We are delighted to announce that #TaitAwardees, Lauren Fagan, and Samantha Clarke are to sing major roles in Opera North’s production of La Boheme later this year. Lauren is to sing Mimi, Samantha the role of Musetta.
Lauren was generously supported by a grant from Trust donors, Michael Whalley OAM & Karen Goldie-Morrison for the duration of her advanced operatic studies in 2013 and 2014. This financial support assisted with her fees at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama where she was a member of the prestigious Opera Course. After graduation Lauren was offered a coveted place in the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House which gave her two years of training as a junior principal.
A review of her recent appearances as Alcina with the Handel Festspiele, Karlsruhe, Germany.
“Unusually for Europe, the two main roles were sung by Australians, up-and-coming soprano Lauren Fagan and the more established countertenor, David Hansen. Fagan was a convincing sorceress from the very start, with a strong rich soprano, inducing sympathy in “Ombre pallide” as her shades desert her, spitting venom in the trio “Non è amor” and finally collapsing as all conspire to defeat her. ” Sandra Bowdler, 25 February 2019. Bachtrack.com
Samantha is a graduate of the Royal Northern College of Music and is supported by a grant from Tait donor, The Thornton Foundation and is currently in her second and final year at the Opera School at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.
Samantha is also supported by the Countess of Munster Musical Trust, and was recently awarded the Nora Goodridge Developing Artist Award from the Australian Music Foundation
Samantha is a Baroness de Turckheim Scholar at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
“There was no lack of chemistry between him and Samantha Clarke as a pure-toned and vulnerable Anne Trulove. Her Act 1 aria “Quietly night” (with Ana Docolin’s beguiling bassoon) and florid cabaletta (with a fabulous closing top C) were both wonderful – her traversal from despair to determination utterly convincing.” David Truslove, 06 September 2018 | Bachtrack.com
World premieres, certainly from an Australian standpoint, don’t come much bigger than this! NED KELLY, composed by Luke Styles with libretto by Peter Goldsworthy and given birth here by Lost and Found as part of the 2019 Perth International Arts Festival.
Performed at the heritage listed No1 Mill at Jarrahdale the venue is an enormous 2 sided tin sawmill shed, and it is the first time this had been used as a performance space.
With an orchestra of 17 and instruments including banjo and branch of eucalyptus, the orchestra and performers were guided through this score (a fantastic melting pot of folk song and percussion) by the steady ever reliable hand of a proud Chris van Tuinen at the helm…..this was no easy feat given the barn like quality of the venue and distance between performers and players. The chorus, made up of singers from the community, sang and danced and seemed to be having much fun.
The cast did a mighty job! Amongst them, Adrian Tambourini was in fine voice as Joe Byrne, as was Fiona Campbell as Ellen, with other roles taken by Pia Harris, Robert Macfarlane and Matt James Ruben Ward. The role of Ned, is understandably big and Sam Dundas is towering and simpatico in the role. His voice is full and glorious in both sung and spoken text. I hope this opera is taken up elsewhere, it deserves to be and is an important addition to the Australian operatic canon….and everyone needs to see Sam as Ned.
Jakab Kaufmann is a successful bassoonist from Sydney now based in Europe. He trained as an orchestral musician and a conductor in Sydney before moving to Basel where he studied early music at the renowned Schola Cantorum Basiliensis.
Now living in Bern, he has established himself as a freelance musician working with ensembles and orchestras in Switzerland, Germany and the UK, playing on both modern and historical instruments. One of his upcoming ventures is a new, innovative production of Rameau’s Pygmalion with his colleagues in the London-based Ensemble Molière. Speaking to Jakab, I asked him about his work and this exciting new project:
How does an orchestral musician make the leap to specialising in early music, particularly after studying to be a conductor?
While I was studying conducting at the Sydney Conservatorium, I was asked to play baroque bassoon for the early music ensemble’s performance of Gluck’s “The Pilgrims to Mecca.” I’d never played this instrument before and I thought it sounded horrible but once I braved the potential embarrassment of playing in front of other people, I discovered the incredible resonance within an ensemble. I started playing more and more and learned to love the difficulties of playing such a different instrument. There seemed to be so much to learn and enjoy from playing music on an instrument so distantly related to the one I’d previously dedicated my life to.
Like so many Australian musicians you decided to move overseas. I am interested to know why you chose Switzerland? Was it your first choice?
I decided a long time ago that I wanted to move to the German speaking world and in 2011, I attended a summer school at the Humboldt University in Berlin. I spent a month there improving my German and I still have a soft spot for that city. My path changed however and whilst I still entertain the idea of returning to conducting someday, my goal quickly re-focussed on being a well-rounded musician in whatever form it took. I flew to Europe in 2013 and travelled around, doing masterclasses on both modern and baroque bassoons, and visiting different teachers until I decided on Basel and its famous Schola were perfect for me. It’s a very international school with a great balance of academic research and performance-based projects. The community is very positive and creative, which lead to some great friendships and fantastic opportunities.
The UK can be quite a distant world to the continent without the right connections. How did you began to work here?
I attended the Dartington International Summer School’s Baroque Orchestra Programme with a scholarship in 2013. The environment there is so open and relaxed that it’s conducive to amazing opportunities. I made friends with many different musicians there, including established professional musicians who have been able to organise projects with me. In addition to various audition processes, I’ve also reconnected with a lot of friends from Sydney who have moved to the UK. The life of a freelance musician is very much dependant on who you know and luckily, some lovely people have helped me get my name out there.
As a founding member of the young early music group, Ensemble Molière could you tell me about your work and the repertoire you play?
We first played together in this combination in 2014 at the Dartington International Summer School and the first piece we played was the “Deuxième récréation de musique” by Jean-Marie Leclair. That experience made us realise that we worked well as an ensemble and that we all wanted to play more French music. Since then we’ve gone on to perform concerts in Brighton, Graz, Bruges and Utrecht, as well as more regular concerts in London.
We were lucky enough to participate in the Brighton Early Music Festival’s Early Music Live! Scheme in 2015 and we were invited to return for our own concert in the 2016 Festival. We’ve expanded our repertoire and recorded our music and we’re always looking for opportunities to push the boundaries of the modern-concert programme.
French music retains an element of mystery today and I was curious as to why you think we don’t see enough of it on today’s concert programmes:
When you study music in English and German-speaking schools, French music before Debussy rarely gets a look in. The truth is, Paris has played a more important role in music than Vienna or London at various points throughout history. For example, in the Middle Ages, the French-speaking world was essentially the musical centre of Europe. That changed with the printing press, the migration of Netherlandish musicians to Italy, and of course, the reformation.
However, the French court at Versailles was an incredible force for artistic support and the “French Baroque” led to some of the most unique music this world has ever known. Because of the rivalry with the Italians and the influence of kings like Louis XIV, French musicians played very different instruments in a very different way. The wind instruments were built in another way, the string players used different bows, and the keyboard instruments had their own designs. The performers would also use very individual ornaments, which some composers like Couperin took the time to write down with full explanations. The music itself is sometimes harmonically dissimilar to the German high-baroque masters that people tend to think of and it can also feel more static than the repetitive patterns of the Venetians like Vivaldi. I think this is why performers have, in the past, neglected the nuanced and delicate sounds of France. The good news is that French music is constantly being rediscovered!
Your upcoming project at festivals in London and Brighton will see a new take on French Opera.Could you tell me a bit about the project’s background?
As our first large-scale project, we wanted to explore a genre that is not commonly addressed by chamber groups but is incredibly important to the French Baroque: Opera. Rameau’s greatest contributions to music include his solo keyboard works, his theoretical writings and his many operas. The forces required to perform them are so large that most opera companies don’t stage his works too often. As a result, his music doesn’t get heard often enough. We thought we would bring one of his shorter operas, at 45 minutes, to the people with a more accessible medium with a smaller ensemble on stage.
Rameau’s Pygmalion is based on the original Greek legend of a sculptor who falls in love with his own creation. Most people today would be more familiar with the George Bernard Shaw version which came much later, and led to the even-more popular “My Fair Lady.” We’ve teamed up with artist Kate Anderson and director Karolina Sofulak to present a live performance of the opera with animation and simplified surtitles, so as to make it accessible and enjoyable for everyone.
I would be interested to know about what stage the project is in? What are your plans for such an ambitious undertaking, how are they progressing and how can audiences can help?
We’re still at the funding stage which is looking very promising. We will be applying to the Arts Council for a grant to make the project happen once we’ve secured enough funding from other sources. We’ve started a crowdfunder to collect an initial investment of £3000 by 9th January. This would show the Arts Council that we have support from both the artistic and wider community for this project. We’ve been offering rewards ranging from Thank-You tweets right up to private concerts in peoples’ homes. If you’d like to contribute, the crowdfunder site with a video explaining the project can be found here: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/ensemble-moliere. Any help is always appreciated as we’re very passionate about getting this project off the ground and onto the stage.
As you can see, Jakab is dedicated to expanding the confines of the contemporary musical experience. We wish him and his ensemble all the best for this exciting project. We are thrilled to see Australian musicians like himself pushing the boundaries and we can’t wait to see where his career takes him next.
Please click hereif you would like to be a part of Rameau’s, Pygmalion, with Ensemble Molière
Wonderful article published in Limelight Magazine about Brian Castles-Onion’s quest to save and share the recordings from Australia’s operatic past. Volume 1 sold out (let’s hope they press some more CDs). These recordings have particular significance for the Trust as Isla Baring’s father, Sir Frank Tait, produced this tour as part of the JC Williamson/ Sutherland Opera Company. It was Sir Frank’s ambition to present Dame Joan Sutherland to the Australian public after her international acclaim. The Sutherland Williamson Opera Company was formed in 1963. Richard Bonynge as Artistic Director engaged a team of world renowned principals and internationally successful Australian artists. One of the principals was Luciano Pavarotti, a young tenor from Modena. The chorus was all Australian. There was no government subsidy and the fate of Williamson’s future rested on the success of the venture.
Sir Frank lived to see his ambition fulfilled. The triumphant Melbourne opening heralded the return of Dame Joan to her homeland. It was a season never to be forgotten. In Richard Bonynge’s words: “Sir Frank Tait has done the greatest service to Australian Theatre and to the arts of anyone we know.”
Sir Frank died at the age of 81 after the Melbourne season finished and while the company were in Adelaide. It was the end of an era in the history of Australian theatre.
We are thrilled that Maestro Castles-Onion has produced a professionally mastered collection of recordings, not only of the Tour but also of Robert Allman, June Bronhill & Nance Grant. It truly is a remarkable achievement.
The opera conductor has taken on the task of ensuring that these Aussie greats are not forgotten.
Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by many singers of celebrity. These famous names were not only on record – having collected opera recordings from the age of four – but also personal friends. Over two decades ago, when I first realised the need to preserve old tapes to CD format, I wrote to four dozen singers who had performed in Australia in the decades since the 1940s, asking if they had any ‘recordings’ of themselves. Most of these Australian-born singers had never been offered the luxury of studio recordings and the only captures of their voices and artistry were from ‘live’ performances on tape. These primitive sound relics, which have lain silent for decades, hold a wealth of wonderful voices, which are our operatic history!
La Sonnambula from the Sutherland- Williamson Grand Opera Season of 1965. Photo from Brian Castles-Onion’s Private Collection
Three years ago, I commenced the Great Australian Voices series on Désirée Records in the hope that future generations would have the opportunity to hear how their musical ancestors sounded, what they sang, how they sang, who they sang with and what they thought about their roles.
So far, Nance Grant, Robert Allman and June Bronhill have each been honoured with 3CD sets. Nance and Bob were close friends for many years. Bob eventually became like an uncle and we spoke daily. I knew his thoughts and opinions on the world of opera – then and now – and he was the obvious choice for the premiere set of the series. He was the greatest Australian baritone of his era at a time when we boasted also the voices of John Shaw and Raymond Myers! His voice and art had not been captured in the recording studio… a profound oversight.
The first CD release set the format – a complete audio coverage from the earliest broadcasts in singing competitions to the ‘final’ stage performance; an accurate biography containing important casts and dates; personal thoughts on favourite roles and colleagues, with rare photographs on and off-stage. Even their favourite colour has been chosen for the cover and CD artwork! The Allman set was completed and came from the manufacturer two weeks before his untimely death. Bob had the pleasure of knowing that his operatic career had been preserved to be heard by future generations.
Nance Grant was one of the greatest of all Australian sopranos. Christian Thielemann told me personally that he considered her to be one of the three greatest Sieglindes he’s ever heard on record. (High praise for a singer who never had the opportunity to sing outside Australia!) Her final performance shows her shining on high Ds with a Nilsson-like brilliance in arrangements created for Joan Sutherland.
June Bronhill’s recording career was extensive but her ‘opera’ career had not been documented. Unlike the previous releases, I was unable to interview her in person because she died in 2004 and her autobiography does not show what I believe to be the ‘real’ Bronhill. Despite this, I contacted a dozen friends and colleagues who had known her and succeeded in producing what has been called the ‘definitive Bronhill biography’.
The long-awaited release of the Sutherland-Williamson Grand Opera Season of 1965 has been enormously popular. The excerpts on this 4CD set, recorded in less-than-studio conditions, display the essence of Sutherland in full flight. Here is a full, healthy voice wedded to an immaculate vocal technique, innate musicality and a generosity of stage presence that personified ‘La Stupenda’. All the operas in the 1965 season are represented – with and without Sutherland. The original tapes range in audio quality from excellent (those recorded by ‘management’ from placed microphones on the proscenium) to those recorded by a hidden microphone in a coat lapel. These audience recordings capture the more unusual partnerships like Joan Sutherland and Alberto Remedios in Lucia, or Elizabeth Harwood and Luciano Pavarotti, also in Lucia.
Many more surprises are in the pipeline. Two sets will hit the shelves in the early part of 2017. One honouring Australia’s greatest ever soprano and the other an international star who had their career tragically cut short. But no more hints…
– See more at: http://www.limelightmagazine.com.au/features/brian-castles-onion-preserving-la-stupenda#sthash.yRT4vLzI.dpuf
Our Patron, Australian soprano, Danielle de Niese starred in the Glyndebourne 2016 production of The Barber of Seville. The BBC has just announced its Christmas schedule and we are delighted to share the news that the acclaimed production will be shown on BBC Four this December. The broadcast will be preceded by a documentary that follows Danielle de Niese in her preparations for the role of Rosina.
Birth of an Opera: Danielle de Niese on The Barber of Seville
7.00pm, Sunday 18 December, BBC Four
Offering unparalleled insight into the process of staging an opera, the documentary follows Danni as she prepares to make her debut in the opera’s starring role of Rosina. It also features interviews with director Annabel Arden, conductor Enrique Mazzola, designer Joanna Parker and key Glyndebourne figures.
Il barbiere di Siviglia
Immediately afterwards, at 8.00pm, audiences can watch the opera in full, recorded live this summer.
Lovely to hear from 2007 Tait Awardee, Helen Sherman. Helen had great success in the 2011 Cardiff Singer of the World as Australia’s representative in this career making competition. She won the third prize in the Wigmore Hall/Kohn Foundation International Song Competition in 2013.
As you can see from her year in review below, Helen is now singing in the very best houses and is an international singer of repute. This recording of Vivaldi’s, Bajazet by Pinchgut Opera has just been released. We look forward to hearing more about this exciting artist.
Update from Helen
2016 has been a challenging and exciting year for me. Highlights included singing Dorabella in Opera North’s revival of Tim Albery’s production of ‘Cosi fan Tutte’ and Donna Elvira for Classical Opera’s Don Giovanni at Cadogan Hall. The jewel of the year for me however, was making my Strauss debut as Octavian in David McVicar’s iconic production of ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ with Opera North. There was something quite ‘out-of-body’ about having Sarah Connolly’s name stitched into my trousers! The music in ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ is really out of this world and this production is beautiful in every way. I really learned so much from this role. We sang a show the night the divisive US election result was announced; it reminded me how truly blessed we are as musicians to be able to transcend this world and all it’s troubles through our work. It also re-emphasised to me how relevant and important music is; it proves that together we can do incredible things.
Part two of young Australian opera director’s, Greg Eldridge’s, article about assisting Neil Armfield on Wagner’s, Ring Cycle for Opera Australia.
Stepping behind the curtain of Opera Australia’s Ring Cycle.
Auf der Erde Rücken wuchtet der Riesen Geschlecht
On the Earth’s surface dwells the race of Giants
– Wotan, Act 1 – Siegfried
The first time working for any company is a bit intimidating – make sure you get signed in, get a pass, meet a thousand people and try to remember exactly who does what. I’ve arrived in Sydney for the first month (!) of rehearsals, which will take place in The Opera Centre studios in Surry Hills. In London, I’m used to everything taking place in the flash of an eye (a week for a revival of Tosca, 10 days to get together a Traviata, perhaps 3 weeks for a new production of Così) so I’m looking forward to a process that will span 6 weeks in rehearsal studios, then a further 6 weeks on stage before opening night.
We are thrilled to report that Tait Awardee, Panayiota Kalatzis, won the coveted 2016 Herald Sun Aria in Melbourne’s, Hamer Hall a few days ago. Panayiota was the 2014 recipient of the Australian International Opera Awards which gave her the funds to study at the Wales International Academy of Voice with Dennis O’Neill.
SCINTILLATING soprano Panayiota Kalatzis swept all before her last night to win the 2016 Herald Sun Aria.The 30-year-old Brisbane vocalist, trailing an elegant train, won the coveted prize in its 92nd year ahead of four other outstanding classical singers.“I never thought it would happen,’’ she said after accepting the prestigious award from Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston. “You work hard and enter competitions and then someone, ‘Yes’. Winning this changes everything.’’Kalatzis, of Greek background, captivated a 1500-strong audience at Hamer Hall with thrilling performances of Massenet and Verdi. A huge ovation greeted her win which carries $15,000 cash and a $22,500 scholarship for overseas tuition.“The plan is to go back to the UK, make some connections there, and then go to America,’’ she said. “Winning this makes all that possible.’’Jessica Harper, a 26-year-old soprano from Sydney, was runner up while the encouragement award went to Douglas Kelly, a Victorian-based tenor.Judges Richard Mills, Margaret Haggart and John Bolton-Wood praised the high standard of competition and Penny Fowler, Chairman of the Herald and Weekly Times, paid special tribute to Richard Divall — the Aria’s long serving maestro and chief adjudicator.
One of the more curious things you might have noted about the passing of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies earlier this year is how a composer who was such an enfant terrible back in the 1960s could end up the fondly admired Master of the Queen’s Music with a host of ‘popular’ compositions to his name like the catchy An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise, or suites of songs to be sung by Scottish schoolkids.
Next week in Sydney, the ambitious Verbrugghen Ensemble are aiming to put the record straight by winding back the clock on Sir Peter in a programme entitled Of Magic and Madness, the centrepiece of which will be a performance of one of his seminal early works: Eight Songs for a Mad King. Directed by Kate Gaul, the production will feature baritone Simon Lobelson as the deranged King George III as well as a bold new work by composer Matthew Hindson (This Year’s Apocalypse) and the lyrical Sextuor Mystique by Heitor Villa-Lobos.