Opera Australia Blog

From Perth to the Metropolitan Opera: 10 minutes with Rachelle Durkin

10 questions (with enlightening answers) for Australian superstar soprano Rachelle Durkin.

Rachelle Durkin in Opera Australia's 'The Elixir of Love' at Sydney Opera House, Winter 2014. Photo by Lisa Tomasetti

Rachelle Durkin in Opera Australia’s ‘The Elixir of Love’ at Sydney Opera House, Winter 2014. Photo by Lisa Tomasetti

From the Chorus in WA to a life in New York with regular appearances at the Met – what’s the journey been like?

Every year, every month, and every day has had its own challenge and reward since leaving WA more than 16 years ago. I would never have thought I’d work at the Met or be based in New York City.

I have had the opportunity to meet and work along side so many talented artists at the top of their field and I’ve really had to pinch myself sometimes.

That’s not to say that with all the peaks there have not been valleys.  I have been challenged professionally and personally over the years, but I’m proud of what I have accomplished and who I’ve become. I’ve grown a lot as a performer and as a person and I’m thankful that I’m still grounded and still doing what I love to do.


What are three things you love about the job you get to do? 

*The opportunity to work with so many talented professionals, see familiar faces and strike up friendships with new colleagues.

*Singing is my way of communicating who I am and allowing the audience to get to know a piece of me personally.  I was a very shy kid and so performing is reward for all the times I was too embarrassed or shy to speak up.

*Continually learning, seeking, adapting, reaching and overcoming milestones I’ve set for myself.


What’s the worst thing about the job you do?

There’s nothing in my job I don’t like.  I’m very fortunate to be doing what I love to do. I realise there are many people who cannot say the same about their job and therefore I count myself lucky.


You seem to sing all of the pretty, witty girls! What appeals to you about these roles, especially Adina?

I love the comedic roles.  I used being funny as something to hide my geeky, self conscious and awkward years growing up. Though I was tall and lanky, I was quite invisible. I always found myself on the outside looking in and so using this to my advantage I found ways to amuse myself and often laughed at my own stupid jokes. I guess the roles I love tend to be comedic because it comes naturally to me. That’s not to say I don’t play serious roles either and love them equally.
Adina is most appealing to me because it’s fun to play a woman who is in denial as to who she really is. She is an intelligent girl but not so when it comes to real love until she almost lets it slip away.
It’s a rude awakening for her and though The Elixir of Love is a comic Opera, it’s also very touching and very real.


You’re a natural at comedic roles. How do you get into the zone on stage?

It’s a moment to moment thing for me on stage. Comic timing is organic and bounces off the other characters and also the audience.
I discover new things about my role every time I’m on the stage and I rarely do the same performance twice.


Rachelle Durkin. Photo: Koneko.

Rachelle Durkin. Photo: Koneko.

On a day off from rehearsals in Melbourne, where would we find you?

Most probably with my shiny new baby boy of only 5 months. He’s got a lot of new things to discover and so you’ll find me walking in a park, on the beach, somewhere outdoors for sure.


What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?

I’ve been given a ton of advice over the years and I could list it all, but I only just recently heard something that stuck to mind.
‘Everyone has their own taste in ice cream. Someone’s vanilla is someone else’s chocolate or strawberry etc. No one person has the same taste in ice cream, it’s completely subjective, so how on earth could you think that all critics/reviewers would love your voice the same?’
What someone finds vocally displeasing is pleasing to someone else.  You simply can’t please everyone.


Now that you’re in the giving advice position, what do you say to young singers?

I tell young singers that this is a really difficult profession to be in, and apart from having the talent, unless you have a real fire in the belly, you are ready to work for hours a day, develop a thick skin, be your own worst critic, and be prepared to be alone for chunks of time on the road, then you should really think of something else to fall back on. It may be harsh advice but it is reality.


How would you convince someone to see The Elixir of Love?

I would tell them that they are in for a fun, colourful, light, tuneful night at the Opera all set in the Outback with no one dying in the end.


What’s the next dream role you want to tick off your list?

I’d still love to sing the role of Marie in La fille du régiment by Donizetti. She’s such a tomboy and the music is so divine.
I was lucky enough to cover the role at the Metropolitan Opera once, but I’m chomping at the bit to actually sing it on stage.


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