Gary Rowley is an accomplished opera singer with a career now spanning 29 years. He stars as Scarpia in Puccini’s Tosca performed by Melbourne Opera. In between performances, Anna Lozynski interviewed Gary.

Gary RowleyWhat are you most enjoying about your role in Puccini’s Tosca?
I am enjoying playing the bad guy instead of the old guy or the funny guy.

What is your favourite scene in the opera?
The Te Deum at the end of the first Act, where there is a delightful, distilled evilness.

Describe your rehearsal schedule leading up to opening night.
The rehearsal schedule is intense in the lead up towards opening night. Often by the time one gets to the premiere everything is tired, including one’s voice and mind. Opening night is such a line in the sand that you often think it will get easier. However, it never does. That’s the challenge.

How do you look after your voice in between performances?
I leave it well and truly alone.

What attracted you to become an opera performer?
When I started, I had little knowledge about or understanding of opera. It was only after studying at the VCA, where I was exposed to a much wider repertoire, that I discovered that opera is a natural progression and not an obstacle. My experience at the VCA gave me the confidence to take that next step.

If you were not an opera singer, what would you be?
I spent so many hours in an optometrist’s office as a child that for a time I thought that that might be a good job. Indeed, the later years of my secondary education were geared towards that profession. However, my plans changed when I joined a Marionette company.

Melbourne Opera prides itself on making opera more accessible. For this reason, its operas are performed in English. How does this affect your preparation for operas which are traditionally performed in Italian?
This is a vexed question. Some say it is easier to prepare; other performers disagree. The rhythm of many phrases changes due to the differing language demands. When tackling an opera in a different language we always, as a matter of course, make our own translation as part of the process. However, I have found that swapping between languages in a short period of time can be very confusing, ie English to Italian and vice versa. It’s the same but different.

Do you have a pre-performance ritual?
In a perfect world I’d like to do nothing more on the day of a performance than the performance itself, with a touch of score study then a siesta between 2 and 5, finishing with walking into the theatre and hitting the stage running. In reality, it’s far more hectic.

Which role in an opera have you not yet performed, but hope to do so?
So many: either Dutchman, Wotan, or Alberich. I’d love to have a go at Rigoletto as well.

Melbourne Opera's production of Tosca plays in Melbourne until Oct 14; Canberra Oct 17, and; Hobart Nov 14. Further information»

Image credit:-
Top Right - Gary Rowley and Antoinette Halloran in Melbourne Opera's Tosca. Photo - David Wyatt


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