Graduate makes role debut at Covent Garden

Australian tenor and Griffith graduate Samuel Sakker during his recent performance of La traviata

Australian tenor and Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University graduate Samuel Sakker has made hisroledebutas Alfredo GermontatCovent Garden — with very short notice.

The 30-year-old was given only four hours to prepare for the role of Alfredo Germont in Richard Eyre’s classic production of Verdi’sLa traviata, after a last minute illness saw the original lead, Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu forced to withdraw.

While it came as a surprise, Samuel says he was absolutely thrilled with the opportunity.

“When the revival director told me I was going on as Alfredo for opening night all I could do was ask him about the blocking for act 3. Dropping a dying Violetta wouldn’t have been a good look given such an amazing opportunity. It wasn’t until we finished talking through the mechanics of the scene that it sank in,” he explains.

He says he was incredibly nervous in the lead up, especially when singing withconductor Yves Abel.

“I’d already sung a rehearsal of our upcoming showL’Etoilethat morning, sang through Alfredo once that afternoon to double check myself, was whisked to wardrobe where they altered the costumes for me, then sang the whole role again with Yves Abeland shortly after recapped the duets withVenera Gimadieva, who sang the role of Violetta, just before make up,” he says.

“However, once I reached the stage I calmeddowna lot as there was aninevitabilitythat I would just have to trust myself, my training and my colleagues to get through.”

Samuel on stage during Verdi’s La traviata

Having performed the second tenor role and covering 16 performances last season ensured he was already very familiar with the chorus, actors and set — along with the times he performed Alfredo at both Melbourne Opera and New Zealand Opera.

Hesays that once he stepped on stage, he just focused on the character and music.

“In the first scene, Alfredo is a country boy out of his depth in the demimonde of the Parisian aristocracy,soit was ok to feel nervous or a bit overwhelmed at first – good character – but once the famous Brindisi starts,Alfredo has to start showing the crowd what he can do and that’s just what I did. It all just snowballed from there.”

“I had incredible support from all my colleagues on stage, the music staff and directing staff. It was definitely a team effortinwhich I was just the front man.

“It was an absolute blast getting to perform one of my favourite roles in such a beautiful opera house.”

One of the world’s premier homes of opera

Samuel has been at Covent Garden for the last year and a half after being selected from more than 390 applicants from 58 countries to train with the world’s best as part of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme.Gloriana

He says being accepted was better than a dream come true.

“Having the resources of one of the world’s greatest opera houses at my disposal to continue my professional development is incredible. Their collective knowledge, guidance and mentorship are providing me with a clear career pathway to maximise my artistic potential. To be in the environment of such esteemed professionals is vital for my career and future as an artist,” he says.

Samuel says his professional highlights includejumping in for an indisposed Rolando Villazon to sing the tenor solo in the Mozart Requiem with AntonioPappano and Joyce DiDonato onTheRoyal Opera’sJapan Tour, performing as tenor soloist for The Song of the Earth forThe Royal Balletandhis Royal Opera debut as Barbarigo alongside Plácido Domingo in Verdi’sI due Foscari.

His next role will be Patacha in Chabrier’s witty operettaL’Étoilefollowed byGastonede Letorièresin Latraviata (including the live cinema broadcast), Heinrich der Schreiber inTannhäuserand Abdallo inNabucco.

He will also be performing in the live cinema relay of La traviata in the role of Gastone, on4 February which will be screened in cinemas in Australia from18-23 March.