WAO Spotlight with Ryan Smith
Soon the notes of showstopping arias will soar through the tingle trees and into the night sky as we present Opera in the Valley of the Giants this weekend. From the city to the forest, we want to shine a spotlight on our creatives working tirelessly to bring the magic of opera to you. Connect with your state opera company on an intimate level and learn how inspiring musical moments can be shared with all corners of the community.
Join us with Ryan Smith – Manager of the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk – as he explores the immense collaborative efforts behind regional performances, how conservation intertwines with creativity, and his favourite spots nestled within the beautiful Warren Region.
1. Tell us about collaborating with WAO to present Opera in the Valley of the Giants – what is your role and what work is involved to bring opera into the tingle trees?
Working with WAO has been an absolute pleasure over the last 3 years…there’s always plenty of work in the background to put on an event like Opera in the Valley of the Giants, but it’s one of the few efforts that has a real tangible feeling of joy and accomplishment at the end. Opera night in the Valley of the Giants each year is the culmination of our hard work. It is a magical experience and such a great way to celebrate and set the tone for the upcoming Christmas period. My 4-year-old daughter thinks the classical music channel is ‘Dad’s work music’ and she talks endlessly about the performers in their beautiful dresses.
2. What impact did COVID-19 have on activities at the Tree Top Walk? How have you adapted?
What a year it has been! Initially COVID shut us down altogether for almost 2 months. Our team adapted by donning work boots and overalls instead of our usual tour guide apparel. We pruned, we cleaned, we swept pathways, we painted, and most importantly we tried to stay positive and continued to look forward to opening again. Since re-opening in May our visitation has been up by 20%. We have slightly amended our guided tours to fit with social distancing guidelines, and we have extra hygiene measures in place, but otherwise not a whole lot has changed. The trees have not been affected by COVID and neither have the Quokkas!
3. How important do you think regional performances are for both the company and the community?
I think these sorts of performances are the pinnacle in our event calendar. The local community come out in droves to enjoy a world class performance in their own back yard. They mix with visitors, share stories, and create wonderful memories. Locals talk about the Opera all year round. It’s great for our small towns, for our own entertainment, but also for promoting our region, for filling up the hotel beds and local cafes, and for showing what’s possible with a bit of foresight and community support.
4. In what ways does conservation factor into events like Opera in the Valley of the Giants?
Conservation is paramount in all that we do. The Tree Top Walk itself was the solution to a conservation issue, to get people up and off the root system of these majestic trees. Similarly, with events like the Opera, we are helping to build a sense of wonder for the natural environment; we pay deep respect to the environment and to the cultural heritage of our forests. We have also found ways to contribute to real world outcomes like research into Quokka populations and habitat as a direct result of the event.
5. The Warren Region encompasses a vast and beautiful area. Do you have a favourite spot?
I’d tell you but I’d have to shoot you 😊 but for the record there’s lots of incredible spots to check out:
- Mount Frankland
- Circular Pool
- Conspicuous Cliff
- The Knolls Drive
- Mandalay Beach
- Greens Pool
- Elephant Rocks
…and that list encompasses just a few of our 8+ National Parks!
6. Can you share with us a musical moment in your life you found to be illuminating or inspiring?
This might sound cliché but for me it is definitely my first Opera in the Valley of the Giants experience. To be looking out over the crowd, through the lit-up tingle trees, enjoying a world class performance with our whole team in awe and my young family by my side. I’ll remember that one forever.
7. What other experiences should visitors to the region seek out?
World class wineries, restaurants, beaches, forests, National Parks, fishing, surfing, hiking the Bibbulmun Track, cycling the Munda Biddi trail, canoeing on the Frankland river, and far too much more to list it all.
West Australian Opera will present Opera in the Valley of the Giants this weekend amongst the towering tingle trees, an event that is only possible through collaboration and commitment. For more information click here.
Image: Ryan Smith (left) preparing for Opera in the Valley of the Giants.
ABOUT RYAN SMITH
Ryan Smith commenced as Manager of the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk in February 2018.
He lives with his young family in Walpole WA, where the forest meets the sea, and is fulfilling a dream of raising his kids in the country with his wonderful wife Jade. His background is sales, marketing and management, and being able to apply those skills in such a unique setting is a dream. Nothing beats working in the natural environment, especially when the core focus is conservation and promoting an awareness and an appreciation for a very special tingle forest. There is a great story to tell and he considers it a privilege to be able to help do that. Events like Opera in the Valley of the Giants help to consolidate the same messages and bring this very special part of the world to an even broader audience.