Sydney Opera House

Queen of the Night has a thing for teacups...

The Operative Word with Emma Pearson

Why do you do the job that you do? Because people ask me to, because it suits my skills and because you only live once.

Who has influenced you most professionally? Renée Fleming, Barbara Bonney, Gregory Yurisich, Chris Doig and Lisa Gasteen. Dame Joan Sutherland’s recordings inspire me to be a better singer. Dame Maggie Smith inspires me to be a better actor.

Is there any other profession that you would have liked to have followed? I might’ve enjoyed being a graphic designer – at 15 I spent my work experience in the design department of a West Australian newspaper. I am really passionate about my current job though.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? A bonfire on a clear night, with a full glass of a West-Australian Cab Merlot in hand, (preferably Amberley Estate), with family making music and reciting favourite Banjo Paterson poems together. 

If you could have dinner with a historical figure, who would it be? Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Anne Boleyn, Pauline de Ahna (Mrs Richard Strauss), George Sand.

What is your greatest extravagance? Teacups.

One thing you regret is…Turning too quickly, slipping and face-planting the stage in my debut performance for Opera Australia!

If you could have any opera character as a friend, who would it be, and why? Maybe Donna Elvira from Mozart’s Don Giovanni. I’ve been in a production where she rides a horse, carries a shotgun and bullet belt and hunts down Don Giovanni to avenge all the broken women he leaves in his wake. And I love hearing “Mi tradi”, so she could sing that to her heart’s content around me!

Who or what is the love of your life? Wade Kernot, my husband.

What are you optimistic about? Our future! (Cheesy but true!)

You would like to devote more time too…Correcting my German grammar.

What is your favourite food? Pumpkin Gnocchi.

What is your most treasured possession? Apart from my wedding ring, my golden locket and tea cups from Le Nôtre in Paris. And Peggy Guggenheim’s autobiography: she shared so much with her reader, when you hold her entire, fascinating life story in your hands, it feels as though she comes to life again. To me a solid book will always be more enjoyable than its electronic version.

Which is the opera that got you hooked? Deborah Warner’s Covent Garden production of The Turn of the Screw. We sat right at the front and it was bone-chilling. I was also deeply moved by Joan Rodgers as the Governess.

Which opera do you never need to hear again? Lolita! Rodion Shchedrin is a wonderful composer, but I am glad to be able to put that role away in the archives.

If there’s one quote that really speaks to you it’s…“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, it's a habit.” Aristotle said that. It both scares and motivates me.

What is your idea of misery? Being stuck between a rock and a hard place with no foreseeable end in sight.

You still hope to…play Miss Marple in a remake of Agatha Christie’s detective series when I’m 70.

Which characteristics do you most admire in others? Abstract memory, rational thinking, musicality, dancers, singers and actors who can engage you with flawless arcs of movement and phrasing.

You feel guilty when you think about….“the things I have left undone”, i.e. unhappy people who I can’t or haven’t helped.

What type of holiday do you most enjoy? Anything involving an ocean and my other half.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? To have curly hair.

Who is your favourite band? Pearl Jam. But also a big Laura Marling fan.

You spend too much money on…my hair.

Your greatest achievement has been..I’m quite proud of having been nominated for Singer of the Year by Opernwelt Magazine after singing Alban Berg’s Lulu (all 3 acts) when I was 28. I lost to Jonas Kaufmann.

The book everyone loved but you could not finish was....I never finished my Harry Potters, to my sister’s great dismay. Also, I found Wuthering Heights so frightening I didn’t even get halfway.

What is your favourite kitchen appliance? I guess it’s the rolling pin. It reminds me of Sweeney Todd. And cherry pie.

How do you stay up to date with new technology and trends? Twitter. I follow the Cool Hunter and Pinterest and other interesting people.

Who is your favourite heart throb? My handsome hubby of course. Although I suppose I do tend to enjoy any film with James McAvoy in it!