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Exploring the Baroque with Pru Sanders

Much-loved soprano Pru Sanders is celebrating the Baroque in a performance alongside the Australian Baroque ensemble on Thursday 14 March.

A dramatic journey of three women at pivotal moments in their lives, Abbandonata explores storms, passion, monsters, anguish, pleasure, and heartbreak.

Tell us about the repertoire being performed in Abbandonata?

Abbandonata started off with a very long ‘wish list’ of sumptuous Baroque pieces which I loved. The challenge lay in narrowing the selection down to a concert program! Our central piece “Armida Abbandonata” is very much like a mini one-woman opera, and I think the drama in this piece is particularly exciting to sing.

Abbandonata translates into ‘Abandoned’, and there is an element of Baroque music in which singers are able to create their own florid ornaments around the melody. I felt that this idea of ‘singing with abandon’ also fit our central theme. There is a lovely mix of showy singing and gorgeous simplicity.

Who are the three women who you’ll be focusing on and why did you decide on their stories?

It was interesting to discover that several historical or mythological characters were repeatedly written for by a significant number of Baroque composers. Three of these - Cleopatra, Armida, and Eurydice all have wonderful stories, which is ultimately what opera is about.

I thought it would be interesting to hear how different composers have written for the same character - so, for example, my Cleopatra pieces don’t actually feature any Handel (which is the composer we most frequently associate with her). There were actually several Cleopatras, the most famous being the one we all know, Cleopatra VII. Some of the arias are from the perspective of Cleopatra I who was the first female regent and paved the way for her predecessors!

As an ensemble, what do you enjoy most about collaborating with Australian Baroque?

I’ve sung frequently with Australian Baroque, so it’s always lovely to collaborate with Artistic Director Helen Kruger and the ensemble.

As this style of music is typically scored for fewer instruments, there is a flexibility and intimacy that we are able to use to our advantage; this can mean that we can play off one another and experiment with different ornaments and ways to create colour and bring the drama in the music to life.

The concert takes place in Hackett Hall at WA Museum Boola Bardip. What do you love most about performing in this space?

Well of course everyone loves Otto the whale, me included! For this concert, the acoustic and the atmosphere of the space will be gorgeous. I also like the intersection of singing a historical character in a space dedicated to preserving history.

What do you hope audiences will take away from experiencing Abbandonata?

I’d like them to feel as though they have been on a journey, and as though there are experiences of these characters that are relatable, even hundreds of years later. Also, an appreciation of a style of music that was the foundation of the big verismo operas that we all love.

West Australian Opera and Australian Baroque present Abbandonata at Hackett Hall on Thursday 14 March. Book here.

Learn more about other concerts in West Australian Opera and Australian Baroque's performance series here.