Reviving a Classic
Melbourne Opera are about to embark on a revival of Rossini’s notoriously challenging Otello with Marshall White’s own auctioneer, Stephen Smith in the titular role.
Melbourne Opera are about to embark on a revival of Rossini’s notoriously challenging Otello with Marshall White’s own auctioneer, Stephen Smith in the titular role. Originally written in 1816 for a company that had exceptionally fine tenors, it is a pivotal work that boldly delivered one of the earliest tragic endings in opera history. Requiring no less than six talented tenors, casting alone makes this production tough to deliver and as a result has never been performed in Australia.
At the helm of the production is director Bruce Beresford, best known for his work as a film director, Best Picture Academy Award winning Driving Miss Daisy included, as well as his track record working in opera both nationally and internationally. The opportunity to work with such an individual was a tantalising lure for Stephen, who will return to the stage for the first time in four years. To prepare for opening night, Stephen will be required to commit 200 hours to learning and singing the score in addition to 60 hours of production rehearsals.
Whilst opera and real estate careers may seem worlds apart, Stephen draws many parallels between his role in opera and as an auctioneer. ‘Auction is Australia’s favourite form of street theatre,’ he states. ‘Whether standing on the main stage at Sydney Opera House or on St Ninians Road in Brighton, the same rules apply. Stage craft is just as important at an auction because it allows me to read the emotions of the crowd and heighten the drama or instill calm by varying my voice modulation, pitch and tempo.’
“Auction is Australia’s favourite form of street theatre”.
Stephen relishes the prospect of working with Melbourne Opera again and applauds its focus on creating opportunities for local aspiring performers, something from which he benefitted early in his career. Performing lead tenor in many of Melbourne Opera’s productions equipped Stephen with the experience and skills to work with Opera Australia, topped by his performance in Baz Luhrmann’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Stephen is excited about playing the role of Otello and the allure of exploring the character’s darker side. ‘Raw jealously gets the better of him,’ Stephen says. ‘It’s a side of the human psyche that you don’t normally get to go to, plus it suits my need to be clapped every now and then.’
Otello takes to the stage October 2018, dates to be confirmed.
For more on Stephen Smith, follow the link to his profile here.
Images: Stephen’s personal collection and Jeff Busby photography