We caught up with Opera New England’s Sam Payne

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Sam Payne explains why Armidale is fortunate to have its own community based organisation called Opera New England (ONE) and how, with the help of George Torbay and Bruce Menzies, their first production will be The Marriage of Figaro.

Tell us about your upbringing in Armidale …
Armidale is the best place to grow up if you’re artistic and creative (and even if you aren’t that) because it has something to offer each individual. I remember going to art classes at NERAM as a child and performing in the Armidale Eisteddfod in voice, piano and drama throughout my schooling. My family on both sides have local businesses in Armidale in which I’ve worked in over the years, which has supported me throughout my studies and the businesses. I’ve made great friends throughout the musical community in Armidale and have enjoyed performing in the Armidale Drama and Musical Society productions of Titanic – The Musical, Urinetown and Another Night at the Opera. 

I was always involved in many musical ensemble groups and school productions at The Armidale School during my schooling, then at university I was in the Earle Page college choir and the Fiori Musicali choir apart at NECOM. We’re lucky and fortunate we have such a high standard of talent in a regional town like Armidale.

How and why did you first get into music?

Ever since I was little, I wanted to be a singer/entertainer. Mum said I kept all the guests entertained at their wedding. I think listening to my grandmother play the piano and her father play the accordion as a child gave me an appreciation for music.

I loved primary choir and this interest continued into high school, where my music teacher, Deidre Rickards at The Armidale School, discovered that I could sing and got me lessons with Stephen Bennett from Opera Australia.

He then took up a position at the ANU School of Music, and I was then fortunate to take lessons from Inge Southcott and later, George Torbay. I also have a strong interest in European languages, and the two go hand in hand. So, after school I enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of New England, where I studied French, Italian, German and Theatre Studies. In 2009 I was an international exchange student at the l’Université d’Angers in France and later majored in French and Italian.

Where are you currently studying, and what are specialising in?

I was fortunate to get accepted into The Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University in 2011 to study a Bachelor of Music in Classical Voice. There I study under the guidance of Gregory Massingham and take classes in stage movement, languages, aural training, music theory, music literacy, and musical theatre and perform in operas and ensembles put on by the Conservatorium.

You are soon to perform in a local opera. Tell us more about this …

Armidale is now very fortunate to have its own community based established organisation called Opera New England (ONE). The members of this association are experienced, well-known and respected local and national identities with a passion for bringing high quality performing arts to our region.

A small number of ‘students of voice’ from institutions such as Conservatoriums of Music and universities have been invited to perform in the main roles in these productions. This is a very important opportunity we’ve been given, because it is highly unlikely we would be able to study roles like these and perform them in a big opera house at this stage of our studies. We’ve just been given the rehearsal schedule, and I must say it looks fairly full on and daunting. We have an intense week of rehearsals, where we will have to give George Torbay and Bruce Menzies everything in terms of acting and singing to make this one spectacular show. Opera New England’s (ONE) first production will be The Marriage of Figaro and will have three performances over the Australia Day weekend in January. The famous opera recounts “a single day of madness” in the palace of the Count and will be directed by George Torbay and conducted by Bruce Menzies, alongside a team of specialised musicians and experienced stagehands.

Plans for the future?

At the end of my studies at the Conservatorium, I would probably think about doing my postgraduate degree overseas or start to audition for Opera Houses and Musical Theatre shows. The career of a singer is slow, and patience is required. It takes years to perfect your technique and develop your voice, so I guess I can only see where it may take me. I hope to come back for many more productions in Armidale.

Show times … the gala night will be on 25 January 2013, then a night performance on the 26th and a matinee on the 27th. People can book their tickets online at: www.operanewengland.com.au

Thanks Sam.

This interview was found in issue 68 of New England Focus


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