From recording to stage – ‘Sappho’ the opera

Since recording the world premiere of Peggy Glanville Hicks’ never performed opera Sappho, Australian conductor Jennifer Condon has set her sights on bringing to life the opera on stage. She will visit Sydney in July from her present home in Hamburg, in the next step of this project. If Jennifer Condon’s single mindedness in making her recording is a yardstick, it is certain that when this emerging young adventurer sets her sights on a goal, it will very likely be realised. 

For the past 5 years, Jennifer Condon has worked as a Souffleuse at the Hamburg State Opera under Simone Young, an assured means of obtaining a detailed knowledge of opera. Her early music studies were in piano, with Gerard Willems at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and in conducting with Vladimir Vais in Melbourne, after which she moved to Europe in 2005 studying operatic conducting in Vienna, attending master classes in conducting throughout Europe and working as a freelance vocal coach. At just 29, Jennifer has acquired a repertoire of over 40 operas and has worked with some of the world’s finest artists many of whom lent their support and their talents to the recording released in November 2012.

Jennifer Condon first began work on Sappho score as part of a PhD through the University of New England. She won the support of the late James Murdoch, Peggy Glanville- Hicks’ biographer, friend and co-executor of her estate, and was granted the rights to both the world premiere recording and the production of the opera.

Consequently, July 2012 saw the gathering in Lisbon of the Gulbenkian Orchestra and Chorus, with soloists soprano  Deborah Polaski, tenors Martin Homrich, and Scott MacAllister, baritone Roman Trekel, bass-baritone Wolfgang Koch, and bass Sir John Tomlinson amongst others. Toccata Classics released it on their recording label and Simone Young commenting that “the world premiere of Peggy Glanville-Hicks’ opera Sappho is a landmark in Australian music history.”

The observation in Gramophone magazine that “… it feels like a piece that would stage well.” (April 2013) affirmed that the gauntlet lay at Jennifer Condon’s feet. She says “I’d like to bring Sappho home. For all her achievements abroad – and mine, for that matter – Peggy Glanville-Hicks was, as I am, proudly Australian….. Peggy Glanville-Hicks had extraordinary tenacity in the pursuit of her goals….. (she) longed for a grand Australian performance of her masterpiece, and wanted Sappho to open the Sydney Opera House. This was not to be and she died never hearing the work performed. I feel that the baton has been passed to me, I feel a responsibility to the work and to the composer.”

Stay tuned…….we’ll be speaking with Jennifer Condon during her stay in Sydney.



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