With alumni Tahu Matheson wielding the baton and Sian Pendry in fine voice, the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University played a major part in a stunning open-air season of Verdi’s Aidaon the Gold Coast in September.

Presented by Opera Australia, Griffith Opera on the Beach was held over six nights at Coolangatta Beach. Conservatorium students made up 80 per cent of the orchestra, not only providing a lush musical backdrop for the spectacular production, but giving them an invaluable opportunity to work alongside some of Australia’s best classical musicians.

Tahu Matheson studied a Bachelor of Music (Instrumental) at the Conservatorium, graduating in 1999. He completed a Master of Music in 2002. However, his musical education really began at the age of five, learning piano with his father, the renowned international conductor John Matheson.

Matheson has been a member of the music staff at Opera Australia since 2007, and has been a frequent accompanist for international artists such as Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Yvonne Kenny and Emma Matthews.

Tahu Matheson conducts during rehearsals for Griffith Opera on the Beach

Tahu Matheson conducts during rehearsals for Griffith Opera on the Beach. Picture: Scott Belzner

Along with his own performances and recordings, he has conducted many concerts and productions, including Tosca, The Ring Cycle, The Pearlfishers and The Magic Flute. Next on his list is Opera Australia’s production of Carmen at the Sydney Opera House in 2018.

Mezzo soprano Sian Pendry studied a Graduate Diploma of Music (Opera), graduating in 2003. She sang therole of jilted Egyptian princess Amneris in Aida.

After joining Opera Australia’s Moffatt Oxenbould Young Artists Development Program in 2007, Ms Pendry has performed in many productions, among them Eugene Onegin, Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, Orpheus in the Underworld, The Barber of Seville, The Merry Widow, Romeo and Juliet and Carmen.

Conservatorium Director Professor Scott Harrison says Griffith Opera on the Beach is a rare opportunity for students to engage in a professional musical production: “For students to play side by side with professional musicians, for some of our alumni to be involved, and for Griffith to own the opera brand is incredibly important.”

“We already present fully-staged operas as part of the students’ training … we’re unique in that respect. This opportunity with Opera Australia takes it to a whole new level and gives our students a genuine foothold in the profession.”

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