The State of Opera

29 Mar 2016

Churchill Fellow David Barnard


David Barnard was awarded the Mr and Mrs Gerald Frank New Churchill Fellowship to undertake professional development as a Head of Music and Opera Répétiteur. 

Recently returned from a memorable seven week European sojourn, which included the cities of Paris, Berlin, Venice, Milan and Florence, 2015 50th Anniversary Churchill Fellow, David Barnard, returns to Australia full of inspiration and an enriched perspective to infiltrate the opera industry around Australia. 

David was awarded the Mr and Mrs Gerald Frank New Churchill Fellowship to undertake professional development as a Head of Music and Opera Répétiteur.

David observed first hand, some of the finest vocal teaching, repertoire coaching, conducting, orchestral playing and of course, singing, from the very pinnacle of the European opera world. 

He has met with leaders and directors of the industry who have shared their insights on how the success of opera, and in particular the training of talent, can be achieved. 

This has naturally had a major impact on David’s vision for opera in Australia and what he needs to do to ensure that the singers and music staff, in which he is in regular contact with, are given a clear understanding of where they are at, where they should be and most of all, creating opportunities for David to pass on of this fresh information directly.

"There’s a lot I am embarrassed about and take on board personally when I talk to opera industry leaders in Germany, France and Italy,” David said. 

"Australia is still not truly on the opera radar internationally and is regarded by many as third rate, which is devastating to me, considering all the other industries for which we excel in and have proven international leadership of.

"This poor reputation is also reflected, so they say, in the way Australian opera companies are managed and their small, dull annual output.

“Australia is also a country that doesn’t afford a great deal of fine tuning opportunities for our singers, conductors and répétiteurs to take them to that next level – many artists leave to gain their much needed skills and experience abroad and never return.

"I’d like to help change this – I’d like to influence the change, for this and future generations of the opera profession, so that they are given the best opportunities here in Australia without the need to live abroad long-term to learn their craft and share their talent. 

"I’d like to challenge the state opera companies in their role to bring opera to many more people state-wide and challenge them in their training and development of home grown talent.

“These opera companies hold the key to the success of opera regaining its rightful place as a more accepted regular event in our society and will also give the much needed opportunity of jobs for many highly skilled individuals behind the scenes, as well as the artists on stage. 

"These companies should not be led by limited individuals who wish to create a platform for their own discipline, nor should they be governed by a board which allows this to happen. It is not accepted in the cities I visited, so why does it continue to happen in Australia?" he said.

David is presently working on an extensive report in which he will shed light on what he saw, discussed and of course, learnt. This document will offer insights for the whole opera industry in Australia, particularly those in charge of the opportunities that so many of the artists in Australia need to be given. 

The report will be publically available to read from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust’s website from late April.

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