History


History

A Brief History...

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In 1992, a handful of dedicated people with a passion for Opera – Michele Nott, Michael G. Connolly, Karen Lewer and Mary-Attracta Connolly - worked together to present an Opera Gala Event ‘par excellence’ in the exotically beautiful & remote North-West town of Broome in Western Australia.  1993 saw Michele Nott’s ‘dream’ come to fruition with Opera being presented for the very first time above the 26th Parallel in Western Australia.  The event, starring Mary-Attracta Connolly (Soprano) & Fergus H. Anderson (Baritone), was to be the first of many successes.  

Since its inception many stars of national & international Opera have performed at OPERA UNDER THE STARS® including Joshua Bloom, Phoebe Briggs, Louise Callinan, Janice Chapman, James Clayton, Brad Cohen, Aivale Cole, Ding Yi, Aldo Di Toro, Rachelle Durkin, James Egglestone, Shannon Foley, Antoinette Halloran, Roxane Hislop, Kate Johnson, Andrew Jones, Leanne Kenneally, Simon Kenway, Wade Kernot, Hyeseoung Kwon, Rosario La Spina, Michael Lewis, Judit Lorincz, Emma Matthews, Kathryn McCusker, David McSkimming, Milijana Nikolic, Emma Pearson, Andrew Schroeder, Dimity Shepherd, Tiffany Speight, Stuart Skelton, Katherine Tier, Katja Webb, Angus Wood, John Bolton Wood & David Wickham. Local Broome musicians including Guy Ghouse, Mick Manolis and Steve Pigram have also featured on the OPERA UNDER THE STARS® stage.

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Renowned for its star performers, sublime venue and spine-tingling pleasure value this unique must experience event is now celebrated as the highlight of the Kimberley Cultural Events Calendar. 

Audiences over the years have enjoyed music programmes that have included an eclectic mix of some of Opera’s most loved favourites, as well as other less performed gems that have provided heady delights for opera lovers and opera novices alike. 

Highlights include the Special Guest performance by Janice Chapman in 1994; performances of local songs by Broome artists Steve Pigram and Mick Manolis with baritone Fergus Anderson in 1995; excerpts from Carmen in 1996 with Jolanta Nagajek , Mary-Attracta Connolly (Soprano & Director of OPERA UNDER THE STARS®), Yu Jixing & Kerry Henderson; Highlights from La Bohème in 1998 featuring Kathryn McCusker & Adrian McEniery; The Three Chinese Tenors in 1999 with Special Guest Artist, Mary-Attracta Connolly; the Australian debut of American baritone Andrew Schroeder with Tiffany Speight & Daniella Erhlich in 2000; the exuberant performances of Natalie Jones, Lisa Russell and Dimity Shepherd with Simon Kenway in 2001; the terrific 2003 trio of Kirsti Harms, Ding Yi & Joshua Bloom together with Phoebe Briggs;  the sublime quartet of Leanne Kenneally, Catherine Carby, Angus Wood & Shannon Foley with Stephen Mould in 2004; the highly entertaining ensemble of Rachelle Durkin, Mary-Attracta Connolly, Dimity Shepherd, Aldo Di Toro and Tommaso Pollio in 2005 and, in 2006, the outstanding performances of Emma Matthews, Roxane Hislop, Aldo Di Toro, John Bolton Wood and Phoebe Briggs.

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In 2002 OPERA UNDER THE STARS® celebrated its 10th Anniversary with a spectacular Gala Performance starring Jennifer Barnes, Jacqueline Dark, Stuart Skelton, Douglas McNicol and Francis Greep, together with Special Guest Artists Janice Chapman and Mary-Attracta Connolly. A scintillating programme of music featuring highlights from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, with a plot change to incorporate Broome’s Japanese heritage, ensured sheer, magical delight and a celebration to relish & remember.

OPERA UNDER THE STARS® was presented at the Mangrove Resort Hotel from 1993 - 2006.  Michele Nott and Karen Lewer left the group of organisers following the 1996 and 2005 performances respectively.

 

In 2007 OPERA UNDER THE STARS® entered an exciting new epoch with its inaugural presentation at the stunning Cable Beach Amphitheatre situated adjacent to the sparkling waters of Broome’s picturesque Cable Beach.  Famous for its fiery sunsets, the Cable Beach skyline provided a breath-taking backdrop to OPERA UNDER THE STARS® 2007.  The proximity to Cable Beach also added a special ‘saltwater’ sense of place to the 15th Annual Award Winning OPERA UNDER THE STARS® Gala.  Audience members from around Australia revelled in a thrilling night of Opera entertainment performed with wondrous panache by Sarah Crane, Louise Callinan, James Egglestone, Shaun Brown and David McSkimming.   

In 2008 OPERA UNDER THE STARS® made a spectacular return to the Cable Beach Amphitheatre with its presentation of a fireworks night of entertainment featuring international artists Aivale Cole, Judit Lorincz, Bradley Daley, Douglas McNicol and Francis Greep.   Subsequently, in 2009, OPERA UNDER THE STARS® was thrilled to present the Broome debut of acclaimed Australian baritone, Michael Lewis, together with Aivale Cole, Katja Webb, Katherine Tier and David Wickham in a breathtaking programme of music that especially featured music by the great Italian master, Verdi.  In 2010, OPERA UNDER THE STARS® featured the exquisite Antoinette Halloran, Aldo Di Toro, Stuart Skelton, James Clayton and Kate Johnson and was a night of immense pleasure and entertainment.  OPERA UNDER THE STARS® 2011 featured Emma Pearson, Milijana Nikolic, Roberto Abate, Wade Kernot and Francis Greep who enthralled with their dazzling performances.  2011 also saw OPERA UNDER THE STARS® Director and soprano, Mary-Attracta Connolly, make a highly entertaining cameo appearance with a pronounced sense of fun in a duet with bass, Wade Kernot.

In 2012, OPERA UNDER THE STARS® celebrated its 20th Anniversary in sensational style starring Rachelle Durkin, the West Australian Opera Chorus – appearing courtesy of West Australian Opera and the Department of Regional Development and Lands in its first live regional performance – Maestro Brad Cohen and Tommaso Pollio.  With 35 Artists on stage a stunningly beautiful night of Opera entertainment had the audience enraptured and was the perfect 20th Anniversary Celebration for this much-loved event.  OPERA UNDER THE STARS® 2013 featured an evening of sublime music starring the mesmerising international cast of Hyeseoung Kwon, Milijana Nikolic, Rosario la Spina, Andrew Jones and Kate Golla.

With its open air event currently in hiatus (all enquiries regarding sponsorship to Mary-Attracta Connolly at operamac@westnet.com.au), in 2014 OPERA UNDER THE STARS®, in conjunction with Red Shift Productions, presented the fabulously entertaining, duelling diva duo 'Divalicious', at the wonderfully versatile Broome Convention Centre Chinatown.



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With the goal of enhancing its already strong community focus, in 2004 OPERA UNDER THE STARS® initiated the annual ‘Oper-Arte’ Art Exhibition and Auction ~ the Art Exhibition with a difference that makes a difference ~ designed to provide a forum for the intermingling of the worlds of Opera and Visual Art the total proceeds of the ‘Oper-Arte’ Auction have been used each year to provide increased access to musical instruments / materials for the children of Broome and the West Kimberley via donations to the 6 schools of Broome, the 3 schools of the Dampier Peninsula and La Grange Remote Community School at Bidyadanga.

OPERA UNDER THE STARS presented its 10th Anniversary 'Oper-Arte' Art Exhibition & Auction in 2013 featuring a retrospective of works from multi award winning artist, Mark Norval, whose incomparable art is as inspriing as it is breath-taking and which was on show at the Broome Convention Centre Chinatwon from Friday 30th August to Sunday 8th September.  The 'Oper-Arte' 2013 Auction of the Mark Norval original, 'Contemplation', was a very unique event with the final bid coming from an ecstatic Chris & Marie of Perth, subsequently two anonymous donations were received adding to the total on the night, then a further two anonymous donations, one from a Sydney based visitor to Broome who had attended the opening of 'Oper-Arte' 2013 and was inspired by its vision to make a contribution, were added the next day bringing the overall grand total for the auction to the fabulous figure of $8,500.00.  This auction result was a truly wonderful display of community spirit and collaboration that epitomised the essence of the 'Oper-Arte' Auction and made a significant difference for the children of the West Kimberley - the musicians of the future.

The 2013 'Oper-Arte' Auction result brought the grand total of donations of musical instruments / materials made since the inaugural presentation of the 'Oper-Arte' Art Exhbiiton & Auction in 2004 to a tremendous $75,500.00.

 

Since its beginnings OPERA UNDER THE STARS® has enjoyed a strong connection with the wonderful music of Broome and especially the music of Broome composer Jimmy Chi of Bran Nue Dae and Corrugation Road fame.  Chi’s much loved song, Child of Glory, from the hit musical Bran Nue Dae, has been performed at every OPERA UNDER THE STARS® since 1993 in tribute to Chi and his song, Town By The Bay, also from Bran Nue Dae, has become a special favourite with the OPERA UNDER THE STARS® audience.

OPERA UNDER THE STARS® has been endorsed as an Event of Excellence by Tourism Council Australia via the Western Australian Tourism Awards having been announced as the 1999 Winner and 2000 Finalist in the Significant Regional Festivals & Special Events category, as well as being a 1999 Finalist in the Australian Tourism Awards.

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OPERA UNDER THE STARS® has always had a special ’personal’ charm and the spirit of the event is contributed to immeasurably by friends and family, both local and those who travel from all parts of Australia, who add their energetic enthusiasm and support to the event on an annual basis.

One of the most important aims of OPERA UNDER THE STARS® is to present an event that is accessible to everyone.  This most important of aims could not have been successfully achieved over the years without the invaluable support of a select group of top calibre Sponsors whose assistance is essential to the presentation of OPERA UNDER THE STARS® and is acknowledged with heartfelt gratitude.

OPERA UNDER THE STARS®:

Director:                              Mary-Attracta Connolly
Technical Director:                Michael G. Connolly
 


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