Manon in Rehearsal

Step into the world of opera… I’ll take you for a trip behind the scenes…

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I and a cast and crew of friendly and diligent people are in the throws of rehearsals for the opera, Manon, hosted by OperaBox, as its 2017 season. It makes for one of those times throughout the year where I, and I’m sure the rest of the company, go into what I like to call ‘social hibernation’. You don’t see hide nor hair of us (unless it relates to work), social catch-ups slow down, and sleep, whether we get much of it, or not, becomes our keenest priority.  It’s all for the sake of passion, art and in this case…opera! While holding down regular day jobs, study, doing practice and/or managing any other singing gig booked in, the rest of our time is spent in rehearsals, or resting for the next rehearsal. We have worked together nearly every day this week, but we’re not complaining, because we all enjoy it a little too much!

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Manon is a beautiful French opera, composed by Jules Massenet and first performed back in 1884. It has stood the test of time and all I can say is it is thoroughly French, oozing with the drama of Romanticism and with lovely musical themes throughout. Based around the beautiful young woman, Manon, it is a story of her torn between the passions of love and the allure of worldly luxuries. All set within the glamorous 1920’s, you’re bound to be in for a treat!

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Filled with drama.

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And even more drama. It truly does take you on quite the emotional journey.

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An opera though, like any production, can not be put on without a plethora of hard-working individuals, whether on stage, backstage, behind the desk, or in the rehearsal room. All these people work tirelessly and each one of them deserves credit.

First, meet some of those behind the curtain and those who are making the entire opera tick…

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Joseph Restubog, our director and the one given the responsibility of breathing the opera to life.

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The stage manager Sean Hartley,

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And assistant producer Thomas Friberg.

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Now, the delightful Jenna Robertson is Manon Lescaut herself and, not only is she the leading lady, but also the producer for the opera as well!

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The passionate and energetic conductor Christopher Dragon, who currently holds the position of Associate Conductor of the Colorado Symphony, is back from the USA and conducting his fifth season for OperaBox. 

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Under him is assistant conductor and chorus master Kate Oliver.

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Our incredibly accurate repetiteur George Carolin-Unkovich.

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And finally those who you shall see onstage!

Alongside Jenna, and playing the dramatic principal role of Des Grieux, is the tenor Gaetano Bonfante, flown in from Sydney, where he holds a position at the Australian Opera.

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Also flown in and a member of Australian Opera is the very characterful Sitiveni Talei, who will be singing the role of of the covetous Monsieur de Brétigny.

One to match him in charisma is Manon’s cousin Lescaut.


Sung by the equally charismatic Kristin Bowtell.

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Simon Wood takes the grouchy role of Guillot de Morfontaine.

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And Michael Heap is the very formidable Le Comte des Grieux.

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(You wouldn’t tell by his friendly smile!)

Christina Thé is cast as Pousette, one of the trifecta of the three actresses.


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Esther Counsel is another, as Javotte, and tenor Ry Charleson is one of us folk in the chorus.

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Claudia Sosin on the left is also chorus and Belinda Cox has been cast as Rosette to complete the female trio, with Christina and Esther.

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Jonty Coy (here in deep contemplation and eating a mango chip!) is one of our basses for the chorus.

There are also two other chorus members that I simply couldn’t manage to catch some snaps of, but are just as important as all the rest… those being the tenor Jason Kroll and soprano Dinali David. Though there’s no photos, if you come to the opera, you’ll see them in action all the same!

And then there’s me, as a member of the chorus and with the role of the maid.

There is also a multitude of people from the creative team, production team and orchestra, who I could spend ages acknowledging, but I wouldn’t expect you to read the blog all night!

But in any case, here we are, in the midst of rehearsals, putting in the hours, having some fun along the way and trying to do Massenet and his wonderful opera, Manon, the musical and theatrical justice we know it deserves.

If you are deliberating about going, deliberate no longer, or, if haven’t been to the opera before, now is a great chance to start. Help support this independent company, the art form and the talent, while being taken on a wonderful dramatic journey.

I am of total belief that opera needs to be ‘experienced’, not just listened to on recordings. As we singers understand, opera is the culmination of all the arts into one and therefore it needs to be felt by all the senses and enjoyed for it’s many many aspects. And with ticket prices more than affordable, there’s no reason to not give it a chance and make a night out of it! Grab all the details you need to know here, or if you want to book your tickets directly, follow this link.

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I would love to see you there!


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