Year 9 student Orlando Lennon and Year 8 student William Wheeler spent the beginning of the year performing in Opera Australia’s Turandot and La Boheme, respectively. In this interview, the two choristers share what they learnt from the experience.
You’ve performed alongside some of Australia’s finest voices on one of Australia’s biggest stages – the Sydney Opera House. What was it like?
W: It’s a great experience when you’re up there. It’s funny, you think you’d be more scared when you’re on stage but the lights are so blinding, they shine up, so you can’t see anyone. It also doesn’t hit you that you’ve done a show until it’s finished and then suddenly it’s all over and you start to miss it. It’s a bitter sweet experience.
O: It’s exciting. I’ve done a few operas now. The first time I was worried but once you know what you’re doing it becomes fun. You soak up the experience and get in the mood. Also, being in front of so many people and singing with so many good singers makes it feel especially exciting.
How did you get involved with these operas?
W: I got asked to audition because I’d already done La Boheme before, this was going to be my second time, so they knew me already. I did my audition, they asked me for a call-back, and then they told me I was in.
O: It started with an online audition. After a while you receive an email saying you did or didn’t make it in. I was fortunate enough to make it in.
How busy was your schedule?
W: There were three to four rehearsals a week for four weeks leading up the show’s opening. Once the show started we were doing three shows a week for a whole month, most of them were at night.
O: They were long days and it ran for two months with two shows a week. While it’s quite tiring, you get the most out of it by living in the moment. As my parents say, it’s a once in a life time experience and I may not be in that position again so you want to really involve yourself in every moment.
What were your roles within your respective operas?
W: I was one of the street urchins in the children’s chorus, which is a lower class character who tries to make a few extra dollars by selling stale bread and off fish on the streets. In one of the acts, I had to stand on a stool and pretend to sell my goods to the audience. Later on, I acted in the marching band and we had to pretend to play instruments while we sung.
O: I was in the children’s chorus with fourteen other kids. We all played the role of angels and we would come on stage once or twice a scene. The narrative would progress and then we’d appear singing a song which summed up the story so far.
You’ve had this incredibly unique experience. What will you take away from it?
W: Discipline. You have to be professional about everything. I also learnt how to be in the moment with the song rather than being too worried about what’s happening next. If you get caught up in the next step you’ll lose focus on what you’re doing in the moment and it won’t translate to the audience as well.
O: I think respect. There are a lot of professional people and it was breathtaking seeing some of the singers perform. They’ve done hundreds of performances and so your interactions with the performers have to be respectful. I learnt the importance of honouring their achievement.