If you haven’t been following what the ex and current Classical Voice students at WAAPA are up to, then you’re missing out on a treat. With performers gracing the stage as Christine in Phantom of the Opera on West End, others sharing the spotlight with acclaimed performers such as Joyce DiDonato and Jake Heggie: This week has been big in showing how accomplished and successful our West Australian performers can be… However, I’m not just talking about those succeeding in larger companies over seas. The Classical Voice graduates held their own this weekend in the spotlight of performances and showed that whilst opera might still be deemed as ‘stuffy’ and ‘stiff’: Our performers are not.

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WAAPA graduates Caitlin Cassidy and Clint Strindberg joined the raucousness of Fringe in the De Parel Spiegeltent at the Pleasure Gardens this week. As the Disgraceful Cougars, Disgrace Kelly (Cassidy) and Cougar Morrison (Strindberg) captivated the audience for each second that they were on stage and engaged us in a desperate story of two women frantic enough to do anything! Highlights included a sassy, high-energy and operatic performance of Britney Spear’s Toxic from Caitlin Cassidy who has a sumptuous, velvet voice that captivates audience members in both the more serious and humorous songs. Clint Strindberg’s formation into Elsa from Frozen left audience members gagging, performing possibly the best rendition of Let It Go that I’ve ever heard. Perhaps my favourite moment though, was the surprise mash-up of Kendrick Lamar’s Humble with the theme song of my favourite 90’s TV show: The Nanny. Anyone who went and watched the Disgraceful Cougars this weekend was greeted with a splash of dark humour, a dose of quick wit, a serve of fabulous singing and a WHOLE lot of camp! Cassidy and Strindberg, with every step and song in this show, proved that they were a force to be reckoned with and that whilst some of us young singers may be disgraceful, we are fierce, sassy and ready to conquer the stage anywhere.

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After the wild night that was Disgraceful Cougars, I continued my support for classical voice students on Saturday night, where I watched current WAAPA students perform the much-loved Shakespeare comedy Much Ado About Nothing. I think it’s very important to note here that these current WAAPA students took their performance opportunities into their own hands and created an experience for themselves to raise funds for the WAAPA Classical Voice Fundraising group, Club Diva, which helps to pay for master classes and all sorts throughout the year at WAAPA. These young students, most of whom are in their final years at WAAPA, put away their music scores, chucked away their ball gowns and donned their ‘acting hats’ to conquer this difficult Shakespearian text…. As Beatrice, Amelia Powers was intensely witty, strong and constantly engaging, which was highlighted especially in Beatrice’s famous “If I were a Man!” monologue. She was equally partnered with Keaton Staszeewski-Hose, whose confidence, charm and wit as Benedick proved to be a crowd-pleaser, particularly when showing off his bad dance moves at the end. Julia Newsome brought sweetness and composure to her character Hero which contrasted beautifully with Liam Auhl’s robust and dynamic portrayal of Claudio. As Lady Leona, Caitlin Rowe stood poised and strong as a woman not to be reckoned with, much like her brother Antonio, played by Jake Bigwood. Brett Peart’s Don Pedro was powerful and loveable, a perfect contrast to his brother Don John, played by Ben Chappel who was villainous and dark. Shania Lee-Eliassen and Christopher-Jack Andrew both brought sass and wit to their characters Margaret and Broachio and Theodore and Murphy-Jelley and Patrick Carter both performed with high energy as Dogberry and Verges. These classical voice students were directed by Liam Auhl and Amelia Powers (already mentioned for their strong character portrayals) and were not at all being graded or paid for their efforts in this telling of Shakespeare. They were simply doing it for the passion and pride of performing. I walked away from last night’s performance feeling invigorated and happy that classical singers would take their own opportunities into their own hands and perform something so difficult as a Shakespeare play, testing their directing skills, their ability to perform spoken text (as apposed to sung!), showing their commitment and appetite for live theatre and all whilst raising funds for their entire classical voice community at WAAPA.

I think there’s a lot to be learnt from watching these two last shows this weekend. Not only did I go away having enjoyed two nights of wonderful theatre, but also they were two completely different performances that proved how versatile and agile young performers are. As a young performer myself, I walked away feeling enthused and excited to create more experiences and opportunities for myself and I also felt equally as excited to continue watching performances such as Disgraceful Cougars and Much Ado About Nothing as others develop their craft too. So what are we waiting for? Let’s go out and show what Classical Voice students are capable of!

Written by Katherine Goyder