Europe's greatest stages fuel Harwood girl's opera dreams
SITTING on her parent's verandah at Harwood Island, opera singer Michelle Ryan says she is enjoying her time home in the Lower Clarence.
"It's refreshing," she laughs.
"It's certainly nice to have a room where I know I have places to put my clothes, and a car I can drive around in."
Michelle has been home for a month after spending her past year plying her trade in Europe, and said the journey started without her really knowing where it would take her, and involved a lot of living from her suitcase.
"I started in Germany in December of last year," she said.
"I moved over and had no idea what I was doing, I just knew I was staying with a host family in Munich and I just started for applying for things.
"Munich was the only city I'd been to last year because I did a program last summer and met some agents, and they told me I should move back and get more experience and learn German."
And the search for more experience led to a young artists program, where she sang her first Italian role in the Mozart opera Cosi Fan Tutte.
"The role was a lot of fun, because there were people from all over the world, and it was cool to see all these opera singers come together and put on a show," Michelle said.
She applied for two more operas and was successful, the second a production of Don Giovanni in Prague, and the third a modern production of Carmen in Berlin.
"Prague was my favourite. The theatre was the last one Mozart conducted in, and the whole city is very cool because most of Mozart's history is in that city," she said.
"Carmen was not a traditional opera at all. We wore crazy costumes and I had fake hair - it was very cool."
And after the ten months of travel and constant work, Michelle is looking to study her Masters back in Germany.
"I'd like to go back to school," the 25-year-old said. "And then after that I'd like to get into a theatre after, but I just need more time for my voice to grow."
"I've talked to agents and they've said I've got time to do my masters and gain more experience."
With more productions involved in her future studies, Michelle says the rigours of opera begin well before she steps onto stage.
"I spend a few months beforehand preparing each role, because you have to have it all memorised," she said.
"And with two of the operas being in Italian and one in French and it's a three hour long opera of music, you can't just know your part, you've got to know what they're saying to you.
"And they want you in the first week to turn up and sing it from memory."
With multiple languages to deal with also, it is the acting side of the opera that Michelle has gained the most experience.
"Opera is very much a combination of singing and acting, and you have to be able to sound authentic to an audience," she said.
"In the past, acting hasn't been as big a part of opera, but now I'd say it's almost on a level with musical theatre how much we are expected to entertain.
"But this year has been a great experience for me. You have to be 110% committed, and you've got to be stage hungry.
"You've got to want to get on stage and entertain the crowd, and get them to enjoy what you love."