NORPA founder has got the power

Photo: Peter Derrett.

Artistic director and founder of NORPA, Lyndon Terracini (pictured), has never been afraid of taking risks.

But he said the biggest risk of all was deciding he wanted to be an opera singer in the 1970s, when the idea of earning a living out of it was considered preposterous.

He said people also thought he was completely mad when he launched NORPA in 1993 by staging an outlandish, outdoor rock musical, loosely based on the 1970s film The Cars That Ate Paris.

It was based on an early Peter Weir film, he said. I wrote the music and adapted the script. We had 40 cars stacked up against City Hall. We blocked off the road and had Mad Max off-road vehicles and the audience in big sports bleachers. It was a pretty wild show.

He said despite the scepticism of some, 1500 people turned up over three nights and the show went on to tour international arts festivals in Adelaide and Perth a first for a regional company.

People are always telling me most of the things I suggest are completely mad, he said. I dont think they are that risky. Probably because Ive thought about how Im going to do it beforehand, so they dont seem like hare-brained schemes, just something I need to do and will do.

Its an approach that has certainly paid off, as Lyndon this year presided over the most successful Brisbane Festival in his new role as its artistic director. And last month he was named by The Australian Financial Review Magazine as one of the top five most influential people in the arts in the 2006 sectoral power lists. Hes the only artist to appear and is noted as a rare beast for heading a festival, successfully raising money, and continuing to take artistic risks.

He has exhibited a knack for convincing municipal and regional governments to help fund his vision, and for getting top-drawer artists to participate in his events, notes the AFR Magazine.

In doing so, he is pushing the tired festival format in new directions.

Lyndon said it was very flattering to be named on the list, although he was a bit surprised.

While The AFR Magazine doesnt mention NORPA, Lyndon said it was where he cut his teeth, enabling him to go on and become director of the Queensland Music Festival for five years. And now the Brisbane Festival.

He said when NORPA started in 1993 it was considered an extremely radical thing to do.

There wasnt a single organisation in regional Australia doing opera, theatre and dance, he said. They were all theatre companies doing four plays a year.

He said NORPA was based on the German model where every city and town has its own theatre, opera company and orchestra, and it all works under the one management.

Lyndon resigned as artistic director of NORPA in March this year, effective from 2007, and will be succeeded by Julian Louis a graduate of the NIDA directors course, founder of State of Play Co-operative with Nick Enright and also an acting teacher.

NORPAs final production of 2006, Electric Lenin, was originally to feature Lyndon in the title role, however, due to his Brisbane Festival commitments he is unable to perform and has been replaced by the accomplished performer and baritone, Jason Barry-Smith.

NORPA commissioned the production after Lyndon first heard the intriguing true story about the life of a North Coast farmer, who despite his isolation on a rural property in the 1960s, developed relationships across the globe via his ham radio. The work includes an ambitious interplay of music, text, performance and digital imagery. The last two shows are on tonight, November 23, and tomorrow (Friday, November 24) at Lismore City Hall.


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