The award winning soprano, Michelle Buscemi, stars as Zerlina in Victorian Opera’s Don Giovanni, which is currently being performed at National Theatre in St Kilda.

In the midst of performing one of Mozart’s seminal operas, Anna Lozynski spoke with Michelle Buscemi.

Michelle Buscemi1. How did you and the cast feel about the opening night of Mozart’s famous opera, Don Giovanni? 
I was ready for opening night after a month of rehearsals. I was anxious as I had my boyfriend from Italy in the audience who had just arrived. Opening night holds an air of excitement, but knowing critical eyes are watching, which adds tension. I was happy, as well as relieved and proud that we made it through the night! I really enjoy my role.
2. You have an Italian heritage. Does this put you at an advantage in relation to the task of performing this entirely Italian sung opera? 
It certainly does in terms of the language. It also meant that I had much less work to do on the pronunciation and understanding of the text.
3. What can the audience expect from the costume design?
I would describe it as a quirky mix of period costume with fantastical flair.
4. Describe a usual rehearsal day in the lead up to opening night. 
We start at 10.30am and conclude at 5.30pm. We start with a full run of the opera (without orchestra) sometimes in part or whole costume, such as swords, shoes and other props. After an hour’s break, the maestro provides us with notes and we run through individual scenes to ensure they are executed smoothly.
5. What inspired you to study opera as part of your Bachelor of Music Performance at the Victorian College of the Arts (the VCA)?
The course is a repertoire major. I was attracted to the course’s practical focus and the opportunity to focus on my technique. This is something which was lacking from the course at the Conservatorium.
6. I understand you commenced your technical vocal study with Golden Mercer. What is one lesson that Mercer taught you, which you have never forgotten? 
I studied with Golden many years ago. Golden was my first lyric technical coach and inspired me to pursue this repertoire. I can still hear Golden’s voice in my head saying, "Up into the third eye love!" and "up and over love!". I was very young at the time and didn’t quite understand what she was trying to get me to do, but now a little over 10 years on I completely understand and appreciate the knowledge she has imparted. She puts a smile on my face.
7. What attracted you to the Victorian Opera? How did you come to join this company?
Richard Gill chose me to work for Oz Opera Schools Company in 2005, and then I played Gretel in Hansel and Gretel. Before I headed back to Italy last year I was called for a general soprano audition by the company and was offered the role as Zerlina. Richard and David have faith in me for which I am grateful.
8. The headlines state that the 2009 season has begun well. As a performer, do you feel any extra pressure this year to help redefine the company’s success? 
I don’t feel any pressure because it is a wonderful company which offers Australians an opportunity to work in an unsupported field. The cast is great and we genuinely believe in the company. The shows speak for themselves.
9. I imagine six performances of 3 hours in duration is taxing on your vocal chords. How do you look after your voice in between performances? 
I try to rest, not to sing a lot and keep talking to a minimum!
10. Do you have a pre-performance ritual? 
Yes and no. I have improved my ability to get away from any superstitions. I focus on what I have to do and get on with it. Warm up, make up, hair up!..Toi toi toi, merda merda merda!!

Victorian Opera's Don Giovanni is now playing. Further details»

Photo by Jeff Busby

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