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WAO Playlist Series XXI Curated by Sam Roberts-Smith

This week Baritone Sam Roberts-Smith curates our latest playlist. Sam is currently in rehearsals preparing for his role as Guglielmo in our upcoming production of Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte. Read about and stream Sam's playlist which includes music from Les Miserables, Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro and the Billy Joel favourite, Piano Man. 

Empty Chairs At Empty Tables: Michael Ball:  

Let’s begin with the first song I ever sang. I didn’t start singing until I was about 13 years old after an accident on a waterslide ended any prospects of playing school sport. I had wanted to follow in my brother’s footsteps and play rugby and football, however that was not to be. The injury was to my knee and meant eventually I would need a reconstruction. This ruled contact sport out but coincidentally gave me free time to start singing lessons. My then teacher gave me the song Empty Chairs At Empty Tables from Les Miserables and enrolled me in the school competition due to occur only three weeks later. To my amazement I came second! This is where it all began.  

Le Nozze di Figaro, K, 492: Overture: Mozart 

In 2009 I was lucky enough to be selected as the winner of the Australian Singing Competition.  The finals were held in Perth, on stage (I think it was on the very raked set of Fanciulla del West) at His Majesty’s Theatre. Prior to the announcement of the competition winners, the nights performances began with Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro Overture. Since that time, I have always been very fond of this piece and am reminded of that moment every time I perform as either Figaro or the Count wherever I am in the world.  

Sogno di Volare (The Dream of Flight”): Christopher Tin 

It was only about a week ago I graduated with a Master’s of Human Resource Management from Edith Cowan University. I had finished my music qualifications a while ago but decided to take on extra study while recovering from a knee reconstruction back in 2018. Instead of watching Survivor or The Masked Singer during that time, I thought a more useful endeavour would be to gain new knowledge and skills in a completely different field. This piece reminds me of the journey I went on to get here and helped motivate me along the way.  

Smile: Anthony Warlow: Back In The Swing 

From the many shows I have performed in, one of my all-time favourite performance experiences would have to be performing alongside Anthony Warlow in Sweeney Todd for the TEG Lifelike Company. Since I was a young voice student, I have always admired Warlow’s voice, charisma and artistry. A year ago, as the Judge Turpin understudy I had the great opportunity to rehearse the role opposite Warlow’s Sweeney. It was the very first day of rehearsals and neither of us had ever sung the roles before. It was a thrilling experience to hear someone of that quality and class perform a role for the very first time. This piece is obviously not from Sweeney, but another of my Warlow favourites. 

Don Carlo: O Carlo, Ascolta: Verdi: Hvorostovsky 

In terms of my favourite operatic baritones, I probably have too many to single one out. I have been extremely fortunate to meet and work with some mega baritone superstars including Leo Nucci, Thomas Hampson, Sir Bryn Terfel and Sir Simon Keenlyside. I also just missed out on meeting the late Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Waiting at Covent Garden stage door, I had been distracted looking down at my phone. As I looked up again Hvorostovsky was making his way inside and passed with a ‘hello’. Before I could say anything he’d gone! So close and yet so far. Horostovky’s performance of O carlo ascolta is one I have always loved (especially from the 1989 Cardiff Singer of the World Competition) and formed the basis of how I approached the aria myself.  

Piano Man: Billy Joel: Piano Man 

This selection may seem slightly random but I really like Billy Joel’s Piano Man. Apart from being a great song, there is a particular experience that makes it very special to me. As a previous member of The TEN Tenors (yes I’m a baritone but that’s a whole other story), I would travel frequently all over the world. On a nation-wide tour of the US, we found ourselves finally having a night off in New Orleans. As a group of us walked into Louisiana’s oldest bar, Lafitte’s Blacksmith shop established in 1772, I heard Piano Man being played by the local piano bar singer. It was a surreal and wonderful time. The crowd merrily drank their cocktails and ‘sang’ along together. It was a night to remember.  

If Ever I Would Leave You: Robert Goulet: The Essential Robert Goulet 

Now those who know me well, know I am quite a private person. But this list would not be complete without a dedication to someone who really means the world to me. To keep a bit of mystery however and save any embarrassment (this individual is quite shy), they will remain unnamed. This song is for you.  

Cavalleria Rusticana: Intermezzo: Pietro Mascagni 

One of the most beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard would have to be Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana. Also featured in the Godfather part III. I remember sitting in the stalls of the Deutsche Oper Berlin theatre observing a rehearsal of Cavalleria Rusticana. I had heard the piece before, however this time I was sitting in one of the finest opera theatres in the world as a member of the company with hardly anyone else there. This incredible music began coming out of the orchestral pit. I let the sound wash over me as I thought about my journey to that point. The challenges, triumphs, setbacks, and all the other experiences that had let me to that particular point. I savoured the moment.  

Il Corsaro: Ah si, ben dite – Tutto parea sorridere: Verdi: Michael Fabiano 

As far as tenors are concerned, since I have gone through my favourite baritone list, I guess it’s only fair to reveal who my favourite tenor is. This is more difficult than you can imagine. There are old school tenors who are simply incredible such as Corelli, Giacomini, del Monaco, Carreras and Pavarotti but also more recent ones including Kaufmann, Alagna, Camarena and Fabiano. I first met and became friends with Michael Fabiano while he was performing at the Sydney Opera House in Faust. A few years later, in 2017 I met Michael backstage after a performance of La Traviata at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. He has had and continues to have, a stellar career. He is definitely one of my favourite tenors singing on the opera circuit at the moment.  

Last Dance: Donna Summer  

Well if you’ve made it this far down the list it’s definitely time to celebrate. Maybe even time for a dance. Since COVID-19 arrived the world is a different place. Make the most of every moment, tell the people you care about you love them, help if you can, be nice to one another and enjoy yourself. Thank you for listening and hopefully see you at WAO soon!