When the Science Man Found Opera: An Interview with Wade Kernot

Wade Kernot [playing Cesare in the to-be-performed Puccini’s TOSCA] is no stranger to the opera world. With an enviable career and married to the ever talented Emma Pearson (who recently performed at the 50th Anniversary – Opera in the Park), it seems as though he lives and breathes opera.

Though it nearly wasn’t this.

Wade Kernot. Photography by Kieran Gibson-MacFarlane

In discussion with Wade prior to the opening of West Australian Opera’s TOSCA, we discover that this was a man who fell into opera, and then simply dove in. As a young man, he enjoyed musical theatre and all that came with it, only to soon be informed that with his “deeper voice” he’d be “better suited to a bass”, especially for opera. And there we have it, this illustrious career started with nothing more than helpful advice.

Upon hearing this, the young Wade dipped his toes into the operatic world and watched a variety of different performances to gain further understanding. He lovingly recalls of the period where he joined a youth opera club, which included volunteering jobs during various national [New Zealand] opera productions. He joined the club because it provided free tickets to watch every opera production in their city. In other words, the perfect opportunity to swim within the opera pool, with minimal financial expense.

Wade Kernot discussing Tosca with writer Roma. Photography by Kieran Gibson-MacFarlane

In this period, one of his first volunteer jobs was to cross the stage with a bouquet of flowers and deliver it to the leading lady of the performance. He was given one piece of advice, “Don’t look to the audience”. Though young Wade at this time, whilst walking across and handing the bouquet over, stopped and did the very opposite, glancing at the 2,000+ audience and feeling immediately stuck in his boots.

It was in that moment that the young Wade truly received a strong sense of community, and felt a mass crowd appreciation for this revered and seemingly traditional art form.

Wade openly acknowledges the stereotypes associated with Opera, adding that they were once what he thought the art was about too – “large men with deep voices”, “posh crowd with class”, and “somewhat stuffy”. Though, that’s not the case.

In fact, while not true, WA Opera has managed to successfully shift this perspective slightly, as Wade emphasises the “younger cast”, and more “sexier” feel to this production of TOSCA. It’s about ensuring that younger generations pass this art form on, in a way that pays homage to the original craft, though with twinges of the new. 

Wade Kernot. Photography by Kieran Gibson-MacFarlane

Kernot’s role in the beloved tale of TOSCA [performed in Italian with English subtitles] is Cesare, a character he describes as the “catalyst” in the production and the one who causes much of the conflict.

That being said, Wade truly appreciates the “simpler stories” that opera features, ensuring that it always adds to the music and voices, instead of detracting from it.

As touched on, the opera within Wade nearly did not come to be. For his university studies, Kernot enrolled into a science degree, though sadly found the first year of his studies to be “too theoretical”, and therefore not what he desired. What Wade loves about Opera is that “every performance is different”, “your voice changes with age” and therefore you’re always proactive and “changing as you go along”. It’s this “live action” which the science world could not provide him.

Out of the science world, with further operatic studies, Wade returned to the world of opera. 

In that, the science man found opera once again. And since then, he hasn’t looked back.

Wade Kernot with writer Roma. Photography by Kieran Gibson-MacFarlane

West Australian Opera’s production of TOSCA will be performed at His Majesty’s Theatre from 28th March to 8th April. For further information and tickets visit the WA Opera website.




About Roma Christian

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With her hands often in numerous projects at once, Roma maintains a level-head with copious amounts of green tea & Seinfeld reruns. A strong penchant for writing about the human condition, she loves discussing human psychology, and uncovering magic found in the ordinary events of Life. Instagram: @roma.ireen.christian