Opera singer swaps stage for natural theatre
CLARENCE opera singer Michelle Ryan should be treading the boards of the Hessisches-Staatstheater in Wiesbaden, Germany — the result of years of hard work and the winner of a German-Australia Opera grant.
Instead, she’s been singing to the cane fields of her parent’s Harwood home, forced the effect that coronavirus has had on the arts world.
Before she was due to fly out, the soprano was to play two concerts in Maclean, accompanied by several local musicians, and she has used the time to perform a duet with one in one of the Clarence’s most iconic spots.
With guitarist Ryan Enns, the two have recorded a song live at Green Point, Angourie overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and Ms Ryan said it presented a challenge not found in the opera houses of the world.
“We waited for a sunny day, and it was the week the surf was pretty crazy,” she said.
“We wondered if it would be too noisy, but we went ahead and did it.”
“There were a couple of surfers there, and others so we had a bit of an audience.”
Mr Enns, who accompanied on guitar recorded and filmed the session, which Ms Ryan said took only three takes.
“I think it’s the most peaceful place I’ve ever sung — it was amazing,” she said.
“Even though it was a noisy place there’s something really lovely about singing in nature which you don’t get to do in opera because you’re either singing in an acoustic setting in a theatre or singing outdoors with a microphone.”
Ms Ryan said the two had played the piece before and had rehearsed, though the two had to listen intently to hear each other over the sounds of nature.
“It was definitely a challenge, but it’s something I really wanted to do. It’s probably the only performance I’ve done in five to six months.”
Ms Ryan was due to fly to May to start her year-long contract in Wiesbaden, but coronavirus restriction stopped her from leaving.
The same restrictions also forced travel home from her Sydney base, where she was due to perform as part of Opera Australia’s La Traviata.
In the interim, Ms Ryan said she had made sure she has been working on the music sent from the German theatre, and jogging through the cane fields to keep up her fitness.
“Some of my friends, they were hit so hard by the shock of it all they have stopped,” she said. “It’s been really hard for a lot of my colleagues.”
Ms Ryan is currently back in Sydney, working with tutors to prepare for when she can work overseas.
“It’s a confusing time because Europe is lifting its borders to other European countries — all of the countries are allowed to travel for their July break, and I’m supposed to be starting work in August,” she said.
“They’re still operating as if I’m coming with just a delay — and I’m hoping that will be in August.
“Being here and doing all this has kept me motivated if I get on that plane in a few months.”