Definition of a Swan Song: The final performance or activity of a performers degree.
While the name may suggest a conclusion or ending, there is no stopping these next three performers as they take the Australian stages by storm. On the 31st of July, accompanist extraordinaire David Wickham will be joined by the 2015 WA Opera Mentored Artists, Ileana Rinaldi and Sam Roberts-Smith to present the first SwanSongs recital of the year: Cameos. SwanSongs is one of the organisations providing Perth with the opportunity to see its artists in recital, performing music written by the finest composers. We were lucky enough to meet up with both Sam and Ileana and get a brief look into their careers, what’s to come and what we can expect from their ‘Cameo’ at SwanSongs Recitals.
- Why Opera? Because I like telling stories dramatically. I’ve always loved singing, and my voice always lent itself to classical. I just ticked all the boxes within myself and was naturally drawn to this genre. I was born in Romania and it’s similar to Italy – Loud, proud and out there!
- Advice for young singers. Don’t stop practicing (It doesn’t have to be hours!) Learn your languages. Learn what you’re singing about! Never stop watching other people perform. Whether it’s pop, musical theatre, movies. Never stop observing how actors do things and why they do them.
- If you could see any event, movie, tv show, book etc turned into an opera, what would it be? Anything that is current and that people can relate to will make a good opera. Anything that we would love to voice. Anything that is based on history and anything that is current!
I started singing classically when I was 15 with one of the regular WA Opera Chorus members at John XXIII College. I got into WAAPA fresh out of high school, then straight out of there I received a full scholarship to the Australian Opera Studio. I’ve had huge luck having excellent tuition and amazing vocal coaches. Workwise, I’ve been employed as a mezzo since I was 18. There are so few mezzos in Perth and even fewer who stay. I’m of the belief that opera has to change and it can’t stay the same. We need to welcome new ways of looking at how opera is delivered. My journey is only just beginning as I’m starting my own opera company!
(BUT YOU’LL JUST HAVE TO FIND OUT ABOUT THAT LATER!)
It always helps if you can find a common thread between opera and art song. The more art song you sing, the more it informs and provides contrast to your opera roles. In this recital, I’ll be performing three pieces by Wagner from his Wesendonck Lieder, some Verdi Songs, which are not usually heard, three Strauss pieces and four of Korngold’s Shakespeare Sonnets (In English!). It’s all about style. These pieces are just essentially performed as miniature opera roles. Each one is an intimate story. You can’t get away with just singing Strauss lightly or delivering a whispy performance of any of these composers without knowing the story!
When you perform a recital, the music has to be special to you. Don’t just choose some thing. Each piece that I’m singing at SwanSongs has a meaning in my life right now as it is. Each song means something to me due to the words, the context or the motivation behind the composer creating it. It is important that you connect to your repertoire on a personal level. You don’t want to be thinking; “I just got to get through this.” It becomes a lot easier if you’re devoted to telling the story and thinking about why you’re telling it. Who am I singing to? Why is the composer saying these things? Why is the passage like this? If you keep asking and answering questions, the audience gets a glimpse into all of this at once without even realising it and are truly entertained as a result.
- Why Opera? There’s no other art form that incorporates passionate and emotional singing with music composed by master composers with incredible locations. It can affect a human being in a way that no other art form can. If I don’t do it for a while – I go mad! I’m addicted to it. There is nothing that I enjoy as much as singing and performing this music.
- Advice for Young Artists. When you start singing, you do it because you like it. You should always like it. The entertainment industry is hard and no-one is going to give you things. You might look at other artists and think “Why not me?” but you’re just seeing the results. If you want that the only way to get it is to make yourself better and work on you. When you don’t get something it’s not because you’re bad – You just weren’t at that stage yet. Keep working till you’re at that stage. Move on from it and keep going. Always keep moving forward.
- If you could see any event, movie, tv show, book etc turned into an opera, what would it be? It’s hard to top Rigoletto or La Boheme. But if I had to choose anything, in light of his recent events… “The Rumble in the Jungle”: The historic boxing event between George foreman and challenger Muhammad Ali. It’s been called arguably the greatest sporting event of the 20th century and is full of drama and excitement. I think that’s an opera even sports fans would go and see!
I hurt my knee really badly and couldn’t play any sport at school, so I had all this free time. I’ve always wanted to do singing but I’ve never really done it before. I had this drive for singing as long as I could remember and when I couldn’t play sport, I started singing lessons. My brain told me there was something in singing that I could make work. I completed a certificate in Classical Voice at WAAPA, then began a bachelor at Sydney Con, only to return and complete it here at WAAPA, continuing on to do a Graduate Diploma. By the end of this I was only 22. I moved over to Sydney and began work with Opera Australia and trained as a tenor for a couple of years. I then decided I’d rather sing baritone. I look like a baritone, sound like a baritone so I shall be a baritone. I’d rather be a baritone with a really good top then a tenor with a hit and miss top. After finishing work with Opera Australia, I sent out many emails to find work. One of these emails I sent off was to the Ten Tenors! To my surprise, they replied and told me I probably couldn’t sing as high as they needed so I thought that was the end to that. However, after an audition recorded in my bathroom, where I sang Nessun Dorma, Meatloaf’s Anything For Love and Miserere, they asked me to join their Australian Tour. It was about this time I also got asked to be apart of the Mentored Artist program at WA Opera… And here I am!
As I’m doing Pearl Fishers with WA Opera at the end of the year, we thought this recital would be a good lead into that. It is great opera composers through their songs. There’s Verdi, Bizet, Saint-Saens. This is Cameos from the big composers in a very intimate way.
I like singing good music. It doesn’t matter if it’s art song, rock song, pop, opera or music theatre. I like singing things that will get a reaction out of the audience. When you sing something well and you enjoy it and have a good time, the audience will have a good time. Art Song is all about colour. If you hear opera and they sing everything loud and big, it’s really boring. You learn these colours and characters from Art Song and the two genres work together.
The world is changing and these genres have to change with it. Smaller companies, such as SwanSongs, are sometimes more accessible than the big opera houses because these programs and the people running them tend to have a personal connection with their viewers. It gives the younger singers the opportunities to try things they wouldn’t try, and learn arias and songs that they wouldn’t get the opportunity to perform with a big company. That’s really important and I think it’s a shame that arts funding can’t cover them all and it’s hard to raise funds.
SwanSongs’ Cameos will begin 3pm at the Perth Town Hall on July 31st.
Don’t miss your chance to see these two passionate musicians in performance with Perth’s very own David Wickham. Tickets are available here and at the door.