For a rural couple based at Delungra, near Inverell, the idea of staging an opera in a paddock on their private property could have been perceived as an act of utter madness …
Instead, growing this opera performance into a world-class event has been something else completely. The development of Opera in the Paddock, from its humble beginnings into a significant annual regional event, has been remarkable.
For Artistic Director and soprano Peta Blyth, together with her farmer husband Bill, their passion and unwavering tenacity to produce this unique performance has seen Opera in the Paddock become synonymous with an exceptional event of unparalleled quality in regional NSW.
So, what’s the secret that sets this production apart from so many others?
Perhaps it is the idyllic surrounds of the paddock that strips away the pretention often associated with the “high art” form of opera that audiences find so captivating. The ability to deliver this magical experience, without compromising the quality and standard of the performance, has remained at the absolute forefront of the event for its creators, Peta and Bill Blyth.
To their credit and against the odds, Opera in the Paddock continues to grow in reputation and scale. Not only does it attract the greatest singers performing in Australia and internationally today, 2016 will see the event expand to include two performances to meet demand.
On Friday 1st April, an exclusive performance of Opera in the Paddock will be held in Armidale, the first time that a performance of the world-class event will be held outside of the paddock at “Mimosa”, Delungra. For those accustomed to the magic of the much-loved rural setting, the performance will still take place in the paddock on Saturday 2nd April.
Opera North West is delighted to announce that acclaimed opera star Teddy Tahu Rhodes will return to star in Opera in the Paddock in 2016. Artistic Director Peta Blyth said, “We are delighted that a stellar artist of the calibre of Teddy Tahu Rhodes is able to return following the cancellation of the event due to extreme weather last year.”
With one of the most recognisable profiles in music today, Teddy Tahu Rhodes is an artist who has conquered both the operatic and musical theatre worlds. On the back of the stratospheric success of the productions South Pacific, Don Giovanni and The King and I, Tahu Rhodes has well and truly earned his star status.
Teddy Tahu Rhodes was born in Christchurch, New Zealand to a British mother and a New Zealand father. The Maori word Tahu means “to set on fire.” As his recent appearances for Opera Australia attest, Tahu Rhodes has been setting box office ablaze.
Smashing all box office records, The King and I holds the title as the highest selling show ever staged at the Sydney Opera House, with Tahu Rhodes playing opposite Lisa McCune in the lead role in the musical. The production was seen by over a quarter of a million people during its national tour.
As his hectic schedule for the past twelve months attests, Teddy Tahu Rhodes is in constant demand. Since April last year, he has appeared in the title roles of Don Giovanni for Opera Australia, Melbourne and Sweeney Todd for Victorian Opera, as well as starring as Mephistopheles in Faust for the State Opera of South Australia and the West Australian Opera.
Among a string of other performances, Tahu Rhodes also managed to squeeze in a sell-out national tour From Broadway to La Scala, starring alongside Lisa McCune, David Hobson and Greta Bradman.
Artistic Director Peta Blyth takes us behind the scenes and responds to a number of questions in relation to the event:
Opera in the Paddock has been running for many years; what’s different about this year’s event?
This year for the first time, we will be presenting two performances, one in Armidale, as well as in the paddock at Delungra. This is testimony to the demand and popularity of the event and reinforces how Opera North West has cemented its reputation as a world-class enterprise. It allows us to reach wider audiences and provide them with the opportunity to experience an international star, such as Teddy Tahu Rhodes, which is an extremely rare occasion in the bush.
So, is Teddy Tahu Rhodes really all that he’s cracked up to be?
Have you ever seen him with his shirt off? (Laughs.) His abs are quite famous! But seriously, he truly is an extraordinary performer, an amazing voice and a compelling presence.
He has such a busy schedule; what prompted him to return?
I think his sense of commitment; he is a very genuine and generous person.
Who else will be in the line up?
It truly is a stellar cast that also includes acclaimed tenor Bradley Daley. In 2016, Bradley will sing Siegmund in Opera’s Australia production of Der Ring des Nibelungen, as well as make a major role début as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly for Opera Queensland.
Soprano Elizabeth Lewis will also return for Opera in the Paddock. Elizabeth enjoyed great success in 2015, winning the prestigious Opera Foundation Australia Lady Fairfax New York Scholarship. The prize will go towards study with vocal, language and movement coaches in New York. Timothy Sexton, Artistic Director of State Opera of South Australia, will return to conduct the Mimosa Orchestra, which will be led by Jenny Nickson, Deputy Leader of the Covent Garden Orchestra, London. It really will be a spectacular event.
Opera in the Paddock will be held at Lazenby Hall, UNE, Armidale on Friday 1st April and at “Mimosa”, Delungra on Saturday 2nd April. Tickets and further information:
Tel: 1800 240 301.