What do you do? You’ve spent three to four years working hard on your voice to perform some of the greatest music in the world to the best of your ability. Then what? Sydney is lucky to have Pacific Opera to step in at this point, the company that has risen from the turmoil of 2016 to stamp itself clearly on the landscape as the premiere ensemble for emerging singers.
Pacific Opera was established in 2003 to create a platform for young Australian artists to transition from higher education to full time careers in the opera industry. There’s nothing else like it in Sydney and the team of supporters and professionals behind the recent rebirth are all to be soundly congratulated for keeping this company alive and kicking.
Pacific Opera supports young artists with an annual program of workshops, performances and coaching on everything from makeup to marketing. Most young singers are without agents and this type of support is vital for them to maintain their focus. They have absolutely no problem with motivation, however! They have it in spades!
The first Pacific Opera concert of 2017, Race for the Sky: 24 American Songs and Arias, with a refreshed board under Artistic Director Simon Kenway, produced a beautiful showcase of the current crop of singers. From the 50 who auditioned this year, a lucky 15 were chosen for the 2017 program.
In the intimate Utzon Room, the concert presented a program of American arias, songs and choruses in an engaging mix of styles from the dramatic to the comic. All the artists performed with commitment, outstanding presence, technical flexibility and beautiful tonality. With Kenway accompanying from the piano, the program explored the beauty of American vocal music – complex yet romantic, wide, expansive and cheeky.
Aaron Copeland’s settings of Emily Dickinson’s poem “Nature, the gentlest mother” opened the program, which followed with the American greats – Weill, Sondheim, Previn.
Pacific Opera has included Associate Performer positions in the 2017 Young Artist Program and Bernstein’s fun “Trouble in Tahiti” was brilliantly brought to life by Associate mezzo-soprano Angela Hogan, with the “What a movie!”
Alumni soprano Sarah Ampil’s beautiful “Hermit Songs” from Samuel Barber’s “The Crucifixion” added gravitas to the program’s themes of loss and regret. Soprano Emily Turner gave an impassioned performance of “Willow Song” by Douglas Moore from “The Ballad of Baby Doe”.
Baritone Daniel Macey captured the allure of Jo and her lover from Little Women by Mark Adamo with “Kannst Du Das Land” while soprano Livia Brash exuded charm in “Joy” by Ricky Ian Gordon.
All the solo outings were all impressive, with the tutti pieces bringing to life a gorgeous chorus in “Sure on This Shining Night” by Samuel Berber.
Race to the Sky
A major piece in the program was the three-part “Race to the Sky”, with text from poems pinned to the remnants of the New York World Trade Centre Towers after the 9/11 tragedy.
Soprano Laura Scandizzo was immersed in the music as she performed the stunning premiere of this work by composer Richard Pearson Thomas. Supported beautifully by Kenway and the lilting violin of Lucy Warren, Scandizzo’s confident portrayal and story telling was moving. The text of “Don’t look for me anymore” was gut wrenching: “don’t look for me anymore, it’s late and you are tired”.
Sondheim’s classic “Sunday” from “Sunday in the Park with George” cheered our Sunday up with all singers on stage for a rousing finale.
Sydney is lucky to have such young talent at its doorstep, and the vibrant Pacific Opera gives them a chance to come out from the shadows of solo life.
Don’t miss their Mother’s Day concert at the Independent Theatre on May 14.
Pacific Opera, Race for the Sky: 24 American Songs and Arias | Sunday 10 April 2017 | Sydney Opera House, Utzon Room