• Students from Cunnamulla State School test their opera skills at a workshop. (Image: Brian Lowe) (Supplied - Brian Lowe)
It's not often you see opera in the outback, but a new initiative from Opera Queensland is taking the little-known art form to the bush.
By
Ella Archibald-Binge

26 Oct 2017 - 11:22 AM  UPDATED 26 Oct 2017 - 3:53 PM

Residents in the small Queensland town of Cunnamulla watched in awe on Friday, as a group of local school students gathered outside the newsagent's in the main street, plugged in a keyboard and broke out into what was likely the first opera performance in the town's history.  

The show was the culmination of three days of opera workshops with some of Brisbane's best vocalists, who travelled almost 1000 kilometres west in a bid to share their love of opera with remote students. 

"Opera can be a rather foreign concept to students not just in remote Queensland, here in Brisbane as well," explains Mark Taylor, Opera Queensland's Open Stage Manager. 

"So it's really important for us first of all to realise that it is an approachable art form. 

"It's really just using the power of the human voice to tell story, and that's what we allow them to realise across this program."

Joining the Opera Queensland team was RnB songstress Caitlin Wall, who's currently studying at the Aboriginal Centre for Performing Arts.

An opera novice herself, she says the students gradually warmed to the unfamiliar performance style. 

"On the first day you could see they were so shocked like 'what's this sound, this is so strange and foreign' but they really got excited and started to participate towards the end of the week," Caitlin told NITV News.

The young Wiradjuri woman says the experience has "definitely" inspired her to become a teacher. 

Following the workshops, the grand finale was supposed to be a concert at the school fete, but when the event was washed out by some much-needed rain, the community was quick to form a back-up plan - hence the impromptu performance in the main street of Cunnamulla. 

"That was the highlight of my trip," Caitlin says. 

"Everyone was willing. There was no hassle, everyone wanted to do it. And while we were performing, you look around and everyone’s coming out of their shops to have a look, everyone’s standing there with a camera – it was awesome."

Opera Queensland's Mark Taylor says the main aim of the trip was to get kids out of their comfort zones to build confidence. 

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"We're not out there trying to build the next era of opera singers - opera singing is a niche art form," he says.

"It's more those skill sets that you can take from it, so that confidence to stand up and perform in front of your peers, or your family or the wider community really assists far more than just that one performance. 

"It’s about that confidence... to take you through life and build that resilience and willingness to share who you are and your story."

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