Opera has long been an art form of ‘high culture.’ There was a prestige and air about going to the Opera that only some could afford, and many missed out on. But now, in a post-COVID 2021, Peter Coleman-Wright AO is reinvigorating the game with Pocket Operas – hour long condensed versions of the classics we all know and love, featuring some of Australia’s newest up and coming Operatic talents from Pacific Opera.
Peter and the students will be joining forces with Willoughby Symphony Orchestra this weekend to stage their first Pocket Opera, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. A tale of comic mayhem, Peter’s adaptation of Figaro has been recontextualised to a 1920s era to hone in on the class divide of the piece.
“Opera was the social media of for hundreds of years. It was where everybody went to be seen and to be a part of. And I just want people to realise it’s great music with these stories.” commented Peter. “And they’re still relevant, even written hundreds of years ago, some of them are fantastic. The Marriage of Figaro, it’s a fantastic opera. It’s got an amazing story that is just as relevant whenever you do it. I think younger people would love the fact that it’s that it’s the working class taking on the aristocracy. You have this Count that feels that he can just have whatever he wants, whenever he wants it. You’ve got the double standards and hypocrisy.”
Condensing huge Operas into short one-act performances is no easy feat. The Marriage of Figaro traditionally has a run time of close to 3 hours, but Peter has cut it down to about an hour. “Oh, yes, that was tricky. Obviously in theatre there are always big parts and small parts, but I always try to make sure that everybody got a fair crack. They are quite long and quite dense with lots of stories and obviously beautiful Arias. But I think this is a really good almost… gateway into Opera for people who may not usually go and see it.”
Peter is the Guest Artistic Director at Pacific Opera, a program for young singers to hone in their Operatic skills and work alongside industry professionals, whilst also breaking down the ‘elite’ stigma around the art form. He has worked tirelessly to ensure that each student has a role which suits them best in the show, allowing them the experience of performing while considering COVID-safe standards. Peter commented that the students at Pacific Opera are some of the most driven and exciting new talents he’s seen – “You’ve got to have passion to go into the business. You’ve got to have a lot of passion. You know, I think they realise what’s needed.”
Of course, there is some doubt that comes with adapting an Opera, especially when it’s condensed significantly. But Peter has just a few words for the skeptics:
I would say leave all your worries behind you, come and watch the the young fantastic singers of tomorrow. The music is the most passionate, vibrant, exciting, thrilling, and it will take you away from everything.
Pocket Opera’s The Marriage Of Figaro will be performed for two shows on Saturday 27th March at The Concourse, Chatswood.