Vulture Chats with Siobhan Stagg
Siobhan Stagg is a young Australian soprano at the start of what looks set to be a long and successful career. So far this year she has spent time in Europe and in New York, where she studied on the Donovan Johnston Memorial Scholarship from the University of Melbourne. She will be seeing out 2012 in the UK as the recipient of the 2012 Australian International Opera award, studying with international tenor and vocal teacher, Dennis O’Neill. We spoke to her ahead of her upcoming performance at the Woodend Winter Arts Festival.
You have a very busy performance and study schedule this year. How do you decide what singing engagements to accept? What is it about the Woodend Winter Arts Festival that appeals to you?
I love that the Woodend Winter Arts Festival brings together some of Australia’s finest artists in one of the most picturesque parts of Victoria, creating a sanctuary of beautiful music amidst the stunning surroundings. At this stage of my career it’s important to gain experience in a range of avenues and I have to carefully consider my schedule, logistics of rehearsals and travel, and the repertoire to make sure it’s vocally appropriate. The Woodend Winter Arts Festival was an easy choice – I’m looking forward to it.
Cantatas of the Arcadian Academy: A Dialogue of Love and Power features the music of Scarlatti and Handel and raises issues of arts patronage (or lack of it) in the 17th century in Rome. Do you think there are parallels to be drawn with contemporary Australian society?
The Cantatas of the Arcadian Academy concert puts a comical spin on a pertinent issue in today’s society. It’s important that we keep funding the arts as a priority. To quote one of Barry Jones’ lines from the script, “without art our lives would be barren indeed.”
You are also performing Haydn and Mozart as part of the WWAF programme. Do you have a favourite composer?
So far in my career I’ve focused mainly on performing baroque and classical music and really feel an affinity for the work of this style. I’m a huge fan of Haydn‘s string quartets, and Mozart‘s opera writing is pretty close to heaven, but these days I’m surrounded by so much good music, it’s impossible to have just one favourite composer. At the moment I’m enjoying exploring more romantic repertoire, and am listening to Richard Strauss‘ exquisite ‘Four Last Songs’.
Do you have a theory on ways to attract new audiences to live musical performances such as those featured on the WWAF programme?
Having grown up in Mildura without much exposure to live classical music, I know that it can seem a bit daunting when you don’t know the lingo or aren’t sure what you’re listening for. Education is the key- music programs taught by inspirational teachers at school, and even informal conversations amongst friends are a great step to breaking down our listening barriers. Recordings are great, but nothing beats the thrill of seeing fine music performed before you by living, breathing musicians. There’s something so exciting about the live performance aspect- you never know what beautiful moment you could be about to witness.
I was intrigued to read in your bio that, along with all your awards and qualifications you also hold a Certificate III in Media (Broadcasting). What prompted you to study broadcasting? How has it helped in your singing career?
I was able to do the media certificate through an elective at University where I spent one day a week at 3MBS radio station, learning about their operations and other skills from interviewing to music editing. It was a fantastic insight into the music industry from a different angle and at that stage I was looking at other career options besides performing. It was incredibly useful, as these days singers have to be so much more than vocalists and knowing how to handle the media is imperative. A career in the arts is so stimulating- there’s always something new to be learnt.