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WAO Ghost Spotlight with Matt Reuben James Ward

The theatre corridors are empty and lively chatter has faded from the rehearsal studio, but we can still engage in creative conversations from afar. In the coming weeks, we will be shining a spotlight on our artists working in the Ghost Light to bring the magic of opera from our homes to yours. Connect with your state opera company on an intimate level and learn what innovations, challenges and self-care strategies exist under this new soft glow.

This week, tenor and director Matt Reuben James Ward shares his experience writing and performing Lullabies for Babies, finding new creative clarity in isolation, and his longing for the tranquil beaches of Albany.

1. Tell us about writing and performing Lullabies for Babies – what was your inspiration? Have you created work like this before?

It’s been incredible “entering the looking glass” in search of the perfect narratological accompaniment for beautiful bedtime music. We’ve selected some traditional and well-known lullabies and repurposed folk songs and operatic arias which lend themselves to intimate moments of relaxation and reflection. As the project emerged, I devised a story about a baby Kangaroo (called Joey) who can’t sleep and ends up coming on the journey through the book with the storyteller. This story is called “Joey’s Dream” – my daughter Violet (6 years old) helped me choose the title. They meet a princess, accidently travel back in time and encounter the devastation of an Australian bushfire.

I’ve written and directed a few projects using similar elements to WAO’s Lullabies for Babies, but this is the first aimed at small children. (Just quietly, I think the grown-ups are going to really get into this too). My two kids are super excited to hear it when it launches, I’ve kept most of it a secret – so I can’t wait to hear what they think.

2. How important do you think it is to provide musical moments for children of all ages? What do you think is the benefit?

It’s super important to share music and art of all eras and genres with children. It’s not about choosing a “favourite style” it’s about experiencing the world through different cultures, peoples and historical lenses. Lullabies for Babies: Joey’s Dream brings together a selection of music that really gives an insight into the classical voice and its capabilities to soothe and inspire one’s mind and emotions.

3. What does working in the “ghost light” mean for you? What does your day look at the moment?

I’m fortunate at the moment that many of the projects I’ve been contracted on have been adapted to run during the current restrictions. And new projects, such as this, have come up and provided me with a clear creative focus. I feel overall this period has given us permission to try new avenues of creating art, it’s provided us with possibilities we never would have pursued, and I think we will emerge better off on the other side.

4. What’s been the easiest adjustment during this time? And the hardest?

A lot of my writing and producing work takes place at home, and I love that. So, it’s been easy to keep working at home. I do miss the rehearsal studio and that time together where you can share ideas and create collaboratively. Working on Lullabies for Babies in isolation has been hard from that point of view.

5. What have you learned about yourself during this period?

Not much. I try not to think about myself too much – I’m pretty boring.

6. What are you watching, reading, playing, singing or listening to as a reprieve?

Watching Killing Eve, reading John le Carre (I love a good spy tale) and work by the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. I’m listening to Roberta Invernizzi singing Vivaldi and indie singer-song writer Henry Jamison. (And secretly watching Masterchef…)

7. What’s on top of your to-do list when this is all over?

I want to spend time with my grandparents, cook them dinner and hang out with them. My Nan and I are working on the poetry project together (via email) where we take it in turns to choose the subject of the next poem for the “iso-collection”. I’m enjoying that, but I’d rather just have a cup of tea with them both. And I want to go to Albany, see my parents and walk the beaches there.



Matt was raised in regional Western Australia and went on to study at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts (Opera/ Music Theatre) and the Royal College of Music London (Master of Performance, RCM Yvonne Wells Award).

Notable credits include the Messenger in Stephen Fry’s Life to Come (Britten Theatre, London), Western Union Boy in English Touring Opera’s Olivier Award Winning Paul Bunyan (Linbury Studio Theatre Royal Opera House Covent Garden, UK tour), Giacomo in L’assedio di Calais (Armel Operafesztivál Budapest, Arte TV live broadcast, ETO), Frantz in Tales of Hoffmann (ETO, UK tour), Monostatos in Die Zauberflöte (Mid Wales Opera). For WAO Matt has performed the Beadle in Sweeney Todd, School Master in The Cunning Little Vixen, Mercury in Orpheus in the Underworld and Remendado in Carmen.

As a director, Matt has worked on Hansel & Gretel Re-imagined and Opera in the Park for WAO, along with Pilgrims of the Sea, Drift, By Other Eyes, My Family Holiday, Breathe and Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions.