An interview with Emma Nightingale
24th August, 2021

An interview with Emma Nightingale

Brisbane-based soprano Emma Nightingale is currently on the road performing in both our touring schools show, The Frog Prince and La bohème. We spoke to Emma about what audiences, young and old, can expect from these fun and thought-provoking productions.

For audiences who may not be familiar with the story of Puccini’s La bohème, can you explain it in two sentences?

Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love. What could possibly go wrong!?

A little more information courtesy of Emma’s co-start, Jonathan Hickey.

We have stayed quite faithful to Pucinni for this one. Set in Melbourne during a non-descript pandemic, two best mates Marco and Rudy move from regional Queensland to Victoria to pursue a career in the arts. While struggling to pay rent, Rudy meets his neighbour Mimi and they fall madly in love. Their relationship struggles when Rudy finds out about Mimi’s health issues. He can’t stand the sight of her being unwell, so he decides to break up and move back to Queensland all while Marco is having his own relationship issues troubles and trying to forge a career in Melbourne.

The Frog Prince is a high energy show for children 12 years old and under. What is your favourite part of the show?

The Frog Prince has some really fun moments for the audience that are equally funny to perform. One of the most fun parts is when 10-year-old Juniper May and Gilbert, The Frog Prince are talking to Reagan, the amphibian with super powers that first turned Gilbert into a frog for being selfish and wasteful. Juniper is slowly getting wound up by Reagan and Gilbert teasing her as she struggles with her own selfishness and stubbornness. There are definitely some really funny moments when performing this scene that we have to concentrate on not giggling too much.

Performances of the original La bohème can run for up to 3 hours. What are the greatest differences in this condensed version for high schools?

La bohème is the most incredible opera, but it is very challenging to sing!

Our amazing music director, Luke Volker, has done an incredible job at capturing the essence of La bohème which meant retaining some of the familiar “hits” from the original score, and these are some of the more difficult parts to sing (Thanks, Luke!) An absolute highlight is the well-known love duet between Mimi and Rodolfo, which is a challenging but beautiful song. We’re lucky to have some time during the performance for a breather, a luxury singers performing the whole opera don’t often have.

What does a day one the road with Opera Queensland look like?

First, of course, coffee! We are usually on the road by 9.00am and arrive to set up by 10.00 or 11.00am depending on where the school is located.

Sometimes unpacking is tricky if the space is small, but our set is designed to be very manageable. We then pre-set our props and costumes, do a vocal and physical warm-up and start the show. We can do up to three shows back to back, so we must look after ourselves and our voices by ensuring we are warming up well and cooling down properly.

We have become very efficient at packing down the set – we’re a very good team! – so once we’ve finish a performance and had a bit of time to meet students, we sign out and it’s home time!

Why should teachers consider booking one of these performances for their school?

There is no substitute for live theatre, and especially in a world where we find ourselves spending so much time in front of screens. Introducing live performance to children and having them engaged is so important for developing minds. The Frog Prince has some very important messages about environmental consciousness woven into the story, so we are teaching them about saving the planet without them even realising!

What do you hope audiences, young and old, will take away from these productions?

One of the most amazing (and important) parts of this job is that we are introducing kids to opera in a very accessible way, and hopefully converting a few lifelong fans. I hope audiences gain an appreciation for this incredible art form, and that we might even inspire some to follow in our footsteps.

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