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Personal touch helps curtain slowly rise with 'intimate' Opera recitals

Culture

With COVID-19 social conditions gradually starting to ease across the state, Opera Queensland is starting to slowly raise the curtain with a couple of intimate performances at its South Brisbane studio.

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On Friday, July 31, and Saturday, August 1, Opera Queensland will host Bradley Daley for an intimate and spirited recital in which the world-renowned tenor will explore the tradition of German song and provide insights into his career.

Daley has earned critical and popular acclaim for his performances in some of opera’s most celebrated tenor roles, including Siegfried, Otello, Don José and Florestan.

He has divided his time between Australia and Germany over the past year after making his  German debut as Der Kaiser in Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten followed by Siegfried in The Ring Cycle for Opera Kiel.

Opera Queensland chief executive and artistic director Patrick Nolan has been doing his best to focus on commissioning a program that complements the current social conditions.

“The whole premise of the recital is that it’s an intimate experience and it’s very much about the relationship of the individual performer with that group of people, Nolan told InQueensland.

“The programming directive that I give the singers is, put together a collection of songs that you feel really close to and that should reveal something about your life as a singer.”

Nolan said regularly liaising with Queensland Health and working within the Government’s COVID-safe guidelines has “obviously been absolutely paramount”.

“The guidelines at the moment are one person every four square metres and that allows us to have 86 people in the room, which is about three quarters [of full capacity].

“I’m sure it will amplify that intimacy and sense of revelation that these concerts are all about.

Nolan said one positive element of the COVID-19 had been that in many ways it had brought people “a lot close to our humanity and vulnerability”.

“There’s nothing like a virus that can kill you to put you in touch with your sense of being and your relationship to others.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Daley, who told InQueensland it was “going to be lovely to just be singing live to people and seeing their faces again”.

“Often when people come to see a performer on stage, they’re seeing the character not the performer, so for better or for worse, at these recitals you’re getting me,” he laughed.

“It will be me telling a few personal stories and singing repertoire that’s meant something to me that that I’ve done incredibly intense work on in the last four years, so it’s a very high standard. I’ve been working with coaches [in Germany] and singing this stuff, nothing but this stuff for the last couple of years so it should be in good shape.

“I’m looking forward to singing repertoire that I know well and that I’ve been performing on stage, and I’m looking forward to taking that to a much more intimate level, where it’s just me singing it to a group of people as opposed to all the lights in the orchestra – it can be very easy to get lost in the production.”

Daley will be accompanied by Opera Queensland’s head of music Narelle French for the recitals, who he described as “one of the greatest piano recital players and accompanists in the world, not just Australia”.

Daley said he intended to deliver performances that had something to offer everyone from “Wagner boffins” to those engaging with opera for the first time.

“It’s going to be lovely just to focus in on the parts of the music that really mean something to me. For instance, Zigfried sings for something like five hours on stage non-stop and I’ve just taken some of the jewels, out of that, the moments that I think are very special.”

Daley was quick to point out that this didn’t mean he would only be focusing on what he termed “the fireworks moments”.

“Wagner is known for its big, loud, high singing. I’ve taken a couple of exciting parts like that but he was also very good at writing very intimately as well,” he said.

Nolan said Daley would be looking at and discussing the relationship between Strauss and Wagner’s music, in anticipation of Opera Queensland’s production of Tristan und Isolde, which is currently scheduled to be presented at the end of October.

Opera Queensland CEO and artistic director Patrick Nolan.

“Tristan und Isolde is one o the really big productions in our programming year, so we’re doing everything we can to make it work, but it’s complex because there are a lot of international artists involved and obviously there are quarantine challenges, and so little international travel happening these days.

“There are a whole lot of variables that need to line up to make it work and at this point in time that’s what we are trying to do … but at this point in time I think we’re all getting used to things changing and expectations not necessarily being met.

“I’m hopeful, but I’m also aware these are also extraordinary times that we’re living in.”

Nolan said there were further recitals currently scheduled to take place in the coming weeks,  with Jason Barry-Smith scheduled to perform A Life in Many Parts, about his experience with fatherhood, next month and Jose Carbo’s A Musical Life … Songs that taught me how to sing, to follow in September.

For tickets to Bradley Daley’s recitals, visit Opera Queensland’s website

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