20th May, 2021

An interview with 2021 Young Artist Xenia Puskarz Thomas

Brisbane-based mezzo-soprano Xenia Puskarz Thomas joins Opera Queensland as one of our four 2021 Young Artists

Why do you love opera and want to make a career out of singing opera?

The stories and characters in opera delve into such profound emotions and experiences of the human condition that we can all relate to, yet ordinarily we wouldn’t articulate. Coupled with incredibly beautiful music, taking the human voice to its extreme in ranges, colours and techniques, it certainly becomes an art form that you spend your whole life learning and perfecting. I get very excited and inspired by this challenge and keep discovering more about a piece with each performance.

Also its a whole lot of fun to put on costumes, wigs and get to pretend to be someone else with their wildly different life story for the night.

Can you recall a memorable early experience you had with opera?

I began my career in opera with Opera Queensland when I was in Grade 10 at school, participating in the Moving Opera program. It was such a pivotal moment for me, I was just learning that my voice had potential for a classical sound, yet I didn’t know anything about the repertoire, nor any people my age aspiring to sing this kind of music. Being amongst kids my age with the same passion, many further along in their vocal development, and working on exciting and real operatic repertoire, it lit a fire of passion that probably was a significant reason I continued to pursue my vocal studies. Looking back on this experience it seems such a special and beautiful connection to be back now as a Young Artist with Opera Queensland, as I begin this next phase of my career.

What has been your career highlight to date?

It is so hard to just pick one! I am amazed where my singing has taken me. Certainly, highlights would be New York for Renée Fleming’s 2020 SongStudio program at Carnegie Hall, performing for the Baron Vincenzi Ciani Bassetti at Castello de Roncade in Treviso, and a few years ago, in China performing for the Australian-China International Film Festival Gala. Each experience was so unique, definitely ‘pinch-me moments’!

Do you have a dream role?

One of my dream roles is Cherubino from The Marriage of Figaro. It is one of my all time favourite operas. The story and music is so well written, with many charming, moving and profound moments. Each character is so complex, so human, and so real – they feel like real people and I always learn something new about their lives when I look at the score … I am really so chuffed that Cherubino will be my professional debut role when I perform it with Opera Queensland in July – this has always been such a dream of mine!

Is there a venue or company you aspire to perform with?

I’m very thankful to the companies that have I been fortunate to perform with. For me, the most exciting part of performing has become the experience of travelling to new places, new performance venues, and working with new people. I’d really like to be able to travel to more places to perform, I don’t mind where or which theatre. It is always so exciting to pack your bags to travel away from home for a concert.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

I listen to far too much music. I wonder if when I am sleeping is one of the few rare moments in my day that I am not listening to something! I listen to all kinds of music – instrumental, orchestral, not only classical, but modern artists too. Music is something I use not only to learn, but to energise, to wind down and to lift my spirits, and there certainly is a piece for every moment. How lucky are we that we have so much choice easily at our fingertips!

What does being an Opera Queensland Young Artist mean to you?

It was only last year I started thinking about trying for a Young Artist Program for the next phase of my career. With some education under my belt, I have been hoping to test out what I know in a supportive, professional environment. I couldn’t have been luckier to be offered a Young Artist’s position in such a nurturing environment as Opera Queensland. I am looking forward to exploring my performance capabilities and seeing how I will grow with the support of the wonderful musical mentors in this Young Artist Program.

Help secure the future of opera

Opera Queensland’s 2021 Annual Appeal will again support the Young Artist Program, among other key projects and productions that will help us achieve our purpose of growing a community connected by the transformative power of opera.

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