Melbourne Digital Concert Hall opens WA satellite in Government House Perth

David CusworthThe West Australian
Paul O’Neill, Naomi Johns and Tomasso Pollio.
Camera IconPaul O’Neill, Naomi Johns and Tomasso Pollio.

Perth artists take to the national stage tonight through the portal of the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall, an initiative that has been paying musicians to play online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

University of WA duo Gladys Chua (piano) and Ashley Smith (clarinet) are the first to cross the Nullarbor for the MDCH, with an hour of clarinet transcriptions at 5pm (7pm AEST) from Perth’s Government House .

The program opens with Rossini and is heavy on Puccini’s romantic operas – Che gelida manina and O soave fanciulla, from La Bohéme, and E lucevan le stelle, from Tosca – before rocking out to Mozart, von Weber and Verdi

They are followed at 6.30pm (8.30pm AEST) with an operatic recital by tenor Paul O’Neill, soprano Naomi Johns and accompanist Tomasso Pollio, navigating the Classical-Romantic era through Leoncavallo, Strauss, Cilea, Verdi, Massenet, Rossini, Debussy and Cardillo, then rounding out the night with Puccini.

Next Wednesday will see jazz singer Ali Bodycoat and pianist Adrian Galante chime in from Perth, and a Sydney program will also go online featuring tenor Andrew Goodwin and the Australian Haydn Ensemble.

The Perth “satellite” is co-ordinated by Music on the Terrace director and Musica Viva State manager, mezzo-soprano Fiona Campbell.

It’s a small world, with Musica Viva public affairs manager Adele Schonhardt in Melbourne co-directing the hub which has hired 130 artists since its launch in March and raised $100,000 for classical musicians.

While other groups have put some repertoire online, MDCH seems to be most successful at raising money.

WA Symphony Orchestra has recast itself at the WA Social Distancing Orchestra, linking musicians remotely through social media, and posting artist profiles and other material to engage the audience.

WA Opera has a Saturday night Ghost Light Opera, with one or two artists on stage at His Majesty’s, and Pollio accompanying on piano. Next week it launches a 30-minute Lullabies for Babies podcast with soprano Emma Pettemerides.

WA Ballet has also put large parts of repertoire online.

Pollio seems to be the everywhere man, also accompanying Freeze Frame Opera in Street Serenades, with artists performing on the back of a ute to an audience in their homes.

Pollio has played for all 69 street serenades since the pandemic struck, including 70th birthdays, 50th wedding anniversaries, a virtual engagement party and a Zoom to Jervis Bay.

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