Perth is in for a treat as soprano Rachelle Durkin is gracing His Majesty’s stage as Adina in Simon Phillips’ much-loved production of The Elixir of Love, presented by WA Opera. We catch up with Durkin and hear her thoughts about the production, performing at the Met, and eating steak in Fort Worth, Texas.
Will this be your third time reprising the role of Adina in Simon Phillips’ production? What do you like about the role?
Yes it will. Aside from the glorious music, there are many facets to Adina’s personality that are intriguing to me. In fact, after three reprisals, I’m still making small discoveries about her character which help me keep every performance fresh and interesting.
You’re quite a funny gal on stage – do you have a preference for comedic or dramatic roles in opera, or does your preference all depend on the music you get to sing? Do you have a favourite role?
Why thank you! Comedy certainly comes easy to me which tends to push me toward those particular roles, however, I like dramatic roles equally.
Music definitely plays its part when choosing roles, but in the end, whatever role suits me vocally and lights a fire in me is what I ultimately end up singing.
I have many [favourite roles], but Adina is certainly up there amongst Lucia, Norina, Alcina and Violetta.
You’ve mentioned before that when you started out at WAAPA you had originally wanted to do musical theatre – do you think you’d ever be tempted to do a musical?
Absolutely. I’m sure it’ll be something comic or something that requires a more operatic sound. Anyway, the dream is certainly not dead and I’ve even thought I’d make a great Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd one day. One can dream.
You are based out of New York now, as I understand it, but you travel the world performing, and spend a lot of your time here in Australia. Do you have a favourite place, venue or company to perform in or with? How about a favourite production?
It’s always great coming home and singing in Australia especially Perth with WA Opera where I began my studies as a Young Artist. My family and friends I grew up with all live in Perth, and there is a wonderful feeling of nostalgia one gets in front of an audience that embraces you as one of their own. Singing on stage at The Metropolitan Opera in front of a 4000-strong audience is a venue I will never ever get tired of either.
I’d actually say that this production of The Elixir of Love by Simon Phillips is my favourite production to date. So brilliantly Australian and very very clever.
My family lives in Ft. Worth, Texas, so obviously I’m curious to hear how your experience with Fort Worth Opera went. Did my people treat you kindly? How much steak did you have to eat when you were there?
I loved performing in Fort Worth and yes! I ate a ton of ribs and steak. I was actually 8 and a half months pregnant at the time singing Violetta of all things, and so I was in the most perfect city when the pangs of hunger set in.
Are American opera audiences different from Australian audiences? What about West Australian audiences vs. Melbourne or Sydney?
Yes but ever so slightly and it varies from city to city.
At the Met, audiences are always boisterous. Anything from screams of “Bravo” to hisses and boos can be heard after every performance. I’ve found that Australian audiences show more restraint in their applause but I think it’s because they listen more intently.
There does seem to be subtle differences. We were all surprised at how huge the applause was for Elixir on opening night in Melbourne compared to Sydney, for example. Though it seemed the response was bigger for the rest of the shows in Sydney. Strange. Matinees always have bigger applause across the board and WA audiences are the best of course!
WAO’s Artistic Director Brad Cohen wanted to bring this production to Perth because it interprets Donizetti’s opera through an Australian filter. What will West Australian audiences be able to look forward to with this production of L’elisir d’amore?
Just a really fun night at the opera. Its also a perfect opera to see if you’re a first timer. It’s funny, poignant, a delight for the eyes and the score is toe-tapping.
The production is set in the Australian outback with corrugated iron horses, sheep chickens, and galahs and the surtitles are all written in Aussie slang which is hilarious. We even have a “Skippy the bush Kangaroo” musical theme thrown in among others. What more could you ask for, you say? Buy your tickets now.
And is it possible you could sing it with an Aussie accent for us?
Haha!! I’m afraid that might be gilding the lily.
The Elixir of Love runs from 14 – 23 July at His Majesty’s Theatre. For tickets and more information, visit the WA Opera website here.