Conductor Nicholas Braithwaite of Australia in the Dunedin Town Hall. Photo Courtesy of Otago Daily Times

This weekend, the Adelaide Youth Orchestra and State Opera SA will embrace to make passionate music together.

The second in this year’s popular Maestro series of concerts, Passion will see the young orchestra accompany 12 talented singers from the James and Diana Ramsey Foundation Program.

Playing a selection of classic operatic works, programmed and led by internationally renowned conductor Nicholas Braithwaite, the musicians are set to charm and enchant.

The James and Diana Ramsay Foundation Program helps to mentor and nurture emerging artists, which Nicholas Braithwaite says is key in developing successful opera singers.

Giving them valuable experience before they embark on professional operatic careers, the emerging artists program enables young singers to bide their time in a creative manner.

Conductor Nicholas Braithwaite of Australia in the Dunedin Town Hall. Photo Courtesy of Otago Daily Times
Conductor Nicholas Braithwaite of Australia in the Dunedin Town Hall. Photo Courtesy of Otago Daily Times

“The problem for young singers is, most voices mature mid to late twenties and into the thirties, so they’ll study their voice in tertiary education but their voice is still not physically mature yet, and there’s a real problem in how to earn a living and bridge the gap and gain experience,” he says.

“That’s why schemes like ‘emerging artists’ are so crucially important, because they give people a training opportunity between leaving college and becoming a fully finished performer.”

Braithwaite has had an illustrious career so far; he has held positions as Music Director and Principal Conductor from Norway to New Zealand and many places in between.

His years as Principal Conductor of the Adelaide and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras were acclaimed by critics, public and players for raising both standards and attendances.

Conducting this season of Maestro Series 2: Passion in Adelaide, Braithwaite is very much enjoying the opportunity to work with the young musicians of AdYO.

“Working with youth orchestras is wonderful because they are so greedy for the music. It’s such a new and wonderful world opening up in front of them. They’re meeting these great masterpieces for the first time, and it’s just the most extraordinary experience to come across these works that are just beyond belief in the creativity of the people who wrote them. It’s something you don’t come across with everyday people,” he says.

“The absolute energy, enthusiasm and life that these young players bring to their work is remarkable. There is a commitment and a joy in the discovery of what the music has to offer them. There’s a freshness and wonder to it that I think is just really rewarding for me and the audiences.”

AdYO’s Artistic Director Keith Crellin invited Braithwaite to conduct the production to give the musicians an opportunity to work with a range of people of varying specialties.

“Keith asks me to conduct them every couple of years,” Braithwaite says. “I think he feels, quite rightly, that they need to work with a variety of different people to get a good experience of what music making is about. So I’m one of the people he brings in every so often.”

Having grown up surrounded by music due to his father being a conductor, Nicholas Braithwaite believes a supportive family is paramount in a young musician’s life.

“Without it, you can’t do it. These people, particularly the string players, they will have to practice several hours a day from very early in their life. They have to do really serious practice, out of school hours, long before their tertiary education. What people don’t understand is, the training for somebody sitting in the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra is probably two or three times as long as that for a doctor,” he says.

“The Russian pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy is one of the very great names of my generation. He practised the piano six hours a day from the age of three. That’s how he got to where he is. And it’s entirely supported, or in this case driven, by his family. But for all the Ashkenazys who practise six hours a day, there’ll be dozens who have done that work but didn’t quite have the talent.

“My parents didn’t force music on me. They gently tried to persuade me to do something else, but when it became clear I wasn’t going to be dissuaded, they supported me absolutely, and I’m sure that’s the way to go. Because you’re condemning kids to a life of disappointment if you’re forcing them to a life of music and they’re not that talented.”

Fortunately for the talented young players and singers in Maestro Series 2: Passion, they have the support of Braithwaite, as well as their families.

Having been taken to his first opera at the age of two months old, the London born conductor is besotted by opera and passes this adoration along to the players.

“For me, opera is without question the greatest of all the art forms. It takes you to the heart of human existence and philosophy because it embodies, includes and uses the power of the words to provide you with absolute definitions of meanings,” he says.

“But the power of music to give you hidden depths of interpretations of those words; of the depth of emotion, duplicitousness, if you like, it can give so many colours to what the words are actually saying that in fact a simple story gives you such emotional richness. Opera is the greatest of the art forms in my terribly biased point of view.”

Through Braithwaite’s passion for the art form, young performers are given the opportunity to experience opera on a level many may never encounter.

“Keith felt it would be a good idea if the orchestra played some opera, because they’d concentrated exclusively on the symphonic repertoire, and opera combines everything that the concert hall can give you, plus everything the theatre can give you, and everything painters can give you in the scenery,” he says.

“We decided to combine with the State Opera’s emerging artists, which gives the singers an opportunity to get some of the major roles. Often an opera concert is done as a rather indigestible series of arias and duets that are not particularly connected, but in this one, we’re doing two complete acts from two different operas, and a large section from another opera, so there’s a bit of continuity to it. People can see both the players, and how the music relates; what its purpose is.”

The concert will feature excerpts from Mozart’s well-loved comedic opera The Marriage of Figaro, with award-winning singers Jeremy Tatchell in the title role and Lisa Cannizzaro as his love, Susanna.

AdYO (1)
Photo of AdYO musician from Maestro Series 2: Passion

Also on the program are excerpts from Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus and Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier, featuring talented singers including Hew Wagner, Desiree Frahn and Fiona McArdle.
Adelaide Youth Orchestra and State Opera SA’s Maestro Series 2: Passion opens June 27 with a matinee on Sunday 28th.


Adelaide Youth Orchestra
Maestro Series 2: Passion
6.30pm – Saturday, June 27, 2015
3.00pm – Sunday, June 28, 2015 (SOLD OUT)
State Opera of SA Studio, 216 Marion Road, Netley

Tickets: $30 adults / $26 concession & Seniors Card /
$20 students & children / $28pp for groups 8+ /
$80 family (2 adults + 2 children)

Bookings through AdYO on 8233 6256 or

Photo of Nicholas Braithwaite courtesy of Otago Daily Times