12/09/2006 - 22:00

Not for Profit: Primed for peak performance

12/09/2006 - 22:00

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Il Divo, Amici Forever and Charlotte Church may be making sweet harmonies on the world stage, but performers trained at a small studio in central Midland are also delighting audiences with their unique operatic style.

Not for Profit: Primed for peak performance

Il Divo, Amici Forever and Charlotte Church may be making sweet harmonies on the world stage, but performers trained at a small studio in central Midland are also delighting audiences with their unique operatic style.

Leading the artists onto local, national and international stages is conductor, accompanist and vocal coach Michael Schouten, director of the Australian Opera Studio, and its artistic director and founder, Gregory Yurisich.

An internationally renowned baritone, Mr Yurisich formed the Australian Opera Studio in 2002 after retiring from a stellar career on the operatic stage, and now drives what’s claimed to be the only performance-based opera program in the world.

The studio survives through the support of benefactor, international management consultant Dr Haruhisa Handa, who contributes $1 million a year to keep the studio operational.

Mr Schouten revealed the studio had an operational budget of $1.25 million a year, with the balance sourced through other private donations.

The studio addresses all the disciplines required for a successful career by providing intensive instruction not limited to training in vocal technique, solfege, acting, dance, physical fitness, stage combat, business skills, languages, operatic repertoire, and musical theatre.

Up to six scholarship students in each of two years have the opportunity to produce more than 60 scheduled performances annually, plus 21 invited performances, including 27 master classes, four operas and various oratorios, recitals, concerts and cabarets.

Mr Schouten said the idea for the studio came about through a conversation he had with Mr Yurisich many years ago when they both felt Australian operatic performers were not getting appropriate one-to-one training or a chance to show what they could do on an international stage.

In response, the studio directors now work closely with the English National Opera, Hessischer Staattheatre Wiesbasen, and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and have connections to major opera houses in the US to keep abreast of current standards and seek employment opportunities for graduates.

Applicants for the studio’s scholarships, valued at $125,000, are selected on talent alone and must have completed their under-graduate studies and proceeded to work locally or nationally as singers.

Mr Schouten said the studio looked for young performers in the Asia-Pacific region with the potential to start an international career before providing them with the tools to achieve success and longevity in the artistically demanding industry.

“All our training is free because talent does not often come with a chequebook,” he said.

“We conduct audition tours every year throughout Australia, New Zealand, and China and tend to find young, talented professionals who are looking for a career but can’t find that break through point.”

When performers arrive they take responsibility for their own living expenses, as well as attending a punishing schedule of 10-hour working days, to prepare them for the rigorous demands on a professional opera performer.

Throughout their scholarship, performers can put theory into practice at the studio’s primary performance venue, the historic Joan Sutherland Auditorium in Midland, and at a number of external venues in the Swan Valley, the Old Mill Theatre in South Perth and His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth.

Performances are heavily subsidised in order to make opera affordable and accessible for the community, and tickets are priced from $7.50 for members attending performances.

Ten performers have graduated from the studio since 2002, with eight moving directly into contracts with leading national and international opera houses.

Mr Schouten said while the studio was taking each year as it comes, as a training company it desperately needed special funding to ensure the studio continued to foster young talent and bring opera to the masses.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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