Lisa Gasteen National Opera School
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The Lisa Gasteen National Opera School is an intensive, four-week program of study for young-professional or advanced-student opera singers and repetiteurs, founded by Lisa Gasteen, Australian opera singer. It takes place in late-Spring and early-Summer in Brisbane, Queensland at venues provided by Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University. The summer school is the only one of its kind in Australia as it features a faculty of both Australian and international coaches and teachers. Endorsed by Lyndon Terracini, artistic director of Opera Australia, the school will take place annually, subject to fundraising.
Faculty and participants
The school launched in 2011 and musical faculty members included Lisa Gasteen AO, John Fisher, Giovanni Reggioli, Margaret Baker-Genovesi, Sharolyn Kimmorley AM and Jill Stoll. UK-based psychotherapist and expert on psychogenic dysphonia (voice problems due to emotional mismanagement) Phiroze Neemuchwala was amongst the members of the non-musical faculty. Faculty members have been associated with leading international and national opera companies such as the Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Teatro alla Scala, Opera Australia, Teatro la Fenice, New York City Opera, Washington National Opera, Welsh National Opera, the Théâtre de la Monnaie, De Nederlandse Opera and Opera Queensland, as well as the Rossini Opera Festival, the Bergamo Donizetti Festival, Caramoor International Music Festival, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Manhattan School of Music, Juilliard School, and both the Decca and Deutsche Grammophon classical recording labels.
Participation in the Lisa Gasteen National Opera School is open to both domestic Australian and New Zealand students. Entry is by application and audition, and places are highly competitive and limited in number. Currently, twenty places are offered to participants of all voice-types, as well as four student repetiteur positions.
Background and course of study
The school was founded in 2011 by recently retired dramatic soprano Lisa Gasteen, who wanted to use her influence as one of the world's leading Wagnerian sopranos to help music education in Australia. Gasteen's reasons for founding the opera school were manifold. She saw a need to provide an elite opera school for talented young Australian opera singers, whom she believes are increasingly looking to gain experience in Australia before moving overseas to study or work. The financial benefits of bringing experienced opera coaches to Australia to work with a group of students as opposed to sending one student overseas were also a motivation for founding the school. Lisa Gasteen came out of retirement to raise funds for the inaugural summer school, performing in a fundraising concert with renowned Australian-born international conductor Simone Young.
In its inaugural year, the school ran from Monday 21 November to Sunday 11 December. The school provides a level of education comparable to that of the best schools in the US and Europe, and great attention is paid to suitability of repertoire, style and vocal technique. Vocal and repetiteur participants undertake a variety of both individual and ensemble coaching sessions, singing lessons, group "life skills" sessions, Alexander technique workshops, public and private workshops, and public master classes and performances.
In 2011, public master classes included a workshop lecture on the life and works of Claudio Monteverdi and a workshop on recitative and the use of the appoggiatura, both given by Margaret Baker-Genovesi, prominent adjudicator and teacher, and retired opera singer. Giovanni Reggioli, Italian-born freelance conductor and coach, led a masterclass on Italian song. Public performances included an Italian song concert compered by Maestro Reggioli and a gala concert of opera scenes prepared by John Fisher.
Lisa Gasteen has discussed plans to develop the summer school into an autonomous opera school in the future, self-sustained by an endowment fund. The Queensland Conservatorium is considered an ideal location for a national opera school due to the high quality of performance venues such as the Conservatorium Theatre and the Concert Hall, as well as the ease of professional collaboration with Opera Queensland, with which the Conservatorium shares premises.
In 2012, The Lisa Gasteen National Opera School saw the return of guest coaches John Fisher, Giovanni Reggioli and Sharolyn Kimmorley and the addition of Sigfried Jerusalem and Philip Mayers to the music-teaching staff. German opera agent and advisor Manuela Kursidem was also in attendance at the school to provide first-hand advise to students wishing to sing in Europe.
In 2013, the returning faculty was joined by Australian operatic repetiteur and pianist Jennifer Marten-Smith.
In 2014, the program expanded to include a fourth week of teaching. The faculty featured returning guest coaches John Fisher, Giovanni Reggioli, Sharolyn Kimmorley and Philip Mayers, now considered core staff of the school. They were joined by world-famous bass and former colleague of Ms Gasteen, Robert Lloyd and repetiteur Richard Hetherington, a member of the permanent music staff at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Hetherington will join the core staff again in 2015, which will include a final Gala Concert featuring the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
Scholarships and prizes
The summer school provides a variety of scholarships, including four full-tuition scholarships for pianist repetiteurs, seven full and thirteen part-tuition scholarships for opera singers. In 2011 the Australian Singing Competition offered the Lisa Gasteen National Opera School Prize, a full-tuition scholarship, to one semi-finalist. In 2014 and 2015 the Australian Opera Awards Committee provided a full-tuition scholarship to one semi-finalst.
- Lisa Gasteen to shape Australian talent. Griffith University News, 17 November 2011 Archived 21 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
- Griffith University News, ibid. Archived 2012-03-21 at the Wayback Machine
- Opera career cut short, Gasteen's next role is mentor. Sydney Morning Herald, 22 July 2010
- Diva Lisa Gasteen returns for a grand dream. The Australian, 29 April 2011
- Griffith University News, ibid.
- Sydney Morning Herald, ibid.
- The Australian, ibid.
- IFAC Australian Singing Competition | Prizes & Opportunities