Whatever happens on Monday night at the 16th Helpmann Awards in Sydney at The Star casino’s Lyric Theatre, it’s highly likely to be a ceremony involving a hearty helping of awkwardness. After all, the Brisbane Baroque festival is up for six statuettes for its April performance of Handel’s Agrippina (after it won five in 2015 for Faramondo).
None of the five nominated artists have been paid for their performances, after a financial scandal plaguing the management company of the festival emerged in recent weeks. As widely reported, Brisbane Baroque’s executive director (and also of the “postponed” debut fixture Sydney Sings) Jarrod Carland has been convalescing in a Melbourne clinic recovering from a reported illness. Contacted on Sunday, his partner (and fellow director of the festivals’ operating entities) Shannon Pigram refused to answer our questions about large sums of money having reportedly been transferred between the entities, and that both Destination NSW, Griffith University and Tourism and Events Queensland had demanded access to their books.
And the sixth nomination, if it wins the category of Best Opera, would be collected by Pigram, who has indicated to organisers he is attending the ceremony. What Pigram might say about the outstanding bills, or what his artists (if successful) might say about their unpaid invoices, is anyone’s guess.