A Social Science grad with a never-ending appetite and lust for Sydney life. Community and Social Media Manager @ProjectFutures www.projectfutures.com
Published March 26th 2013
A novice's guide to the opera
I have a little secret to confess. I am a complete and utter opera novice. I previously had no appreciation of opera or classical music at all - I was quite the uncultured little so and so. Which is precisely why I decided to seize this opportunity and educate myself on some of the finer things in life. And I suppose some would say you can't get much finer than a night at the opera.
Flying solo this night I walked into North Sydney's The Independent Theatre, where Sydney Independent Opera was launching its 2013 season with the Gala Concert, and the cool, calm and composed atmosphere was immediately apparent. I am one of the first ones to arrive and I take my seat and wait with anticipation for the opera to start. As more people drift in, we watch in near silence as the orchestra begins to set themselves up and tune their instruments. When the conductor, Steven Stanke, enters the crowd claps enthusiastically while the orchestra stands to attention. And we begin.
The orchestra opens with Rossini's overture to 'The Italian Girl in Algiers' and genuine excitement builds as the tempo and volume of the music grows, and even though I am unfamiliar with the story, my imagination runs along with the music. I was also fascinated with watching the individuals in the orchestra as they played, particularly admiring one man's dramatic and exaggerated facial expressions. As the orchestra finishes, Stanke tells us that he gave his opera singers a free reign and consequently the Gala Concert: Viva Verdi! is full of their favourites, including Verdi, Rossini, and Mozart.
First opera singer off the ranks was baritone Randall Stewart. Randall appears from a secret door in the backdrop looking dapper in his tuxedo and bow tie with an endearing smile on his face. He sings his heart out, and although I couldn't understand the words, I could gather meaning from Randall's expression-filled face, which ranged from cheeky to sombre throughout the nights performances. Randall certainly proved to be one of the most entertaining singers on the night.
Randall then pairs with soprano Regina Daniel who, despite being unwell, wowed the crowd with a beautiful voice and fantastic energy which was a real testament to her dedication and passion. Joining Randall and Regina throughout the night, both in solo and collaborative performances was soprano Maia Andrews and tenor Geoff Knight. Here's a bit of trivia for you - Geoff got his start in show biz as a stuntman for TVs Hercules and Xena. And no wonder, as this tenor cuts an imposing figure matched by an incredibly powerful voice. Maia stunned with her amazing endurance and beautiful voice that was definitely goosebump-inducing.
The instrumental interludes also afforded the orchestra a well-deserved chance to showcase their talents and enjoy the spotlight a little more. They were an absolute pleasure to listen to and I admire them a huge amount for the dedication each one of them must have to master their instruments.
The performance finished with a rousing encore of "Do you hear the people sing?" from Les Miserables, which really brought the house down and obviously gave the orchestra and singers much pleasure to perform.
The friendly pair who sat next to me during the performance told me that the Sydney Independent Opera has been simultaneously critiqued by those with unrealistic expectations and applauded by others for their creativity and ingenuity. Thankfully I went in with no expectations whatsoever and was genuinely wowed by the obvious talent and passion showed by both the orchestra and the opera singers.
While I may not be an opera aficionado and may be unaware of the differences between the violin and viola, I do have the ability to appreciate fantastic music and talent and both were on display at the gala. And while I couldn't gauge the finer intricacies of the songs, and indeed may be committing an opera faux pas by calling them 'songs', I could understand the overall picture and it was an incredible experience and one I would definitely be keen to repeat.