OperaBox deliver Massenet’s ‘Manon’

Local opera company OperaBox are delivering a short season of the French opera Manon. 

First performed in 1884, the work is the best known piece by romantic composer Jules Massenet. It tells the story of a young woman Manon Lescaut who is caught between two potential suitors, a conundrum that forces her to choose between her heart and her love of high society.

Since 2011, OperaBox have created new productions of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Puccini’s La Boheme, Verdi’s Rigoletto, Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretel, Donizetti’s Anna Bolena and  Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos. The company goes from strength to strength staging more sophisticated productions each year.

For Michael Heap, a well known member of the Perth LGBTIQ+ community, and Bears Perth, the company has allowed him to pursue his love of singing.

In the production Heap take son the role of Le Comte des Grieux, the father of the male lead.

“I started singing quite late compared to many,” Heap told OUTinPerth over a coffee at his Maylands home.

“I was twenty six, twenty seven, when I started. I was living in Melbourne at the time and I met a woman named Lois Simon and began training with her, and continued on.”

Heap said he became obsessed with singing very quickly.

“I would pay my rent, then I’d pay for my singing lessons, then I’d work out what I had left for eating after that.”

Prior to this Heap had only sung on a few occasions, noting a high school production of Joseph and His Technicolour Dreamcoat,  and a few competitions at Perth gay venue The Red Lion. 

For seventeen years Heap performed in the chorus of the WA Opera and through groups like the WA Gilbert and Sullivan Society and Lost and Found Opera he’s been given the chance to explore bigger roles.

Heap said he’d enjoyed watching OperaBox grow, recalling that their first rehearsals were in a tiny room, and now they are staging full scale operas with elaborate sets and costuming.

“We began with Cosi fan tutte, and that was very much an abridged version, and now it’s full scale  operas with an orchestra, with costume designers, directors, we have this full team, a full creative team, a full administration team and a board.”

For people who have never been to an opera before,Heap recommends that you have a listen to some of the highlights of the piece before you attend so you can be familiar with the music and have a read through the synopsis so you’re familiar with the story line.

Unlike other theatrical undertakings, Heap notes that each opera is something that people often go and see multiple times.

“It’s not unusual for someone to have seen four different sopranos having performed a piece, and that’s a good thing, it has a culture, but it also needs to grow.”

With most major opera companies focusing on the classics the growth of newer and smaller companies like OperaBox gives opera lovers a chance to see some lesser known works. Heap encourages people who’ve never experienced an opera to give it a go, arguing that the art form delivers on many different levels.

“The experience is one that enrich way beyond anything else.” Heap said noting the combination of the work of the orchestra, the singers – who also have to act – and the staging and costuming team.

The production is having three full performances and a concert performance. 1st, 5th, 7th September 2017, 7.30pm, Marist Auditorium, Newman College, 216 Empire Avenue, Churchlands, WA.

The Concert Performance is at Darlington Hall, Darlington, WA on 3rd September 2017, 7.30pm. Find out all the details from their website

Graeme Watson

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