Sydney’s new opera company presents independent opportunities

Sydney Independent Opera, based at the Independent Theatre, North Sydney, is the northside’s newest performing ensemble and will present a rarely performed work from a master of Italian opera for its inaugural performance in September.  Rossini’s early work Opportunity Makes the Thief was written when the composer was only 18 years of age but already it sparkles with lyrical melodies and dynamic ensembles, a true foretaste of Rossini’s genius.

 Artistic Director and Conductor of Sydney Independent Opera, Dr Steven Stanke has created a chamber group specializing in operas sung in English with chamber orchestra.  “This company,” he said “aims to play a vital role in Sydney’s operatic landscape by programming lesser-known works by established composers or rethinking major works in a chamber setting.  The use of English as the primary language, a nod to the policy of English National Opera, provides an alternative perspective for opera enthusiasts where the original work is in another language and also offers an entertaining and informative experience for the operatic first-timer.”  Steven added that the company will use an orchestra of around a dozen players, with specially reduced orchestrations if needed, to allow the orchestral accompaniment to be intimate and immediate without losing the original orchestral colour.

 Dr Steven Stanke is a recent graduate of the University of Melbourne where his doctoral studies examined operas by Australian composers in Melbourne in the early twentieth century.  Perhaps contrary to popular belief, he discovered that there is actually a rather large repertoire which is sadly neglected, probably because of costs of mounting lesser known operas and lack of awareness of their existence by the public.  “Particularly in Melbourne,” he noted, “there were flourishing vocal schools and a very knowledgable and hungry opera audience before the days of Opera Australia.”  Most performances were by overseas companies but Dame Nellie Melba, for example, through her teachings at Albert Street Conservatorium (later named Melba Conservatorium in her honour) fostered a keen sense of local operatic performance and encouraged composers such as Fritz Hart and George W. L. Marshall-Hall to create original works.  Hart, for example, the Director of Melba Conservatorium in Melbourne from 1915 to 1936, wrote 22 operas, most of which languish on the shelves of the State Library in Melbourne, unpublished and unperformed.  “This is definitely not because of quality,” Steven confirmed, “as I discovered when I edited, published and conducted a Hart opera for my PhD studies.  I can confirm that the quality and creativity is as good as any in established repertoire and I hope to bring some of these hitherto neglected works to life on the Independent stage.”

 Rossini’s one act opera Opportunity Makes the Thief is first though and of the five one-act operas that Rossini wrote for the theatre in Venice in his late teens, this was the one performed most often during his lifetime.   Although it is coquettishly described by its authors as a ‘burletta per music’ (literally, a ‘little joke set to music’) there is much more to it.  One one level, it’s a fast-paced farce, with a double swap and the misunderstandings and confusion that ensues.  But it also raises the issue of personal identity and status, and their role in determining one’s personal destiny.  The four main characters by choice or by chance all decide at some point to hide information about their personal stories and identities, in order to appear better or different.  How much does social status come into play when choosing a partner?  How important is the way we appear to others and the way in which others perceive us and how important is it to be appreciated and loved for who we really are?   

Director – Sharna Galvin
Conductor – Steven Stanke
Cast – Regina Daniel, Sophia Mitchell, Whitney Erickson, Carl Olsen, David Visentin, Raphael Hudson
Sydney Independent Opera Orchestra. 

Tickets:Adult: $40 Concession: $36 Group (10 or more): $34
For phone bookings please call 02 8019 0290.

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