Locals are stars of the show in radical opera

Hundreds of everyday people will be given the chance to star alongside professional opera singers in a brand new production of La bohème.

Brisbane’s Opera Queensland will teach more than 400 people from the state’s regions to sing, and then cast them in the chorus of a new staging of Puccini’s opera. It’s all part of a major new participation programme.

Project Puccini is the first outreach scheme of this scale to be delivered by an opera company.

The initiative promises to invest AUD2m (€1.32m) into communities on the Gold Coast and in Toowoomba, Ipswich, Fraser Coast, Maryborough, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville and Mount Isa.

Speaking exclusively to IAM, Opera Queensland artistic director Lindy Hume (pictured) said Project Puccini is a ‘thrilling moment’ in the company’s history.

She said: ‘We believe this project represents real progress in regional arts practice, proposing a new, more collaborative relationship between Australia’s major performing arts companies and the country’s regional communities.’

‘And it makes sense that Queensland, Australia’s most decentralised state in terms of population, with its powerful landscape and vast distances between incredibly diverse regional communities, should be leading the way in this adventure.’

Auditions for both children and adults to sing and act alongside the company’s professional artists as well as the Queensland Symphony Orchestra begin in March, with the production running from July to September this year.

Opera Queensland will employ a chorus master and rehearsal coordinator from each region and work with local arts centres, theatres and councils to ensure high performance standards.

An intensive 10-week programme aims to equip the singers with music and drama abilities, new social and creative networks, and an increased sense of well-being.

Hume said the project will certainly be a challenge for participants. ‘But by raising the bar – by having more than 400 participants across Queensland work on a professional production over many months – the artists and musicians will share creative skills and the experience of live performance in a far more intensive way than a touring show ever could. We want to leave a legacy and build genuine connections in each regional centre.’

The Project Puccini team will travel more than 21,000km over a six-month period.

Hulme said: ‘The sheer scale and audacity of the project is both exciting and an organisational challenge – but we know that by making this project happen, we’re developing a stronger, more meaningful connection with the community we serve. After all, we’re not Opera Brisbane, we’re Opera Queensland.’

Queensland Government is supporting the scheme through its ‘Playing Queensland Fund’, providing almost AUD400,000. Opera Queensland has also secured corporate support from The Graeme Wood Foundation.

Hume, who previously directed Sydney Festival, said in her 10 years of living in regional Australia, she has noticed a ‘disconnect in the terminology, language and narrative around metropolitan versus regional arts’.

She added: ‘I want OperaQ to be at the vanguard of a boldly ambitious regional arts movement, and Project Puccini is very much part of this thinking.’

The Australian premiere of La bohème will be conducted by Richard Gill and directed by Craig Ilott.

All Project Puccini participants and supporters can connect online to share their stories and images.


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