OperaBox, a relatively new company founded in 2011, is steadily carving a niche for itself in the Perth performing arts scene, bringing in award-winning artists to collaborate on its productions, traveling statewide, and expanding its repertoire with works like their latest offering, Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. This opera mixes comedy and tragedy, high art and popular art, in an “opera within opera,” and comes with a company that includes director Kathryn Osborne (The Last Great Hunt founder) and conductor Christopher Dragon, currently Associate Conductor at Colorado Symphony Orchestra (USA), and former Assistant Conductor at the West Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO). In the role of Ariadne/Prima Donna will be 2015 Herald Sun Aria Winner, Melbourne-based soprano Fiona Jopson, who is making her debut in the role as well as with OperaBox. She tells us about what it’s like to debut a new role, and also gives us a few impressions of Perth.
You’re making your WA debut with OperaBox – how did you become involved with the budding company?
I was approached by OperaBox to audition for the role of Ariadne after one of their board members saw me perform and win the 2015 final of the Herald Sun Aria.
You’re also making your role debut with Ariadne/Prima Donna – what’s it like singing a role for the first time? Is it terrifying, thrilling or both?
This role debut is both thrilling and terrifying! Strauss’ music is so beautifully written but is fiendishly hard at the same time.
What are your most fun or favourite aspects of both the opera and the role? Most challenging aspects?
I love all aspects of learning a role and opera! Reading the libretto, listening to different recordings, learning and coaching the music, discovering a character, the rehearsal process right through to performances. Throughout the whole process there are challenges, It’s how you react and work through the challenges that count to get the best out of your performance.
Have you spent time in Perth before? What are some of your first impressions of the city and its performing arts scene?
This is my second time to Perth. The last time I was here it was only for a long weekend so I didn’t have a lot of time to look around. I have been living in Melbourne for the last 6 years so coffee is a daily ritual for me, so I am discovering Perth through a coffee crawl.
There is a lot happening here in the performing arts not just with the state companies but all of the smaller companies filling the gaps with interesting and innovative works, which is very exciting!
What kinds of roles do you enjoy most? For instance, do you enjoy the lighter, more comedic roles, or the meatier, more dramatic roles? Or is it more just about the music? Where does Ariadne/Prima Donna fall on the spectrum?
With the voice type I have, I definitely love the more dramatic and meatier roles. The music and composer comes into play. My favourite composers are Puccini, Verdi, Massenet and Strauss.
Where did you grow up, and did you come from a musical family?
I was born and grew up in Scone, NSW. It is a small country town in the heart of the Hunter Valley and the Horse Capital of Australia. My family is very musical. Mum is a classical singer and plays guitar, Dad plays brass, and my brother, sisters and I all play piano. I studied music all through school and was a part of the choir and band where I played clarinet and drums.
How have you been able to face the challenges and rigours of being an opera singer? What keeps you going through it all?
Having a strong support network is extremely important. My family is my biggest support, as well as a small group of close friends. I can’t imagine my life without music and opera and no words can explain what it means to me.
Ariadne auf Naxos runs 9, 11, 13 and 16 September. For more information and tickets, visit the OperaBox website here.