In Conversation with Lyndon Terracini

Listen to revealing conversations, surprise stories, and lots of laughs as our former Artistic Director talks to some of opera’s most fascinating figures.

In Conversation with Lyndon Terracini is our podcast interview series featuring the extraordinary talents of Opera Australia — both onstage and off. Each episode features a special guest talking about how they came to work in the world of opera, and telling fabulous behind-the-scenes stories. Our guests include singers, conductors, musicians, composers, directors, designers, technical experts and more.

These conversations were originally filmed for a video series of the same name, which began in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, when we were forced off stage.

New episodes are released every Monday and can be found on your favourite podcast apps.

Listen to In Conversation with Lyndon Terracini on:

Episode 1: Graeme Macfarlane

There are few singers who have achieved the same career longevity as Graeme Macfarlane. For 47 years, he’s been singing tenor roles from across a broad repertoire, and is still going strong. In this interview, Graeme discusses making his Opera Australia debut in 1973 in War and Peace, our first production at the Sydney Opera House, and the changes he's seen over almost five decades as an opera singer.

Episode 2: Jun Yi Ma

The Opera Australia Orchestra is the busiest of all Australian orchestras. This extraordinary group of musicians is led by Concertmaster and Orchestra Director Jun Yi Ma. In this conversation, Jun shares stories from his life and career, starting with his days as a young violin prodigy.

Episode 3: Elena Kats-Chernin

Elena Kats-Chernin is one of Australia’s most successful and prolific composers, working across opera, concert music, ballet and film. She even composed our first opera for television, The Divorce, which aired on ABC TV across four episodes in 2015. Most recently, she won rave reviews for the score of Whiteley, our 2019 opera about the life and work of Australian painter Brett Whiteley.

Episode 4: Diego Torre

Born in Mexico City, Diego Torre has been a leading tenor for Opera Australia since he made his Sydney Opera House debut as Rodolfo in La Bohème in 2011. Diego’s most celebrated roles include Radames (Aida), Turiddu (Cavalleria Rusticana), Canio (Pagliacci), Calaf (Turandot), and Cavaradossi (Tosca).

Episode 5: Brian Thomson

For five decades, Brian Thomson has been one of Australia’s most influential designers. He started his career in close collaboration with the director Jim Sharman and created designs for three of the biggest rock musicals of all time: Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair and The Rocky Horror Show. In the years since, he’s had an extraordinarily varied career, working on projects ranging from small-scale indie theatre to the biggest live performance events in the world, including the Sydney Olympics Closing Ceremony and several years of Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour.

Episode 6: Natalie Aroyan

Armenian-Australian singer Natalie Aroyan is one of the country’s leading sopranos, having taken on some of the biggest roles in the opera repertoire. But it wasn’t always her dream to be an opera star – instead, she had singers like Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Tina Arena in her sights. In this fascinating conversation, Natalie reveals her journey from budding pop singer to centre stage at the Sydney Opera House. She talks about making her professional debut as Mimì in La Bohème, tackling the enormous demands of the title role in Aida, and learning her craft from opera world royalty.

Episode 7: Chen Shi-Zheng

Chen Shi-Zheng is a visionary in the truest sense of the term. The Chinese-born director is known around the world for the extraordinary universes he brings to the stage in his deeply moving productions. In this conversation, Chen reveals the life experiences that have influenced his unique perspective as a director. Starting with his turbulent childhood in China, Chen explains how he went from studying to be a Chinese opera singer to creating his own productions on the world stage. He also talks about his landmark production of the 22-hour Chinese epic The Peony Pavilion, and how it led him to direct Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

Episode 8: Anson Austin

From 1970 until 2004, Anson Austin was one of our audience’s favourite singers. He tackled some 50 leading roles in his 34 years at Opera Australia and partnered with singers such as Dame Joan Sutherland and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa in everything from Puccini to Mozart and contemporary opera. Known for his effortless upper register, extraordinary versatility and professionalism, Anson has remained an essential part of our company since his retirement as a singer.

Episode 9: Julie Lea Goodwin

Australian soprano Julie Lea Goodwin has been one of our busiest singers since she joined Opera Australia in 2015. Last year alone, she performed an extraordinary range of roles: Maria in West Side Story on Sydney Harbour, Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, Musetta in La Bohème, Madame Cortese in Il Viaggio a Reims, and Wendy Whiteley in Whiteley. In this interview, Julie Lea talks about handling such diverse repertoire, making her way to opera via musical theatre, and what attracts her to certain roles. She also offers a special preview of The Merry Widow, which she'll be starring in at the Sydney Opera House in January 2021.

Episode 10: Eleanor Lyons

Australian soprano Eleanor Lyons has an extraordinary career, which has taken her all over Europe and further abroad. Most recently, she’s performed as soloist in Verdi’s Requiem and Britten’s War Requiem with Philippe Herreweghe and the Antwerp Symphony; at the Grafenegg Festival, and with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice as soloist at their New Year’s Eve Gala with Australian conductor Matthew Coorey. In 2020, Lyons made her Opera Australia debut as Donna Anna in our production of Don Giovanni.

Episode 11: Vladimir Fanshil

Since completing his masters of operatic and symphonic conducting at the St Petersburg Conservatoire in 2012, Australian conductor Vladimir Fanshil has built a richly varied career with some fantastic orchestras, including the Budapest Festival Orchestra, Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, Odessa National Philharmonic and the State Hermitage Orchestra. In this interview, Fanshil talks about swapping the warm beaches of Bondi for the bitterly cold St Petersburg winter, studying with tough teachers in Russia, and the intersection of art, literature, poetry and music. He also talks about the differences in music culture between countries, and being based in Vienna.

Episode 12: Tahu Matheson

Tahu Matheson has been with Opera Australia since 2007, and in 2017 became our Head of Music. In his time on our music staff, he’s taken on a diverse workload across a wide range of operas, overseeing rehearsals, preparing singers and conducting performances. In this interview, Matheson looks back to his early encounters with music and theatre, and explains how he came to be working in the world of opera. The interview ends with a special performance.

Episode 13: Stacey Alleaume

Australian-Mauritian soprano Stacey Alleaume is one of our busiest singers, with an ever-growing list of leading roles to her name. She was rehearsing to star as Violetta in our production of La Traviata on Sydney Harbour when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the season. In this interview, Stacey talks about her very musical upbringing, the opera traditions in Mauritius, and her recent experiences playing Gilda in Rigoletto at the prestigious Bregenz Festival in Austria. She also reveals what she’s been getting up to while in isolation, and performs a beautiful song by the Mauritian-born composer Francis Thomé.

Episode 14: Alexander Lewis

Alexander Lewis is currently rehearsing for our production of The Merry Widow, returning as Count Danilo after originating the role in this production to great acclaim in 2017. The Australian tenor, known both for his performances in opera and musical theatre, has performed in some of the world’s most prestigious opera houses, including The Royal Opera House Covent Garden, The Metropolitan Opera and Komische Oper Berlin. In this interview, Lewis talks about growing up with Australian operatic royalty, returning to rehearsals after an eight-month break, and finding his own way into the world of music.

Episode 15: Gale Edwards

Gale Edwards has had the sort of career most stage directors dream of. For more than three decades, she's been one of Australia's most influential theatre-makers, having worked across all variety of performances; from large-scale operatic spectaculars, including our Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour productions of Carmen and Aida, to the most intimate of plays.

Episode 16: Paul Fitzsimon

Paul Fitzsimon has been with Opera Australia since 2013, fulfilling a variety of roles including conductor and répétiteur. He’s currently our Chorus Master, responsible for ensuring that the glorious chorus you see and hear on our stages is prepared for any task. He’s also conducted performances for us, including Metamorphosis and The Merry Widow.

Episode 17: Clif Bothwell

Technical director Clif Bothwell is responsible for bringing all of our large-scale productions to the stage and ensuring they run smoothly at every performance. His job is to oversee the teams who make the seemingly impossible possible every night.

Episode 18: Emma Matthews, Jonathan Summers and Brian Castles-Onion

In 2012, we set off on an adventure of operatic proportions: Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour. Conductor Brian Castles-Onion and singers Emma Matthews and Jonathan Summer share their experiences in this conversation.

Episode 19: Shanul Sharma

Long before Shanul Sharma fell in love with opera, he was headbanging to Def Leppard, Iron Maiden and Metallica.

Episode 20: John Frost

You may not know John Frost, but if you’re a musical theatre fan living in Australia, there’s a good chance he’s been responsible for some of your favourite nights out.

Episode 21: Anna-Louise Cole

In this interview with former Opera Australia Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini, she explains how she fell in love with music as a young Melburnian, and the path she took as a musician, choosing her voice over the cello, and preparing to sing Wagner.

Episode 22: Constantine Costi

Costi talks about growing up working in the family business, De Costi Seafood, and how he’s still on call to work at peak times. He also talks about some of his early adventures in opera — including a production of Il Tabarro staged in a commercial kitchen in Enmore — and explains why directors are “glorified stage mums”.

Episode 23: Tony David Cray

Creating a perfect sound design for any musical event is no easy feat. But what about when it’s an enormous outdoor performance for 3,000 spectators, with a full orchestra, a huge cast of singers, a pop-up grandstand and all sorts of natural sound to compete with? This was the challenge facing sound designer extraordinaire Tony David Cray when he joined the team for Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour.

Episode 24: John Pringle Cray

In this interview with former Opera Australia Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini, John talks about his favourite roles, how to be a great actor for the operatic stage, and all he learned from the great singers he performed alongside, including most prominently Tito Gobbi.

Episode 25: Kelley Abbey

Kelley Abbey creates dance that's eclectic, highly stylised, beautiful and extraordinarily energetic. The choreographer, actor and dancer has been working since the 1980s, when she got her start in the Australian Youth Ballet company. In this interview with former Artistic Director, Lyndon Terracini, Abbey reflects on the "glorious mistakes" that have been key to her career and explains her creative process.

Episode 26: Rebecca Ritchie

In this interview with former Artistic Director, Lyndon Terracini, Rebecca talks about how her team work with costume designers, the international search for costume talent, and the art of wig-making.

Episode 27: Hon. Anna Bligh AC

In this interview, Bligh talks about what’s required for a government to commit to supporting the arts, building Brisbane’s ambitious Gallery of Modern Art, and bringing both Mikhail Gorbachev and the Paris Opera Ballet to Queensland.

Episode 28: Michael Cassel AC

Since launching his own company less than a decade ago, Michael Cassel has become one of Australia’s most influential and visionary theatre producers. The Michael Cassel Group has been responsible for award-winning local productions such as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Kinky Boots, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and Les Misérables. Cassel is currently gearing up for the Australian premiere of Broadway juggernaut Hamilton, the most celebrated musical of the last decade.

Episode 29: Andy Morton

UK-born director Andy Morton has worked with us since 2013, when he assisted Gale Edwards on her celebrated production of La Bohème. Since then, he's been revival and assistant director on many of our most popular productions and in 2018 created a new production of La Bohème for Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour.

Episode 30: Gary Alcorm

If you don’t work in the theatre, stage management can be a bit of a mysterious art. Garry Alcorn is one of our stage managers at Opera Australia, responsible for ensuring that our performances go off without a hitch. He’s responsible for calling hundreds of cues every night, for lighting, sets, sound, cast and much more.

Episode 31: Nick Jones

Nick talks about learning his craft on our regional tour, perfecting the art of the good bow, and the differences between performing in long-running musicals and opera.

Episode 32: Phillip Quast

Philip talks about juggling Les Misérables, Play School and home renovations, and why a team of actors and creative talents are more like an NRL team than you might imagine. He recalls some pivotal performances and explains why a “warm down” might be even more important for a singer than a “warm up”.

Episode 33: Chen Shi-Zheng

Chen Shi-Zheng is a visionary in the truest sense of the term. The Chinese-born director is known around the world for the extraordinary universes he brings to the stage in his deeply moving productions. Later this year, Chen will become the first Chinese director to ever take on the Ring Cycle. In this conversation, he shares his vision for the production and the eclectic influences he’s drawing on to create a surprising new experience for audiences.

Episode 34: Renato Palumbo

In 2021, Palumbo conducted our production of Ernani. In this conversation with former Artistic Director, Lyndon Terracini, Palumbo talks about tackling Verdi’s breakthrough opera for a contemporary audience, and what he learns from conducting Verdi every day. He also talks about his extraordinary debut and what drew him to music in the first place.

Episode 35: Andrea Malino

Molino talks about how his work as a conductor and composer intersects, reflects on his large-scale projects, and explains why he's excited to join our production of Bluebeard's Castle.

Episode 36: John Rayment

John talks about the enormous technical challenges of the Sydney 2000 Olympics ceremonies, as well as creating Hong Kong: A Symphony of Lights, the world’s largest permanent light show. He also talks about his plans for Bluebeard’s Castle and the Ring Cycle.

Episode 37: Bronwyn Bishop

When Bishop was growing up, her mother was a dramatic operatic soprano, who taught her how to sing. Bishop recalls that she made her professional singing debut at the age of eight and has even performed a few duets with former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Episode 38: Paul Fletcher

Minister Fletcher reflects on Australia’s artistic spirit, the rationales for funding the arts, how technology can make the arts more accessible to more Australians, and how the arts intersects with other areas of his portfolio: communications, urban infrastructures and cities.

Episode 39: Simon Mordant

An investment banker by trade, Mordant has served on the boards of many of the country’s major arts companies and has been key to the success of Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art. He has had a 30-year association with the museum, and provided essential support for the expansion and redevelopment which as seen it become the most-visited contemporary art museum in the world.