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Review: Oh, For the Love of Opera!

Ray Mardia

Opera can sometimes be misunderstood as melodramatic plays filled with doomed love stories, unfamiliar music and lots of shrieking.

This year’s Icon Water Gala, performed by the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, turned to opera as its muse, and reminded us that these opera stereotypes are misplaced.

Partnering with soloists from Opera Australia, the show celebrated some of the most iconic opera music right in the heart of Canberra.

The orchestra and opera performers recreated each piece with heart and gusto to remind us that opera music is poignant, beautiful and timeless.

As for the claim that opera is unfamiliar, you and I have heard many of the pieces from this gala modern TV shows and movies. The soundtracks of The Simpsons, Friends, Glee, The Sopranos, A Clockwork Orange, The Godfather and Trainspotting all feature music from well-known operas Carmen, Rossini’s William Tell Overture and Delibe’s transcendent Flower Duet.

These pieces were beautifully performed at the gala, reminding us that opera has the power to last over time and become embedded in pop culture as new moments of art and storytelling.

Conductor Stanley Dodds drew immense depth of emotion from the orchestra and soloists. Dodds focused less on performing theatrics and more on capturing the heart of these operatic masterpieces. Among my favourites were the bucolic and uplifting sounds of Carmen’s Entr’acte Act 3, while the mystical notes of the Entr’acte Act 4 took me to another world of oriental charm and adventure.

The standout vocal performances for me were an outstanding rendition of Delibe’s Flower Duet by Anna Yun and Stacey Alleaume, and the soaring performance of Nessun Dorma by tenor Simon Kim.

Opera has an incredible power to express our inner emotions. We don’t need to know the story of Turandot to be moved by the sadness in Nessun Dorma. If you have ever experienced loss or worry, you will feel what the prince Calaf sings about in that aria. Opera is amazing because it connects us with our feelings more intensely, while bringing us relief at the same time.

If you missed out on the gala, the Canberra Symphony Orchestra has a lot more great music for you to enjoy this year between now and the end of the year. On 17-18 August, a violin and cello will dance as the orchestra brings Brahms’ Double Concerto to life. They will also play Dvorak’s Seventh Symphony, which will bring to life another dance of bohemia and romance.

The CSO will end its Llewellyn series on 2-3 Nov with a performance of Rachmaninov’s tortured and passionate Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and Tchaikovsky’s bittersweet Symphony No 4 in F Minor.

For details of upcoming concerts, visit

Photo by Martin Ollman/Facebook


Ray Mardia works as a lawyer in Canberra and can recite most of the lyrics of Baby Got Back. An epicurean at heart, Ray loves the good life, people's stories, nature, art and beauty in all its forms. Ray is a lifestyle contributor at HerCanberra. More about the Author