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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | October 30, 2020

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ENCORE: Opera Queensland Returns to the Stage

ENCORE: Opera Queensland Returns to the Stage
Claire Matthews

Opera Queensland will once again fill the QPAC Concert Hall with soul-stirring music in Queensland’s Own: ENCORE on 23 & 24 October 2020.

Conducted by Dane Lam, ENCORE brings together Opera Queensland’s acclaimed singers Shaun BrownAndrew CollisEva KongRosario La SpinaVirgilio Marino and Milijana Nikolic, joined by rising star, Rebecca Cassidy and QSO.

The program will feature well-known arias, duets and ensemble pieces by great composers including Puccini, Verdi, Bizet and Tchaikovsky, capturing a spirit of gratitude and reflection. In ENCORE, Opera Queensland celebrates the effort, patience and resilience that has carried them through this year and back to the stage.

We sat down with Opera Queensland’s 2020 Young Artist, Rebecca Cassidy, amid the bustling Queensland’s Own media call at QPAC on Wednesday. Around us, artists and directors from Queensland Ballet, QSO, Queensland Theatre and Circa did interviews with various media outlets. Rebecca’s golden dress sparkled as the sunshine poured in the window.

To start off, I asked her what it’s been like to be OQ’s Young Artist this year. Rebecca said, “Opera Queensland were amazingly generous to ask if I wanted to do it. I was so excited! I’d just been waiting for an opportunity like this to take that next step.” Rebecca was disappointed when Tristan and Isolde was cancelled, “I was offered the understudy of Isolde, and I’ve never had a main role before, so it was exciting, and all the dreams come true.” Despite the challenges of COVID, Rebecca said, “Opera Queensland have been super supportive of me. They could’ve easily said that the Young Artist program was not going to happen this year. They could’ve said, let’s scrap it, start again next year, or too bad, but they stuck by me. I’m just so grateful.”

Rebecca has participated in OQ’s An Aria A Day and virtual singing workshops Sing, Sing, Sing. I asked her how these online experiences have enriched her artistic journey. Rebecca said, “Even though it came out of necessity, I’ve learnt so many skills. I’d never recorded myself before, so, to then have all my singing lessons and tuition online, was challenging.” Rebecca said she broke three microphones, “because they’re not designed for that much projection, or the level of decibels,” but has now mastered recording. “So, I’ve learnt how to record myself, how to do YouTube videos, how to post things properly to social media, how to mix things, how to download backing tracks.”

We then discussed how she has managed during this time as an artist without work. Rebecca said she lost months of work in one day. “I’d singed contracts and they’d just disappeared. I wasn’t eligible for any government support at that time. So I’d budgeted my income, and then I had none, and no assistance and it was a really despairing time.” Rebecca said the support of family and fellow singers helped her through this time. Now, things are looking up. She said, “I’ve just picked up my first teaching gig two weeks ago, with a little company called We Make Music. It’s my dream job.”

Panning out, we chatted about the recovery of Brisbane’s arts scene, through events like ENCORE and Queensland’s Own. Rebecca is optimistic, “I think it’s going to come back bigger than ever. COVID has made us realise how much we benefit by seeing people create beautiful things. This nourishes us. That’s why, after all these years, opera still exists.” Rebecca and I looked across the room, at the ballet dancers and circus performers and Eva Kong in her ballgown. She said, “I think people need to see us like this. I think Brisbane gets it. Brisbane Festival has been amazing. We will rally. John Kotzas was just saying that the QSO concert sold out in a day. So people are ready and they’re wanting to come back to support us too.”

To close, I asked Rebecca how excited she is to perform to an audience for ENCORE. She laughed and said, “Not singing to the cat!” Rebecca said opera is to be shared, “To just do the training, the exercises, the drills, there’s no payoff. You do all that hard stuff so you can put on a nice frock, get out there, have people clap and cry.” She said COVID has taught her to be grateful, “to perform means so much more to me now, because I know it could be gone at any time.” Rebecca can’t wait to get on stage, “The first time I sang at QPAC was recently when we did the True North concert livestream. This time, I’m singing in the concert hall with QSO! I’m so excited. It’s ready to burst out of me.”

Don’t miss Opera Queensland’s return to the stage! Tickets on sale now.

The Details:

What: Opera Queensland’s ENCORE in Queensland’s Own

When: 23 Oct 7pm & 24 Oct 3pm

Where: Concert Hall, QPAC

Tickets: From $59. Book here.