State Opera of South Australia

Ensuring the Vision

To be the most exciting and innovative opera company in Australia, enhancing South Australia’s artistic reputation nationally and internationally.

At a recent gathering the Friends Committee was delighted to meet with the State Opera Board and Staff to discuss their roles as well as their vision for the future of State Opera. The following reflections and thoughts from John Irving, recently appointed Chair of the State Opera Board, and Pauline Brooks, President of the Friends, demonstrate the strong commitment to and belief in the company that bode well for its future success.

John Irving, Chair , The State Opera of South Australia Board

As the smallest of the ‘major’ opera companies, we have an extraordinary record of achievement, from Ring Cycles to Moby Dick to Philip Glass operas to Nixon in China, El Nino, Elektra, Salome and new works such as Cloudstreet, Ode to Nonsense, Different Fields, Ingkata, Innocence and On the Beach.

The company’s history stretches back well before its current statutory authority State Opera of SA day. It dates back 60 years to March 1957 when it was called the Intimate Opera Group with Jacqueline Talbot, Bill Harrison and John Worthley performing Anthony Hopkins Three’s Company with Eira West leading from the piano and produced by Barbara Howard. The evolution from those humble beginnings, through a relatively brief transformation as New Opera in 1973, through to the Act of Parliament that established us as State Opera SA in 1976 can be summed up in a single word, tenacity. We are a company that stubbornly refuses to let the turkeys get us down and we’ve had quite a few turkeys foisted upon us over the years, often in the guise of adverse conditions that test us. For nearly 30 years, you’ve had the same team forging ahead to create great theatre. And this is primarily what we do and why we do what we do. We love the art form and the thrill of creating something special. You have special people who create special things.

This is my 30th year with the company in a journey that has covered a huge range of tasks. But I have been blessed to work with some of the most extraordinary colleagues you could ever imagine, Deb, Judith, Nigel, Jeanette and the host of contract people such as Dave McLean who helps to steer the production ship.

What that 30 years of exposure has shown me it how truly unusual this company is. We literally baffle our interstate counterparts. They don’t get us and can’t work out how we do what we do. But if you are seriously committed to your craft and are surrounded by like-minded people, then anything is possible.

But we are just one leg of the three that make up the company tripod. The Friends, who have existed as an organization for as long as State Opera SA, has existed as an entity like a Siamese twin, we’re joined at the hip and that long term commitment and dedication I mentioned is equally present in them. We are forever grateful for their existence and their contribution.

The other leg of the tripod is the Board, with a totally different focus but no less critical to the success of the company. We are equally grateful for the contribution of all our Boards to the strategic success of the company. Each leg of our SOSA tripod needs to be the same length and the same strength to ensure the greatest stability for the company. A unified vision is therefore critical to our success. I would add one other thing – to continue to leverage the things and the people that make this company unique so that our interstate counterparts continue to scratch their heads in disbelief for many years to come. Thank you.

Pauline Brooks OAM President, The Friends of the State Opera of South Australia

More than any other art form opera draws on many of the resources that make us human: our physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual dimensions’ Joyce DiDonato

The Friends of the State Opera of South Australia was established 40 years ago by a dedicated and passionate group of opera lovers determined to help keep opera alive and thriving through the creative work and life of the State Opera.

Their vision was to assist and support the State Opera in all its activities, programs and productions; to raise funds for the benefit of the Company and to raise funds to support and sponsor the professional development of Young Artists associated with opera in South Australia. In addition they determined to provide assistance for the development of interest in opera and the Company, and to increase, through their activities and programs, the interest, knowledge and involvement of members in opera, the Friends and the Company.

So, how are we doing, forty years on ? Have we remained true to the intention, spirit and integrity of our ‘founders’, have we, together with State Opera, achieved the vision- so far? In reviewing the Friends work and activities over the last few years I think we can safely attest to not only achieving those goals but bringing them to life with energy, creativity and passion.

The Friends have shown their support for the State Opera through sponsoring a main stage production each year, ($30,000); through staging fundraising and social events for members such as the Coriole lunch, the Day in the Hills lunch and recital at Ngeringa Cultural Centre, to the Otello lunch at Woodstock, the wonderful Language and Music Festival events from the Wilkommen in Kabarett, La Vie Parisienne and Una festiva Italiana and the magnificent Madama Butterfly Gala dinner; through their support and front of house presence in the Opera studio events as well as with The Friends Bar. In addition they have, in collaboration with State Opera, increased involvement and knowledge of members through the successful and long running Opera Voices Introductions held prior to each production.

In support of the professional development of Young Artists The Friends have not only supported them with their presence at the numerous Masterclasses with National and International artists in the Opera studio but with their individual sponsorship enabling their ongoing professional development through attending the Lisa Gasteen Summer Opera School in Queensland , as well as overseas , (for example Penelope Cashman was assisted in attending the Bel Canto In Tuscany course, while Fiona McArdle was supported in her studies at the New England Conservatory in Boston. )

None of this could have been achieved without the tireless and extraordinary work of the Friends Committee members who have been the core and heart of the organization for many years. To them and the wonderful and supportive staff of State Opera , in particular Deb Pahl, I give my sincere and heartfelt thanks.

So where to next? Like any true friend, The Friends will remain a constant with the State Opera of South Australia. They will stand by and work for that which they value and care for passionately, both in good and in challenging times. The Friends will continue to work hard to support the State Opera to reach their goals and vision, but also endeavor to nurture, assist and care for the professional development of our Young Artists , who are the future of both our State Opera and this extraordinary art form.