Life with Opera Australia
Posted on 18 December 2014
Jonathan Abernethy (Tenor) describes the past 18 months with Opera Australia as the most incredible experience of his life, taking him from the big stages of the Sydney Opera House and Melbourne Arts Centre, to the far-flung corners of Australia. Here’s a brief recap…
When I landed in Sydney, I set the bar high with a number of personal firsts. I made my professional debut for the company by opening Lucia di Lammermoor in Sydney (late Sept 2012), and then in Melbourne. It was my first time singing this role, and as a soloist with full orchestra. To say I hit the ground running would be an understatement.
After Lucia I covered the roles of one of the Jews in Salome, and Fenton, in Falstaff, during the Sydney Summer Season. Just as I thought I might get a breather and the chance to absorb the musical tsunami that had swept over me, I learnt the role of Remandado (Carmen) to cover the Sydney sensation that is ‘Opera on the Harbour’. The scale of the event, the setting, the spectacle, made for an incredible experience, and one so different from the shows inside the Sydney Opera House.
Last year, I joined the Oz Opera tour of Don Giovanni. Playing the role of Don Ottavio on alternate nights in a slightly compressed English version, we took opera to the far-flung towns of Port Piri, Alice Springs and Darwin, across the northern, western and central states of Australia. This was a fantastic opportunity to hone my stagecraft, my characterisation, my vocal abilities and to develop them night after night.
After touring the length and breadth of the continent, Opera Australia signed me for a second year. This year started as Tamino in The Magic Flute - an exciting, challenging role within an intricate and detailed production. The clever, colourful costumes and elaborate set design add that element of fantasy to the magical music. It was a dream come true to play Tamino, and a bonus to be doing a Metropolitan Opera production! Next stop was to begin rehearsals for Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, as a cover for the role of the poet Lensky. Russian is a hard language to really grasp, but the music is just amazing.
Swapping the snowy scenes of Russia for the sun and the surf, I was off to the Gold Coast to play Tamino again in a new production of The Magic Flute. This ‘Indiana Jones’ styled show was performed on the beach and offered a chance to try some new approaches to Tamino. For one thing, I traded the white face paint for some stubble and a Fedora. By year’s end I will make my debut as Fenton, the young lover in Falstaff. This opens in December in the dauntingly large auditorium of the Melbourne Arts Centre. So despite a very demanding and extremely busy few months ahead, I’m looking forward to the challenge. Building my on-stage experience and learning new roles to the best of my ability will provide a solid platform for my future development. The Opera Australia Young Artist Program has been a fantastic experience to date and has dramatically increased my skill set in such a short space of time. I’m also hugely grateful to Dame Kiri and the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation for providing constant financial support and mentoring over the past few years and their ongoing support as I continue my musical development.