Just four months after changing from mezzo to soprano, Lewis is awarded the prestigious $43,000 bursary.
After delivering a stellar performance at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s Verbrugghen Hall yesterday, Melbourne-based soprano Elizabeth Lewis, originally from Queensland, was announced as the winner of the Lady Fairfax New York Scholarship by the Opera Foundation for young Australians' panel of judges, Bradley Daley, Roxane Hislop, and Limelight columnist Guy Noble.
The $43,000 bursary will enable Lewis to study with internationally acclaimed vocal, language and movement coaches in New York to help further develop her skills as a performer and offer invaluable exposure on the world stage. Her win is even more remarkable given that Lewis made the bold decision to switch voice types earlier this year from mezzo-soprano to soprano. “My teacher Lisa Gasteen and I had been talking about it for a little while,” Lewis explains. “But when we first started to explore it about two years ago I had just been engaged as a young artists with Victorian Opera. I uprooted myself from Brisbane to move to Melbourne, and that was such a big change I felt I couldn’t uproot my voice as well, at that time.”
Lewis had reached the semi-finals of the Opera Foundation’s rigorous vetting process when she decided to complete the competition as a soprano. “It was about four days before the semi-finals when I told the Opera Foundation. They were very understanding, but I didn’t expect to get any further in the competition, so I was so excited when they told me I had made it to the final,” Lewis shares. “I suppose my voice clearly wants to go up! I’ve been a mezzo for ten years, but now I’ve made the decision to become a soprano with a view to becoming a dramatic soprano in the next ten years this success is a really great indication that I’m heading in the right direction.”
Head adjudicator of the competition Bradley Daley described Lewis’ performance at the finals as “truly outstanding,” adding, “The awards and scholarships offered by The Opera Foundation for young Australians have helped launch successful international careers for many Australian opera singers over the past 50 years. I have so much respect for each of the finalists this year, who have all worked extremely hard. Of course there can be only one winner, but I would be proud to share the stage with any of these young singers and future storytellers.”
Also announced at yesterday’s final recital were the winners of three more of the Foundation’s prestigious bursaries: the 2015 Vienna State Opera Award-winner, Melbourne-based soprano Kathryn Radcliffe, the Berlin New Music Opera Award, won this year by Sydney-based director Constantine Costi and the Dalwood Wylie American Institute of Musical Studies Award-winner, tenor Matthew Reardon from Sydney.
Since its founding by Lady Fairfax over fifty years ago in 1963, the The Opera Foundation for young Australians has awarded over $5 million in funding to support the development of Australian singing talent, with over 300 artists benefiting to date.
Brisbane Baroque: hard heads seen to weep
Written by Martin Buzacott
Published 16th April 2015, The Australian p15
Halfway through the nine-day Brisbane Baroque festival, it has become a blood sport as triumphant performances from unheralded artists have left half-hearted purveyors of the usual
schtick licking their wounds and rescuing their dignity.
Bruiser-in-chief on day four was Brisbane-trained, Melbourne-based mezzosoprano Elizabeth Lewis, who from the moment she glided onstage as Queen of Carthage in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was every inch the regal presence, commanding all she surveyed. In this semi-staged production with Erin Helyard and the Orchestra of the Antipodes once again outstanding, not even the characteristic kleptomania of the Brisbane City Hall’s rotunda — stealing one note from every three intended for the audience — could distract from a cast that rose to the challenge of having a genuine newborn star such as Lewis among them.
Sara Macliver was as beautiful as ever as Belinda, David Greco a vocal powerhouse as the cursed Aeneas, Louise Dorsman stunning as the Sorceress, and young Alexandra Oomens displayed real potential in three lesser roles. Suffice to say that during Dido’s Lament hard-bitten arts types were seen to weep.
By way of contrast, internat ional headliner Max Emanuel Cencic didn’t appear to raise much of a sweat during his recital on Sunday. Were it not for his gold showman’s jacket and an undemanding audience willing themselves to be impressed, the Croatian-born countertenor may as well have been in a recording studio.
Obscured by his music stand, his head in the score throughout, Cencic sang grand-finish-averse arias of the 18th-century German composer Johann Adolph Hasse. In a more intimate venue, this may have been one for the connoisseurs. Cencic’s sheer craft and technique were indisputable, and his lovely reading of Notte Amica from Il Cantico de Tre Fanciulli indicated why he’s a big name.
But in a large concert hall it was sometimes difficult to distinguish between his trademark rich lower tonesand aural soup. The ABC’s concert recording may reveal deeper artistic engagement than was immediately apparent in the hall.
The hits of the evening were left to local heroes the Camerata of St John’s, which not only accompanied Cencic with real sensitivity, but ripped into Telemann, Gluck and Bach classics with authority and panache. Watch this space. This ensemble is going places.
So, too, is young English organist Richard Gowers, whose first Bach recital on Tuesday rumbled the City Hall walls. Meanwhile, across the river, the estimable Latitude 37 was into its fourth hour of radical retuning,detuning and basically reinventing music in Biber’s epic, bizarre and intriguing Rosary Sonatas.
With such a buzz around the place, don’t expect the festival to return to Hobart any time soon.
Elizabeth A Lewis
Opera Fools! New staging is a 'Pirates' beauty, with some Trump jabs
FARGO—April Fools Day came a little early as the Fargo-Moorhead Opera opened a hilarious new staging of "Pirates of Penzance" Friday night, March 31, at Festival Concert Hall.
The jokes weren't on the nearly full house, but a few were on the White House, or rather just the Tweeter in Chief.
Leading up to the show, FM Opera had touted an updated staging, moving the action to a "Mad Men"-inspired mid-20th Century modern period. Those updates didn't add much as this production is performer-powered.
As the pirate apprentice, Frederic, tenor Joshua Kohl is fit for the lead role, especially in a sweet second act duet with Mabel, his love, played by the Mariane Lemieux-Wottrich. The coloratura soprano dazzled two years ago in the title role of "Daughter of the Regiment," and she was just as sparkling Friday night.
The stars were upstaged by some of the smaller roles which required more physical acting to match the vocal chores. Melissa Parks made a memorable local debut playing Ruth, the pirate maid, with comic gusto. Similarly, Elizabeth Lewis plays the boy-crazy sister Edith with so much energy that even when she's not unleashing her impressive soprano she threatens to steal the show. Recent Concordia College graduate Peter Johnson plays the Pirate King with a loose-limbed swagger and a baritone that's just as limber.
The biggest applause justly came for Peter Halverson who earned every clap in a boffo—or was it blotto?—performance as Major-General Stanley. While playing the character as a stumbling, martini-swilling blowhard, Halverson is light on his feet and on his lips with the tongue-twisting, "I am the Very Model of the Modern Major General."
Word of advice to those going to Sunday's matinee—don't bother reading the supertitles as you won't want to take your eyes off the staggering singer.
He underscored his comic timing after the number, soaking up the applause for a moment before an aside to the audience to confide—"I have the best words"—which doubled down on the laughter.
It wasn't the only jab at President Donald Trump, or the most pointed. Discussing the impending arrest of the Pirate King and his men, Kate Jackman as the Sergeant worked in a reference to Trump's alleged coziness with Russia and his penchant for early morning Tweeting. That the lines were dropped in the number, "When a Felon's not Engaged in His Employment," was not lost on the crowd, half of which howled in laughter.
Operas aren't necessarily known for bringing the laughs, but this staging is a "Pirates" beauty.
FARGO—An opera centered around an 1899 gala may sound a bit stuffy, but the Fargo Moorhead Opera's performance of "Die Fledermaus" takes the stuffing out of the upper class and opera itself.
The season-opening production plays for—and delivers—laughs in a thoroughly enjoyable staging at North Dakota State University's Festival Concert Hall.
Nearly 150 years after its debut, Johann Strauss Jr.'s operetta remains a standard despite a lack of a great aria or many pieces known outside the opera world. What makes the FM Opera performance so thrilling is not so much the songs, but the playful spirit of the performers. Each singer seems to tap into the festive setting and shares the good humor with not only everyone on stage, but everyone in the crowd.
The story follows the conniving plot of Dr. Falke, seeking revenge on his old friend Eisenstein, who humiliated Falke years ago, leaving him with the nickname die fledermaus (the bat). Though Eisenstein has just been sentenced to prison, Falke convinces him to enjoy one last night of hedonistic freedom at a masquerade ball. He likewise convinces Eisenstein's wife, Rosalinda, and the couple's chambermaid, Adele, to attend without Eisenstein's knowledge, in an attempt to unravel the seemingly happy household.
Quade Winter's English adaptation gives the work an update contemporary audiences will enjoy with splashes of pop culture references. What unfolds is a madcap comedy that defies common sense, but in the hand of skilled actors and singers, you'll allow yourself to get swept up in the silliness.
Elizabeth Lewis plays Rosalinda with delicious suspicion. She gleefully toys with her husband after seeing him hit on his masked maid. Disguised herself, Rosalinda turns her drunken husband into a fool, convincing him she's a Hungarian countess with a song of her homeland. Lewis' soprano is powerful and so is her stage presence. She is as beguiling as she is imposing when she finally confronts her philandering husband.
As Eisenstein, Christopher Burchett has perhaps the most fun of them all, often playing the playboy as sit-com slapstick. It's a far cry from the serious roles he played the last time we saw him here, with the Poe project a few years ago.
Julia Lamon's return is also warmly welcomed as Adele, playing the maid as a flirty, silly girl, and delivering her "Laughing Song" with glee.
Likewise Katelyn Jackman chews up the scenery in the trouser role of the randy and rowdy Prince Orlovsky, the host with the most. Jackman pours her lines on in a heavy Russian accent and sings in the same, making the lyrics—though sung in English—almost indecipherable. This could be distracting if the mezzo-soprano's voice wasn't so beautiful. You need not understand what she's saying to appreciate how she sounds.
Colin Levin's baritone is wonderfully suited for the conniving Falke and his bat dances and conducting of the orchestra were just as smooth. Similarly, Nicholas DeMeo's suave tenor is a natural for Alfred, who woos Rosalinda with his singing.
As the jailer Frosch, Frederic Heringes, has no solos, but his comic delivery fires up the third act with jokes about shooting the tenor, the orchestra and speaking directly to the crowd.
Lewis, Jackman, Levin and DeMeo are all graduates of the FM Opera's Young Artists Program, and their performances prove the residency is paying off. They and the other singers will each have juicier roles in their career, but under Eric Gibson's direction they all deliver winning performances in a fun production that will have you wanting to raise a glass.