Opera Australia Blog

On the road with Oz Opera

Jonathan Abernethy and Celeste Lazarenko in performance

This is a guest post by Jonathan Abernethy, who is part of the Moffatt Oxenbould Young Artist Program. He is currently on tour with Oz Opera, taking Don Giovanni around Australia.

I am looking forward to exploring greater Australia on this tour – and I couldn’t think of a better way to do it, than singing my way around the country!

The Tour started rehearsing at the Opera Centre in Melbourne as a team of two casts. There is a group from last year’s tour and a new group joining for this year (I’m one of the newbies). The newbies have the challenge of picking up the entire opera and blocking in just two weeks before the full runs of the show begin in the third week.

We have a fantastic director (Michael Gow), who has been incredible at giving both casts the tools to make their own creative choices, as well as giving a helping hand to keep the overall vision he has of the show.

Comparatively this show requires much more input and effort from everyone involved than a mainstage production, there are fewer people both onstage, in the orchestra, and behind the scenes.

The cast is a split system where one cast will perform the main roles while the other cast makes up the chorus and fills any ‘extras’ acting requirements. On the following night, we switch roles! If anyone is sick the lead from the alternate cast is then called up to cover, this means we are able to get plenty of rest from the role and the travel between destinations – without it we couldn’t last the distance.

This travelling production of Don Giovanni is sung in English. Every singer I’ve talked to doesn’t like singing in English… it can be a double-edged sword, on the one hand there are certain moments through a phrase where an English word is difficult to produce (a vowel or a consonant in the wrong spot), whereas in the original language it’s a clear passage with no obstacles.

The flip side is that it can be a great way for English-speaking singers to learn a role prior to doing it in the original language, as it helps really come to grips with the text and the key moments in the Opera from a character’s perspective.

Finally as we are performing to a predominately English-speaking audience in rural Australia, so performing in English as compared to in Italian with subtitles is a much more easy going and enjoyable experience. Opening night at the Karralyka Theatre in Ringwood was testament to that, judging by the overwhelming applause we received!

Next stop was Port Pirie, opening night for the new cast. A few of us had our Oz Opera debuts there!

I am looking forward to exploring greater Australia on this tour – and I couldn’t think of a better way to do it, than singing my way around the country!

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