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Opera: “It was so good I almost peed my pants!”

Jolene Laverty

Remember the opera scene from Pretty Woman?

Julia Roberts is in her new red dress, wearing the flashy diamond necklace which Richard Gere just gave her, and the matron leans over to ask if she enjoyed the show. Julia’s reply was “it was so good I almost peed my pants!”

That is how good opera will make you feel.


Your best chance to experience for yourself the thrill of professional opera is with the Icon Water Opera Gala when the Canberra Symphony Orchestra will be joined by world-class soloists from Opera Australia to perform a ‘greatest hits’ style concert of the best loved moments from opera. The conductor, Stanley Dodds, describes it as, “all of your favourite operatic melodies that you’ve been singing for years under the shower, and then a few more to add to your repertoire.”

Opera has sustained its popularity through its ability to surprise, thrill and even perplex audiences, and has a reputation for being ‘cutting edge’ which goes back centuries. In their early efforts to reach new creative peaks in both storytelling and instrumentation, opera composers were daring enough to use trombones a full 200 years before the brash instrument was even considered an appropriate instrument to join the symphony orchestra.

Opera is an extremely creative medium, one which draws the most passionate elements from theatre, music, voice, and fashion to the stage. The combination of these art-forms makes it a seriously tough gig for those who wish to perform at an elite level. Chair of Opera Production at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Stephen Mould explains just how good an opera performer must be to make it in the business

“These days a lot more than a fantastic voice is required of an opera singer,” he explains. “They must also have considerable acting skills, versatility, and the ability to really engage with an audience. Singing in tune is a given, but their voice needs to a strength and projection so that it can cut through a large orchestra and fill a sizeable theatre.

“Opera singers are perceived as being ‘larger than life’ and their voices need a strong presence – able to project a character, and their personas need to be able to fill a large space.”

But of course, as will all things that are left-of-centre, not everyone is a fan. Donald Grout points out in the introduction to his book A Short History of Opera that when opera was burgeoning 400 years ago, its reviews were more than a little mixed. Some praised it as “the noblest spectacle ever devised by man”, whilst others slamming it as “a bizarre affair made up of poetry and music, in which poet and musician, each equally obstructed by the other, give themselves no end of trouble to produce a wretched work”. But much like pineapple on pizza, opera’s enduring success relegates its haters to the minority.

Whether this is your first time, or you’re a seasoned opera goer, we hope embrace your inner Julia Roberts and join us for a brilliant night of fun at the opera!

The Icon Water Opera Gala is on July 2 at the ANU’s Llewellyn Hall (In case you’re wondering, we chose the date for our event before the Prime Minister chose it for his!). Click here for tickets and more information.


Jolene Laverty

Jolene Laverty was born and raised in Darwin, but has lived in Canberra for most of her adult life. She spent close to twenty years in radio, which took her to the copper outback of Port Augusta to the sparkling aquamarine waves of the Whitsundays. Today she is a member of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra*, ANU student, wife of a high-school teacher/rock-musician, and mother to three children who were each born in a different decade. *not allowed on stage. More about the Author