Opera singer realises her childhood dream

A childhood dream has become reality for Wollongong-raised conductor Jennifer Condon with the release of a CD recording of opera Sappho, by Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks.

The CD represents 10 years of hard work and determination for Condon and is being released in time for the centenary of the composer's birth on December 29.

The opera, written in 1963 with a libretto by Lawrence Durrell, had never been recorded or performed until now.

Recording it has been a dream of Condon's since she first heard an aria from Sappho as a schoolgirl more than a decade ago.

Condon, 29, is now living in Germany where she works for the Hamburg State Opera, and recorded the entire three-act opera earlier this year with a cast including international opera stars Deborah Polaski and Sir John Tomlinson.

She returned to visit her hometown of Wollongong earlier this year.

"It still feels a little bit surreal," Condon says.

"I've had it in my head for a decade and it's a sort of pie-in-the-sky concept. You say 'I'm going to get the rights to this opera and perform it' when you're 17, it's one of those dreams you're never quite sure is going to happen.

"And then standing there with this extraordinary cast - a lot of whom are people I used to listen to on CD, sitting at home during my school holidays, thinking 'Gee I'd like to go and listen to them live once'.

"The cast that came on board are not people I would ever have expected to work with in my career.

"I'm simply the wrong generation to work with some of the greats like Sir John Tomlinson. I consider myself lucky to have heard him live.

"Deborah Polaski [who sings the title role] is a voice I first heard as a teen at the Sydney Festival and it was love at first lilt - I heard this voice and thought 'oh wow'. I hadn't heard anything like that in my life.

"It really is a childhood dream come true."

The next challenge for Condon is to get the opera staged. "It's wonderful to have achieved the first hearing of Peggy Glanville-Hicks' favourite opera, Sappho," she said.

"We are discussing the feasibility of a festival production.

"The next stage will be really exciting. We hope that sponsors and opera-lovers will give us the support we will need to bring this plan to fruition.

"I have had a phenomenal response from a number of singers who want to sing it."

Opera conductor Jennifer Condon visited Wollongong earlier this year. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Opera conductor Jennifer Condon visited Wollongong earlier this year. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR


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