Featured Collaborator: Kanen Breen
A multiple Helpmann and Green Room Award winner, Kanen Breen is one of Australia’s most sought-after tenors and is often dubbed ‘the clown prince of opera’.
His early operatic engagements included performances in the rôle of Almaviva for Opera Australia's Oz Opera touring production of The Barber of Seville and the Melbourne Festival's production of Jonathan Mills’ The Ghostwife during 1999, performances which he repeated at the Adelaide Festival in 2000, at the 2001 Sydney Festival and in London, during 2002, at the Barbican's BITE02 festival.
He appeared, during 2000, in Chamber Made Opera's Melbourne International Festival season of Michael Smetanin’s Gauguin, sang the rôle of Nanki Poo in Opera Queensland's season of The Mikado. He appeared as The Duke, alternating in the rôle of Borsa, in Opera Australia's Oz Opera production of Rigoletto, performances he repeated for Oz Opera during 2001.
Kanen Breen joined Opera Queensland's Young Artist Program in 2001 as part of which commitment he appeared as Nadir in performances of The Pearlfishers and Monostatos in The Magic Flute. For Opera Queensland, during 2002, he sang Ramiro in Cenerentola and created the rôle of Rory in Opera Australia's world premiere production of Grabowsky’s Love in the Age of Therapy in the 2002 Melbourne International Festival, and again, in the Sydney Festival season in 2003.
In June 2003, he made his international debut in the rôle of Rodolfo, in Baz Luhrman’s Broadway production of Puccini’s La Boheme in New York.
Kanen Breen has been a contracted principal artist for Opera Australia since 2004. In his first four years with the company he sang an extensive range of principal roles including Camille in The Merry Widow, Nanki Poo in The Mikado, Truffaldino in The Love for Three Oranges, Florville in Il Signor Bruschino, Alfred in Die Fledermaus, Monostatos in The Magic Flute and Ralph Rackstraw in HMS Pinafore, Sellem in The Rake's Progress, Marco Palmieri in The Gondoliers, Dr. Caius in Falstaff, the role of Pong in Turandot, Andres/Cochenille/Pittinaccio/Frantz/Nathanael in The Tales of Hoffman, Pirelli in Sweeney Todd, Almaviva in The Barber of Seville, Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi. He has also appeared as Nadir in the company’s performance in the Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne, of The Pearlfishers.
During 2008 he made his debut for Victorian Opera in its premiere season of Through the Looking Glass and, in the same year, for OA he appeared as Ramiro in La Cenerentola, Count Elemer in Arabella, as Pliable and Lord Lechery in The Pilgrim's Progress, as Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Squeak in Billy Budd and Vitek in The Makropoulos Affair.
During 2009, for OA, Kanen Breen returned to the roles of Monostatos in The Magic Flute and Nanki Poo in The Mikado and appeared as the Shabby Peasant in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, as Reverand Horace Evans in Peter Grimes, as the Sorcerer in Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas and as Damon in Handel’s Acis & Galatea.
He made his debut in the role of Erice in Cavalli’s opera, L'Ormindo for Pinchgut Opera in Sydney in late-2009 and continued his involvement with OA during 2010 his roles including Dr. Blind in Die Fledermaus, Guillot in Manon and Johnny in the company’s world premiere seasons of Bliss in Sydney, Melbourne and at the Edinburgh Festival.
For OA, 2011 included, amongst others, performances in the role of Emilio in Handel’s Partenope for which he received a 2011 Helpmann Award.
His principal artist contract with OA continued during 2012, his performances including Count Albert in Die Tote Stadt and during 2013, he was engaged by the company for the title role in Britten’s Albert Herring.
During 2014 Kanen Breen continued in his salaried position with OA singing, amongst other roles, Bardolf in Falstaff and appears as Andy Warhol in Opera Queensland's season of Philip Glass’ opera, The Perfect American in the program of the Brisbane Festival.
In 2015 he appeared for VO as The Beadle in Sweeney Todd.
For OA during 2015 he appeared as Monostatos in The Magic Flute and in the cast of the premiere seasons of The Rabbits at the Perth and Melbourne international festivals, performances he continued to give during 2016 in the Sydney Festival season. For OA his roles during 2016 include Remendado in Carmen and Truffaldino in The Love for Three Oranges.
He returned to VO to appear in its premiere production of Banquet of Secrets during 2016 and was engaged for Opera Queensland's Brisbane Festival season of Snow White.
2017 included singing The Witch Of Endor in the Adelaide Festival's season of the Glyndebourne Festival Opera production of Handel’s Saul, his performances receiving a Helpmann Award, the role of Wilhelm in Tom Wait’s The Black Rider for the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne, Sir Richard Dauntless in OQ's season of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Ruddigore and Arnalta/Nutrice/Famigliari in Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea for Pinchgut Opera.
Of his performances in VO's 2017 premiere season of Richard Mills’ ‘Tis Pity with Meow Meow, Limelight magazine wrote "Kanen Breen is an excellent co-star, bringing an extraordinary flexibility in his singing, … and like Meow Meow is a consummate communicator."
During 2018 Kanen Breen appears as the District Policeman in Barrie Kosky’s production of Shostakovich’s The Nose, and as Moser in Der Meistersinger, both roles for OA, as the Governor/Vanderdendur/Ragotski in Candide for Opera New Zealand and, as Maximillian in the same work for the Sydney Philharmonica Choirs. He also returns to the role of Sir Richard Dauntless for OQ's tour of Ruddigore.
In a new “tour de fierce” collaboration between the The Strange Bedfellows featuring Jacqui Dark and Kanen Breen, composer Jessica Wells, director Cameron Menzies and PLEXUS, Ich Auch draws on ancient stories of the female and examines how these depictions still echo in the contemporary world. Weaving myth with legend, past with present, this will be a highly theatrical and timely exploration of how “his” story has co-opted and contaminated hers.
Resolutely confronting and provocative, the cabaret work of The Strange Bedfellows is set apart by the utter conviction and sheer talent of creators and stars Jacqui Dark and Kanen Breen.
“Where would cabaret be without them?" – THE AUSTRALIAN