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The Independent Voice of
Central West Queensland since 1923
Central West Queensland

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9 June, 2021

Immersed in opera

Opera comes to the outback.

By Kate Kiernan

A beautiful sunset behind the play. PHOTO: Supplied.

LAST month Longreach was immersed in beautiful music as the sun set behind the Qantas Founders Museum.  

Outback Opera’s event ‘Singing in the Night’ music by composers from across the history of opera, including Handel, Verdi, Puccini, and some much-loved musical numbers from shows such as South Pacific, Fiddler on the Roof, and My Fair Lady were performed.  

The night included performances by Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Eva Kong, Kang Wang, Xenia Puskarz Thomas, and Jason Barry-Smith.  

Xenia Puskarz Thomas is one of four young artists in Opera Queensland’s young artist program. 

Ms Puskarz Thomas is currently studying her masters at Julliard online currently but did her undergraduate at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University in 2018. 

“This is my first year travelling and performing, and it’s a dream for a young singer to get into a young artist program, as you get to be in the professional scene, work with the professionals and try your skills out but in a very nurturing environment,” said Ms Puskarz Thomas.  

“We have some beautiful sets in nature, and just getting to perform with world-class musicians and a beautiful string orchestra the Camerata. 

“One of the projects is being part of the festival of the Outback Opera, which is so much fun. 

“I’ve never been to Winton or to Longreach and I may not have ever had the opportunity if it wasn’t thanks to this festival. 

“It is a dream of mine to really drive around Queensland and be able to explore your own state. 

“I particularly think that such a beautiful setting - you just don’t get that kind of atmosphere or environment or that setting for a concert, it added something extra and was magical for a concert. 

Opera Queensland Artistic Director & CEO Patrick Nolan said it was a coup to have secured New Zealand-born bass-baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes for the special celebration. 

“As Opera Queensland, we see that it is important that we play to audiences all over the state and that audience wherever they are located have access to the highest quality musicians so that’s what we are doing with Outback Opera,” said Mr Nolan.  

“These are singers who have sung all over the world, and on some of the great opera stages.  

“Everyone should have the opportunity to encounter that quality of singing and music-making.  

Patrick Nolan first came to Longreach in 2007 when he directed a show called the “Greatest Show on Earth” at the showgrounds. 

“My first time here and I found it transforming in terms of what the landscape does to you, and it is a very emotional experience of being in this country like no other country,” said Mr Nolan.  

“In many respects, that parallels with what we do as an opera company — when we invite audiences to see our work, we hope they have experiences that transform them and that they will never experience anywhere else.’ 

“When I first got the job at Opera Queensland, one of the first things I wanted to do was explore how we could bring something like the festival of Outback Opera to this part of the world. 

 “There is a great deal of resonance between experiencing opera and experiencing the outback landscape, it’s that sense of space that you have and there is room for grand emotion but there is also room for deep reflection and that’s hopefully what you have when you come to the opera,” said Mr Nolan. 

“The audience response was incredibly warm, and everyone was saying we need to do this again, so hopefully that’s created an energy now that means we will be able to get back out here.  

“Thank you to the communities that have been with us in creating the festival, Winton council and Longreach council have been really important, it was incredibly special that both towns got behind it,” said Mr Nolan. 

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