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CSO’s Icon Water Gala: Meet soprano Olivia Cranwell

Laura Peppas

Most opera sopranos start their careers in low-key roles and work their way up to the meatier characters as they go, but Olivia Cranwell raised the bar early on.

The Melbourne-based soprano’s first performance, at age 17, was in a production conducted by Richard Gill, playing God.

“I really started on the pinnacle there with that character, so it was a hard one to top,” Olivia laughs.

Some would argue that the 27 year old’s inaugural role was fitting: Olivia’s voice is often described as heavenly to the ear; one that has the limpidity and easy high notes of a lyric soprano, yet can be “pushed” on to achieve dramatic climaxes without strain.

On 4 July, she will showcase her talents at the Canberra Symphony Orchestra‘s annual Gala event for the first time, joining the orchestra and two-time Helpmann award-winning tenor James Egglestone.

Soprano, Olivia Cranwell. Photo: Andrew Campbell

Soprano, Olivia Cranwell. Photo: Andrew Campbell

The program delves into Italian composor Giacomo Puccini’s greatest works; including selections from La Bohéme, Tosca, and Madama Butterfly.

“I am so excited and looking forward to working with the incredible orchestra,” Olivia says.

“To delve into the roles of La Bohéme, Tosca, and Madama Butterfly is certainly a career highlight.”

Of the characters, Olivia says they all have similar traits in that they have “strength with an underlying fragility.”

“That fragility I think really colours their characters, there’s so much depth there,” she says.

“Having depth makes it easy to find aspects of the characters within my own personality that I can relate to, that then brings out a different character each time.”

Born in Melbourne, Olivia completed her Bachelor of Music at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2009 and her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne in 2010, winning the Friends of the VCA Grace Durling Award in her second year of study.

She made her professional operatic debut with the Victorian Opera playing the role of Gossip in Angelique, and since then has performed as soloist in the Gala Concerts in 2012 and 2013 and covered roles including Cherubino (The Marriage of Figaro), Sesto (Julius Caesar) and Popova (The Bear)  for Victorian Opera.

Olivia says starting her career at such a young age meant she took some time to “grow into” her voice.

“One of the biggest challenges of this career is patience, not trying to do too much too soon and waiting for your voice to mature and get to that level where your voice catches up to where your mindset is – that was something I had to grapple with,” she says.

“What drew me though was the combination of drama and music in opera, it really encompasses all of the artistic forms through acting, singing, the costumes – everything is very heightened and dramatic which I love.”

Olivia admits “no day is ever the same” as an opera soprano; at the moment, she is performing in the Opera Australia’s Schools Tour of Hansel and Gretel.

“I think that’s part of the reason I love it so much, you can have a terrible day and then you step on stage and there’s those lights and the audience and the orchestra, it’s just the most overwhelmingly incredible feeling, it’s just a huge rush and like nothing I’ve ever felt before,” she says.

The essentials

What: Icon Water Gala
When: 4 July 2015, 7.30pm
Where: Llewellyn Hall, Australian National University
How much: Tickets from $53
Web: www.cso.org.au


Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author

  • Billy Charles

    I have seen Olivia perform many times! Can I say, you will be blown away by her amazing voice, she is a true star in the making!

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