Entering a third year with ever growing momentum, the Richard Divall Emerging Artists Programme began with a bang in 2020 and was absolutely chock full of activity until COVID-19 struck in March.
The focus of January and February was Melbourne Opera’s extremely successful production of Fidelio which featured many programme members (details below). This was followed by a glorious presentation of scenes from our Marriage of Figaro as part of the ‘Mozart by Moonlight’ concert in the Royal Botanic Gardens and then a gorgeous concert for the fundraising luncheon at Coombe-The Melba Estate for NARI (the National Ageing Research Institute), by programme members Jane Magao, Chloe Harris, Louis Hurley and associate artist, Stephen Marsh. Then COVID came and our world turned upside down. We postponed auditions and extended support for current programme members plus associates to the end of August. Some of the artists returned to live with parents and some cut short international travel. We continued to support singing lessons and coaching with several singers having lessons online and others holding lessons ‘in the bank’ until they can see their teacher again. Language learning has been a constant throughout COVID time with programme members choosing to focus on online learning of either Italian (Italian Institute of Culture) or German (Goethe Institute). We have introduced highly popular weekly Zoom sessions of ‘Yoga for Vocalists’ and hugely thank Miki Oikawa for providing this great service. We are also having weekly Zoom professional development sessions to keep the group together, motivated and well-prepared for post- lockdown singer professional life. Featured guests have included Australian singers with international careers plus a series of conversations about working with a coach, director, accountant and competition and concert preparation.
Melbourne Digital Concert Hall
Associate artists Rebecca Rashleigh and Stephen Marsh were featured artists in Melbourne Opera’s Opera Gala as part of the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall on April 24th, accompanied by Melbourne Opera’s Head of Music, Raymond Lawrence. It was a glorious concert and demonstrated why both these young singers are on the verge of major international careers.
Melbourne Opera began the year with a remount of Hugh Halliday’s wonderful update of Fidelio, under the baton of Maestro Anthony Negus and starring Australian international heldentenor Bradley Daley, heldenbaritone Warwick Fyfe, international soprano Kirstin Sharpin, local hero Adrian Tamburini and featuring associate artist Rebecca Rashleigh and programme member Louis Hurley in the principal roles of Marzelline and Jaquino Rebecca and Louis were covered in these roles by fellow programme members Louise Keast and Michael Dimovski who debuted in an outstanding second cast performance at Bendigo’s Ulumbarra Theatre.
Darcy Carroll and Michael Dimovski sang the featured Prisoner roles in the production as well as participating in the chorus, along with Jane Magao and Louise Keast. This production provides a perfect example of how the Richard Divall Emerging Artist programme works, giving extraordinary professional opportunities to emerging artists in a supported environment.
Most singing competitions have postponed or cancelled in 2020. One which has prevailed is the German-Australian Opera Grant and we wish all the very best to programme members Jane Magao and Darcy Carroll who have both been selected as semi-finalists.
We reopened Stage One audition applications in June and have had a flood of applicants. We are now beginning the process of moving towards live programme auditions once the situation allows it.
Mozart by Moonlight
Following on from our workshop development of a production of The Marriage of Figaro undertook late in 2019, scenes were presented to a captivated and capacity audience at ‘Mozart by Moonlight’. This was an opportunity to see just how far the programme members have come. We cannot wait to present the full production once we can perform again.
Workshops, Masterclasses and Professional Development
In addition to the Fidelio performance opportunities, our programme members received masterclasses from Bradley Daley and Anthony Negus, individual language coaching with guest language coach Carmen Jakobi and an insightful industry chat with Kirstin Sharpin. Also, the wonderful Verity Hunt- Ballard continued work with the programme members in a workshop setting concentrating on physical performance.