WAO Playlist Series XVI Curated by Allison Fyfe
WAO Playlist Series XVI Curated by Allison Fyfe
This week's West Australian Opera Playlist is curated by WAO's Music Librarian Allison Fyfe. Allison's playlist inlcudes beloved arias from Il Tabarro, La Traviata, Faust and Tristan and Isolde. Stream and read about Allison's playlist below.
E Ben Altro Il Mio Sogno from Il Tabarro by Puccini
As a young child, I would have scoffed - do small children scoff? - if someone had told me I would be involved in opera later in life. Our family didn’t own a TV, and Sunday nights my parents would listen to John Cargher’s program Singers of Renown on our very precious radiogram. I hated it and would leave the room when I heard the theme music. Years later, when I had cut my teeth on Gilbert & Sullivan and musicals at school, I heard the aria again, it seemed to awaken some muscle memory in me, but in a good way. I can remember thinking “Oh my goodness, I LOVE that piece of music, I LOVE what happens to me when I hear it - where can I experience more of this?”
Donde Lieta from La Boheme by Puccini
It was seeing a production of La Boheme in 1982 that sealed my passion for opera, particularly Puccini. When the snow started falling in Act III, I thought. “This is it - this is what I want to do”. I went off to seek proper singing lessons. My parents refused to pay for lessons after I had abandoned both piano and guitar, and my mother related that she knew I was serious about this opera caper because I went and got a job to pay for the lessons. This aria became one of my audition staples. After singing it at an audition, one of the panel came up with tears in hers and hugged me. I’m assuming that was a good thing as I remained in the chorus for 12 years.
The Hours Creep On Apace from HMS Pinafore by Sullivan
In Year 7, I had the most incredible teacher who started a choir for the Choral Festival. Even though I had a reasonable ear and musical aptitude, I was the only member of the class not in the choir, as I had had extensive time off school and therefore missed rehearsals. I had to sit at my desk while the choir practiced on the risers. I probably knew the music better than half the class. I was gutted, particularly when the choir won the competition. Years later, when I made my solo debut as Josephine in HMS Pinafore, Mr Campbell was in the opening night audience, and he came backstage to apologise. I did many G&S in both chorus and as a principle and loved the fun, both on stage and off.
Prelude Act 3 from La Traviata by Verdi
One of my first operas as a chorister with WA Opera in the ’80s was La Traviata. I love every note except the Bacchanal in the final act because it’s so difficult to spit the words out. I have chosen this piece to give a break from the soprano voice, and because of its evocative nature - describing so beautifully the desolation and cold of Violetta’s life, once vibrant, full and colourful.
Sposa son disprezzata from Bazajet by Geminiano Giacomelli. Attr. Antonio Vivaldi
My love of singing and opera, a wonderful, all-consuming hobby, was not balanced at all by my day job. I was a Music Librarian at the State Library for 27 years, and so I was totally immersed in music, day in and day out. My colleagues were musicians, my friends were clients, my clients became friends. I have known many of Perth’s finest since they were misbehaving school students. Lack of space prevents me from telling stories about Tommaso Pollio. The era was pre-internet, pre-Shazam, and every question about any kind of music came our way. We were hummed and expected to produce a copy of the sheet music. This aria was discovered and released by Cecilia Bartoli in 1992 and the phone started ringing immediately with clients wanting a copy of the music. It was a personal triumph when I managed to track the aria down in a collection of Vivaldi songs.
Sauvee! Christ Est Ressuscite! from Faust by Gounod
In 2004, Production Manager Mandy Farmer asked me if I would like to run the surtitles for Faust. I had no idea what was involved, had no experience with PowerPoint, didn’t know the
opera but tentatively agreed. I came home from the first dress rehearsal in tears because it was so much harder than I expected. I couldn’t hear or see the stage from where I was sitting, the French dialogue very rapid. The Stage Manager’s calls were coming over the music and my score was not marked with the rehearsal figures, so I got lost hopelessly when they stopped and started the rehearsal. However, I stuck with it and now I’m passionately attached to the job. I get to know the opera so well, as like the Stage Manager and the Conductor, I have my nose in the score for the whole duration of the opera. Faust has many highlights for me, not the least is the trio in the final act. I had previously only heard this sung by Florence Foster Jenkins et al. and it was fabulous to hear it sung properly for the first time. I have, however, chosen the final chorus. In the production WAO did, the chorus sang this from the auditorium in the Upper Circle at the Maj, which is close to where I sit to run the surtitles. I just about hit the roof when they sang the first time. What a thrill to sing this music.
Con onor muore from Madama Butterfly by Puccini
A performing highlight for me was being in the chorus for Andrew Sinclair’s beautiful production in 1992. Andrew opened the world of Butterfly for me with his direction, his explanation of every little nuance, his attention to detail. It was also a visually stunning production and this scene was so incredibly done. The chorus has finished singing and we’d dress and sneak into the back of the auditorium every night to watch Butterfly fall through Japanese screen. By then, we were all awash with tears as this is one of the most heart-wrenching moments in opera, between a mother and child. I also worked on the Anthony Minghella production as Surtitle Operator in 2015. Visually stunning, Butterfly was exquisitely sung by Mary Plazas. What a privilege to have been part of these two productions in vastly different capacities.
Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde by Wagner
My father is an avid Wagner fan - something I didn’t know until I was in my 30s. A traumatic experience made him unable to listen to Wagner’s music. A family trip to Europe coincided with the Bayreuther Festival in Germany and Dad secured an unprecedented number of tickets to attend. A set was offered to me and I took that offer up, knowing nothing about Wagner or his music, hoping to rely on material available at the Festival to help me along. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything in English (pre-Internet) and so I attended 7 operas having only Anna Russell’s comedic commentary on The Ring Cycle as a guide - a hardcore experience to say the least. I dozed off during the performance of Tristan und Isolde and didn’t even hear the end, suffering as I was from a dodgy interval Bratwurst. However, running the surtitles for WA Opera’s production in 2006 secured it as one of my favourite Wagner pieces of all time, and the Liebestod is the pinnacle. To surtitle it again for WASO at the Perth Concert Hall in 2018 where I sat close to the stage and was able to see as well as hear was a joy.
Soave il vento from Così Fan Tutte by Mozart
My favourite opera is usually the one I am working on currently. My work on an opera as Music Librarian starts by getting all the music together for cast and orchestra, sourcing editions, making sure cuts are in all scores, binding, copying, editing. So, I’m not listening to the music at this stage. I start as a Surtitle Operator during the very heavy production week, when the cast is first on the stage. The first rehearsals are the director’s and once the orchestra is in the pit, the rehearsals belong to the conductor. Once the opening night comes, I am completely familiar with every note and word, and then I can begin to just enjoy the music. Depending on the length of the season, I may hear the opera 7 or 8 times completely in the space of 2 or 3 weeks. I am so looking forward to being “back in the box” for Cosi fan tutte. There will be excitement and adrenaline, sublime music, gorgeous voices, plenty of hustle and bustle. If I was still in the chorus, I would be a little disappointed at the small amount of chorus work, but in my job, I get the whole package.
Piangero la sorte mia from Giulio Cesare by Handel
This is my earworm this week, after working on Handel in the House for Freeze Frame Opera last weekend, sublimely sung by Sara Macliver. I will be investigating more Handel after this.