The Perth Soprano: An Interview with Emma Pettemerides

“It’s for those two or three hours in theatre that you are taken out of the daily grind… and transported into another universe where people can leave their worries behind”

Emma Pettemerides

After speaking with Emma Pettemerides, it’s impossible for me to think that she could ever live a life other than the one she lives now. A new mother and celebrated opera singer and performer, my first impression of Emma was that she has absolutely no trouble lighting up a room.

As a young child, her love of music and more specifically, musical theatre lead to an obsession with the likes of Judy Garland and films such as Meet Me in Saint Louis and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. At age 13 she started singing lessons with Lisa Harper Brown, an opera singer and from then on “fell into the right hands” of the successful musical singer and teacher Mary Beth Williamson at Presbyterian Ladies College who nurtured her passions for the stage.

At 17 she left school for WAAPA, achieved a Diploma of Opera at the Sydney Conservatory, worked at WAAPA with Patricia Price for a year and finally completed her Masters overseas at the Royal College of Music in Manchester. She tells me that her career highlight to this date was singing in the presence of Dame Joan Sutherland for her 80th birthday.

However, her latest performance endeavour is as a supporting lead in the illustrious and dynamic operetta, The Merry Widow with the West Australian Opera. Apart from the glamourous set, incredible cast members, and choreographers, Emma urges to tell me how much she is enjoying working with a female a conductor, Vanessa Scammell.

Aside from the stage, Emma also does freelance work as a singer for functions as The Perth Soprano. I was particularly interested by the differences in the two types of work. Emma described the freelance work as more of a ‘service to help people’, especially when performing at events such as funerals. 

In addition to her duties with regards to music, Emma is also fulfilling the challenging role of a proud new mother to her eight-week-old son, Archie. Her supporting cast include her partner Lincoln, who she claims has stolen the spotlight and “taken on the role of both mother and father”. One thing I was quite eager to ask was with regards to opera as a performance style. As someone who has not ever had a lot of involvement specifically with opera, I wanted to know what Emma thought was important about it, and what it could offer that no other medium could.

I soon learned that opera is one of the few times in which real human emotion can be shared and be explored. Like other types of performance on stage, Emma tells me how opera allows a space for a connection and a cathartic escape. People can relate and see parallels to the action on stage. “It’s for those two or three hours in theatre,” she says “that you are taken out of the daily grind… and transported into another universe where people can leave their worries behind”. Personally, if that isn’t a reason to see live theatre, then I don’t know what is. 

The Merry Widow runs from July 15 to 22 at His Majesty’s Theatre. For more information, and to book tickets, visit the West Australian Opera website.

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About Sophie Minissale

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An amateur writer with an amateur life. Current student at The University of Western Australia majoring in Media and Communications and History.