Passion and parody from Pacific opera


Pacific Opera is soon to present a double bill featuring highlights from Puccini’s La Boheme (1896) with Mozart’s rarely performed fragment, The Deluded Bridegroom (Lo sposo deluso), K 430,   completed in 1783-4. The presentation is directed by Paulo Montoya with music direction by Glenn Amer and set and costume design by Lucy Scott.

The Deluded Bridegroom has the intriguing alternative title The Rivalry of Three Women for One Lover (La rivalità di tre donne per un solo amante ). It’s a one-act opera with a cast of 7 that was never completed. Both items represent the core of what their composers intended.

I sat in on a rehearsal as the young director adjusted the stance of Rodolfo and led Elizabeth Hanna (Mimi) through the emotions she is likely to encounter as she knocks on Rodolfo’s door and enters his room. Montoya says ”  We decided to focus the Boheme completely on the four main characters, Mimi, Rodolfo, Musetta and Marcello, and trim the fat, so to speak.”

“We picked pieces that fitted the ensemble and the young singers that they are.  The production  is contemporary, and has a very young flavour because it’s a very young company and a very young team. The artists are in their mid 20s and early 30s.”

Tenor Kaine Hayward as Rodolfo rehearses with soprano Elizabeth Hanna as Mimi

He continues: “The Mozart opera s a very light-hearted piece. It’s a satire with a good old style plot, poking fun at the love triangle and mixed identities. We’ve set it in the offices of a legal firm in Sydney and we make  parody of what that world is like. But it’s thought provoking also.”

Pacific Opera occupies a critical role in the development of opera singers, directors, musicians and other members of the production team. It offers fledgling artists the coveted opportunity to learn from performing major roles in opera, refining their skills and obtaining invaluable stage experience that they can take with them into auditions and work with companies in the future. Creating a quality production on a shoe-string budget whilst retaining the integrity of the music and the narrative requires deft management. Still, there will be a core orchestra of 13 accompanying the singers, with Music Director Glenn Amer playing the piano.

For tenor Kaine Hayward, it’s his first major romantic role. By day, he is completing his studies as a final year student at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.  The day before I spoke to him , he had been rehearsing for the performance from 2.39-9.30. For him the role of Rodolfo offers opportunities for technical and dramatic development. “It such sumptuous music” he says “and it’s an easy character for a young person to play because it’s very easy to sympathise with Rodolfo and to see where he’s coming from. It’s an important role for a young  voice, because it can be sung without too much heft.”



Performing with Hayward, are soprano Elizabeth Hanna, James Gander, Jermaine Chau. Monique Latemore, Qestra Mulqueeny, Joshua Rogers, Taryn Shroj and Sarah Anne Walker.

Like the singers, Montoya works without a score. “I used it a lot in the early stages, but now that we’ve worked everything out I try to leave it behind – just like the singers do….and I know all the words.” The Costa Rican born opera buff dreams of being a professional director of opera.

Pianist and singer Glenn Amer is a master of  different styles, and incorporates performing, recording, adjudicating and teaching in his professional work, as well as music directing.

Both Montoya and Amer  are preparing the performers for the transition from the relative intimacy of the rehearsals in a church hall to the much larger performance arena of The Forum in Sydney’s Leichhardt. The team acknowledges that the intimate space has been  invaluable for working on characterisation and detail and are ready for the rapid adjustments  needed for the stage at The Forum, which is at least twice as big.

Re-thinking the classic Boheme has been a process of discovery for all. Montoya reflects “It’s fun in trying to do something different. We’re mixing a lot of different scenes, and having to move around the story. For me it’s a challenge.  We wanted to include Musetta because we have a couple of great singers who can sing that aria, but staging it required imagination – it comes in the middle of Act Two in the middle of a huge scene. We don’t have a chorus and we don’t have two basses. So we’ve adapted our perspective to fit the singers we have.”

“It’s going to be very modern in terms of the dress; the set is quite minimal and it can be in any time or space. Personally I’m not interested in cluttered sets. I want the artistes to take charge and tell the story.”

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©

Tickets: $55 General/$40 Concession/ $75 VIP includes complimentary champagne and access to the Green Room to meet the cast.




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