the Hall and House," says Marina Prior, "As performers, it's a real joy for us to sing, but when we experience how infectious this piece is for the audience, it's truly a celebration."

The concerts also feature everyone's favourite 'Amazing Grace' and many other widely loved pieces from musicals, operetta, stage and screen. No New Years Eve celebration would be complete without an emotionally charged Auld Lang Syne which concludes the performance.

Multi award-winning, platinum selling performer Marina Prior is Australia's Queen of musical theatre. Most known for playing the heroine in The Phantom of the Opera, this polished artist has been inducted into Australia's 100 Entertainers of the Century.

Donald Cant also belongs to Australian musical theatre royalty, not just because he has performed for Prince Charles, Princess Diana and the Pope, but as our very own Phantom and recipient of Best Actor Awards.

Sally Cooper has won numerous prestigious competitions and led the string sections on Dancing With The Stars and It Takes Two. Performing as soloist for Australia's finest orchestras, she is one of this country's most talented classical musicians.

The voice of tenor Roy Best earned him recent success in the finals of ABC television's Operatunity Oz series.

Benjamin Northey has won many awards and had many international invitations extended to him to conduct, the most recent being a major program with the prestigious London Philharmonic Orchestra in May 2010 at Royal Festival Hall.

For nearly 30 years the APO has presented its own blend of popular classical and contemporary music to Australian audiences. It has presented 'music for the people' style concert programs to enthusiastic audiences in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth and been associated with many of Australia's top line artists along with several world renowned international artists.

Marina Prior Singer Marina's first professional audition resulted in her first lead role - that of Mabel in the Victoria State Opera's The Pirates of Penzance. She was subsequently invited to perform the role of Guinevere opposite Richard Harris in Camelot. She then went on to perform the characters of Jellylorum and Griddlebone in the Australian premiere production of Cats, Josephine in the Victoria State Opera's production of H.M.S. Pinafore, Kathy in the Lyric Opera of Queensland's The Student Prince and Adele in the Victoria State Opera's concert version of Die Fledermaus. In 1987, Marina landed the role of Cosette in the Australian premiere of Les Miserables and at times appeared as Fantine in the same production. During this run, she took time out to play Hope Harcourt in Anything Goes.

Marina created the role of Christine Daae in the original Australian production of The Phantom of the Opera, which she performed for three years. Following this theatrical success, Marina went on to star in roles including Maria in West Side Story, Lily in The Secret Garden, Magnolia in Showboat, the title role of The Merry Widow, Jane Smart in The Witches of Eastwick, Belinda Blair in the hit comedy Noises Off, Mary O'Hara in Harp on the Willow, Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun, Lilli Vanessi in Kiss Me Kate, Rona Lisa Peretti in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Elmire in The Hypocrite, Adelaide in Guys and Dolls and, most recently, Muriel Eubanks in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

A critically acclaimed Australasian concert tour with international tenor, José Carreras, remains one of the many highlights of Marina's career. Other concert engagements include performances with the Australian Philharmonic Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra and Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Marina is also well known to television audiences through her appearances on shows such as Carols by Candlelight and more recently as a judge on Channel Seven's top rating It Takes Two. Marina has recorded three CDs accompanied by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra: Leading Lady (which reached platinum status), Aspects of Andrew Lloyd Webber (which reached gold status and received an ARIA nomination) and Somewhere - The Songs of Sondheim and Bernstein. She has received numerous awards including four MO Awards, three Green Room Awards, and the Advance Australia Award for her contribution to the performing arts. In 1999, Marina was guest of honour for the television program This Is Your Life which paid tribute to her career so far. In 2006, she was honoured with induction into Australia's 100 Entertainers of the Century. Marina is the Goodwill Ambassador for the humanitarian aid organisation Samaritan's Purse Australia.

Donald Cant Performer & Master of Ceremonies Best known as one of Australia's "Phantoms" in "The Phantom of the Opera", Donald is one of Australia's leading musical performers, with a career encompassing music theatre, concerts, cabaret, opera and recording. His most recent music theatre highlights have been "Judge Turpin" in the Opera Queensland production of "Sweeney Todd", the lead role of "Fred/Petrucchio" in the recent Broadway revival production of "Kiss Me, Kate" in Vancouver, Canada, and the title role in the Australian premiere of "Jekyll and Hyde".

Donald performed four lead roles in the Australian production of "The Phantom of the Opera", the highlight being his highly acclaimed 500 performances in the title role. Other music theatre lead roles have ranged from "Curly" in "Oklahoma", to "Cervantes" in "Man of La Mancha", and the "Celebrant" in Leonard Bernstein's "Mass". He has won two Best Actor Awards, one for the title role in the Australian premiere of "Sweeney Todd", the other as the lead in "The Fantastiks".

Donald is also one of Australia's most sought after concert artists, performing regularly as guest soloist with Australia's major Symphony Orchestras and Military Bands. Concert and corporate performances also take him regularly to Asia, Canada and Europe. His career, which began while completing six years of opera studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, has also focused on Opera and Lieder, having performed with a number of Opera companies in Canada and Australia. He also performs regularly on television in Australia, and has sung before the Queen, Prince Charles, Princess Diana, Prince Edward, and the Pope, and at many other significant cultural and State ceremonial occasions in Australia, including the Prime Minister's Official Gala Dinner for the 2000 Olympics.

Between music theatre and concert engagements, Donald also enjoys performing as guest entertainer aboard the very luxurious Crystal, Regent and Silversea cruise liners, where he has recently performed alongside Engelbert Humperdink, Joel Grey and Rita Moreno.

Roy Best Singer Roy started singing at a very early age: no surprise considering his mother was a gifted musician and his grandmother was a respected and talented soprano with the Melba Opera Company. He was quickly grabbed by the primary school's music teacher and placed in the choir. A few years later he received an invitation to audition for the Metropolitan Boys Choir (a highly regarded institution at the time). He performed with the choir in concerts, tours, eisteddfods and an opportunity to appear in Tosca with the Australian Opera company; as well as singing with the MSO in the Australian premier of Benjamin Brittan's War Requiem.

It wasn't until much later - 1998 to be precise - that Roy realised he had the potential to sing again, but this time as a tenor. He joined the ranks of the tenors in the Choral Institute Melbourne choir: under the direction of Kevin Casey. He has toured twice overseas with the choir: Linz in 2000 and Bremen in 2004. At this point Roy started taking lessons with Susan Crawshaw and undertook AMEB examinations, eventually achieving his AmusA in 2005. He is currently studying voice with Anna Connolly, who is a specialist in the field of opera. In 2005, Roy entered the ABC TV competition "Operatunity Oz". The rest as they say is history, having been eventually declared joint runner-up winner out of 2000 entrants. As a result he got to perform the role of the Duke in the third act of Opera Australia's production of Rigoletto in the Sydney Opera House, October 2006, to a packed house and an audience of over one million TV viewers. He also got a contract with ABC Classics to record several arias and duets under the baton of Andrew Greene, on the Operatunity Oz "winners" CD alongside the five other finalists.

Roy's guest soloist roles include singing at the Ashton-Smith Christmas concerts since 2002 and the Easter Celebration in 2005, performing the tenor lead role in several locally composed cantata's, and appearing in many performances with the Miscellany Ensemble alongside the talented harpist, Megan Reeve.

In December 2005 Roy appeared with the Australian Philharmonic Orchestra in their New Years concert series both at the Sydney Opera House and Hamer Hall in Melbourne. He has also subsequently featured alongside artists such as James Morrison and Marina Prior in the "Opera in the Alps" concert in Beechworth, "Opera by the Lock" in Mildura and "Opera in the Market" in Melbourne as well as "Opera by the Lake" in Canberra. He recently performed in the world premiere of Nelson, an opera by Stuart Greenbaum in the Castlemaine Festival, alongside Lucas DeJong and Susanne Johnston.

Sally Cooper Violinist Sally Cooper has won numerous competitions including the National Youth Concerto Competition in 1994 and, the following year, the ABC Young Performers Award (String Section), the ABC's Percy Grainger Inaugural Award (Quest) and the Elder Conservatorium ConcertoCompetition. In that year, Sally Cooper emerged as a prize winner in the Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition and was one of four finalists selected by Lord Menuhin for his Gala Concert in England. Sally Cooper has been awarded many other scholarships, awards and grants including the Young Australian of the Year Medibank Private Arts Award (1995), the Mercedes Benz Australia Development Grant (1996), the Stamford Hotels and Resorts Group Grant (1996), the E W Llewellyn Memorial Scholarship Award (1996), the Australian National Academy of Music Scholarship (1997-2000), the Iris Colly Sonata Award (1997) and the Selbourne Moultray Russel Scholarship (1998).

Sally has studied with Professors Almita and Roland Vamos at the Weathersfield Summer School in Vermont, USA. At the age of nine, Sally Cooper made her debut as a soloist with the Queensland Youth Symphony Orchestra where she played the Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto in B minor conducted by John Curro. She has since performed many concertos as soloist with orchestras including most of the finest orchestras in Australia. At the Sidney Myer Music Bowl Concert with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Halász in 1996, Sally Cooper was given a standing ovation from a crowd of over 25,000 people.

Sally Cooper has been the concertmaster of the Elder Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra and a member of the Adelaide Chamber Orchestra, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the Adelaide Youth Chamber Orchestra, the Australian Philharmonic and the Junge Philharmonie.

In 2002, Sally Cooper performed concerts both in Brussels and Salzburg and returned to Salzburg in 2003 to take part in master class lessons by Professor Schmuel Ashkenasi. 2003 saw Sally Cooper performing the Bruch Violin Concerto at the Perth Concert Hall with the Western Australian Youth Orchestra in May. Later on in 2003 Sally Cooper made solo appearances with Orchestra Victoria in four of Victoria's country towns and in late October, early November Sally Cooper performed the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in a three concert series regional tour conducted by John Harding. 2001-2003 Sally Cooper was a full scholarship holder at the Australian National Academy of Music.

-Feb 2005, Saint Saens, Introduction and Rondo Capricioso with the ASO at 'Symphony under the Stars' in Elder Park to crowd of 23,000.
  • Sally has led the string section for television show Dancing With The Stars for the last five seasons.
  • She also led the string section for television show 'It Takes Two' for its two seasons 2006 & 2007.

    Benjamin Northey Conductor Benjamin Northey studied at the University of Melbourne Faculty of Music under John Hopkins graduating with a Master of Music degree in 2002 before being selected as the highest-placed applicant to the prestigious Sibelius Academy conducting class in Helsinki, Finland where he studied under Leif Segerstam and Atso Almila. His 2005 diploma concert with the Sibelius Academy Symphony Orchestra was awarded the jury's highest possible mark. In 2001 Northey was awarded 1st Prize in the Symphony Australia Young Conductor of the Year Competition with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under the directorship of legendary Finnish conducting pedagogue Jorma Panula. In 2006 Northey completed his final year of formal training in Maestro Panula's conducting class at the Stockholm Royal Academy of Music.

    In 2007 Northey was selected as one of three conductors worldwide to the International Conductor's Academy of the Allianz Cultural Foundation. The Academy involves a mentorship with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philharmonia Orchestra and conductors Vladimir Jurovsky and Christoph von Dohnanyi. In June 2008 Northey conducted the LPO in concert at Royal Festival Hall.

    Currently Principal Conductor of the Australia Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra under patron Sir Neville Marriner, Benjamin Northey made his professional debut with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 2003 to critical acclaim and his European debut in 2005 with the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg. He has since emerged as one of Australia's leading and most in demand conductors having appeared with all state orchestras in Australia and enjoying regular re-invitations. In 2007 Northey made his debut with the State Opera of South Australia with Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore.

    In April 2006 Northey led a critically acclaimed Swedish tour with the Sodra Halsinglands Orkesterforenings and also appeared as a guest conductor with the Futurum Ensemble Sinfonietta for the 2006 Stockholm New Music Festival. He has assisted Leif Segerstam in Latvia with the Leipaja Symphony Orchestra and in Austria with the Graz Symphony Orchestra and has participated in international masterclasses in Russia with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and in Israel with the Haifa Symphony Orchestra and also in Sweden and Finland.

    An advocate for contemporary Australian orchestral music Northey has conducted new works by eminent composers including Peter Sculthorpe, Liza Lim, Brenton Broadstock, Ross Edwards, Nigel Westlake, Brett Dean, Graeme Koehne, Stuart Greenbaum, Calvin Bowman, Estelle Pizer, Katy Abbott, Kate Neal, David Chisholm and Matthew Hindson. His performances of new Australian music include the European premiere of Brett Dean's Amphitheatre, the world premiere of Brenton Broadstock's Timeless and the Australian premiere of Liza Lim's Songs Found in a Dream for the 2006 Melbourne International Festival of the Arts. He is currently recording for ABC Classics record label.

    Northey continues his involvement with education and community music in Australia through his role as Artistic Director of Melbourne's Stonnington Symphony Orchestra and in Sydney with his performances with the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra. In 2005 he was a visiting artist at the Australian National Academy of Music and is currently a regular guest lecturer in performance at the University of Melbourne. He has been a guest speaker on conducting for the Victorian Department of Education and in 2006 was a member of the entrance exam panel for the Stockholm Royal College of Music conducting class. In 2007 Northey conducted and presented the "MOVE? workshops with Orchestra Victoria and also education concerts for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and The Queensland Orchestra. Northey was a recipient of the 2003 Brian Stacey Memorial Trust Award under patron Sir Charles Mackerras for emerging Australian conductors and also the 2001 Nelly Apt Scholarship for studies in Israel.

    In 2008, apart from his LPO engagement, Benjamin Northey conducted the Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras, The Queensland Orchestra, Orchestra Victoria, Australian Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra and Queensland Ballet in their production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

    Interview with David Ashton-Smith

    David Ashton-Smith is Australian Pops Orchestra's Managing Director.

    Tell us about both events, will they both be the same?

    David Ashton-Smith: Yes, they are. There will be a little bit of extra celebration for New Year's Eve, a few streamers and balloons perhaps at the end of the night and we'll all sing. That is about all that will be different.

    What should audiences expect from the performance?

    David Ashton-Smith: We have been giving these concerts over a good number of years and each time the audiences have really enjoyed the evening and they have a lot of fun. They are not formal concerts; they're nights to enjoy and memorable nights with lots of beautiful music and good singers. Of course, Marina Prior will be a big drawcard, I am looking forward to seeing her and hearing her sing some of her favourite songs.

    Will audiences know the songs being played?

    David Ashton-Smith: Yes, they will know most of them. We are doing a bit of Operetta and Italian songs as well as some waltz's as well as Phantom of the Opera because Donald Cant and Marina performed the leading roles in the Melbourne production and the touring production of Phantom of the Opera, so there is a little bit of that.

    Marina and Donald are also doing a sequence from the musical, Carousel, of which they do extremely well. I enjoy the sequence which involves dialogue as well as music.

    Why did you approach Marina Prior to perform for the event?

    David Ashton-Smith: We have used Marina over the years and we haven't had her for a little while and I thought it would be a good thing for the New Year's Eve series of concerts and Sydney. We thought that our audiences would like what she could bring to the concerts.

    Why is this event the perfect way to spend New Year's Eve?

    David Ashton-Smith: It provides to our audiences an opportunity to do something on New Year's Eve, that they may not. They may sit at home and do nothing, if they come to our concert they enjoy a wonderful night and it finishes about 10:45pm so they have time to go out and watch the fireworks or they probably have time to get home and see in the New Year that way. The concerts are very popular.

    The Australian Philharmonic Orchestra proudly presents Not New Year's Eve Spectacular
    Sunday 27 December 8pm, Monday 28 December 2009 2pm and 8pm
    Sydney Opera House
    Tickets: Adults: $59 -$120
    Bookings: or 02 9250 7777

    The Australian Pops Orchestra proudly presents A New Year's Eve Spectacular
    Wednesday 30 December 8pm, Thursday 31 December 2009 8pm
    Hamer Hall, Victorian Arts Centre
    Tickets: Adults: $60 - $100
    Phone 1300 182 183

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