From chorus to cast

7 Apr 2016

Shakira Tsindos discusses her musical journey and her role in Victorian Opera's new production of Lucia di Lammermoor.

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Shakira Tsindos. Photo: Charlie Kinross

What has been your musical journey so far?

I've always been interested in music in one way or another. I began singing in a choir when I was little, then started piano and singing lessons from there. I enjoyed maths and science throughout high school, and was actually working towards studying Science at university. In year 12 I played Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. I fell in love with performing, and portraying such a complex and strong female character. I decided I wanted to study Classical Voice at Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.

What was your first encounter with Victorian Opera?

In my first year at MCM, I bought a VOyage subscription for Victorian Opera's season. As a poor student I could see a number of operas with my friends, and 'research' my craft without breaking the bank!

What does it mean to you to be a member of the cast for Lucia?

It's something quite special. In 2014, I saw Victorian Opera's La traviata starring Jessica Pratt at Her Majesty's Theatre. I had a few friends in the chorus and I remember wishing to one day perform in something as spectacular. I have the opportunity to collaborate with and perform alongside brilliant artists, and I feel incredibly lucky.

Can you tell us about your role?

Alisa is Lucia's handmaiden and confidante. My character cares for Lucia like a sister and feels Lucia's joy and pain like they were her own. Historically this kind of relationship is so interesting (if you watch Downton Abbey you know what I'm talking about). The main challenges for me is observing Lucia's distress when she falls from grace, and being unable to console her, protect her from shame as it was socially unacceptable to do so; women of this period, mid-19th Century, weren't able to show weakness, suffering or madness for risk of losing respect as wives, mothers and sisters.

What's it like working with Jessica, the cast and creative team?

Performing with these artists is the best way to learn about the industry in Australia and Europe. Jessica performs in countries around the world and has performed the role of Lucia in 20 productions, and José as Enrico in five. We've had the most incredible conversations about life as a performer. It's so great working with director Cameron Menzies again, too, after The Grumpiest Boy in the World which he also directed. He continues to challenge how I portray my character.

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Shakira Tsindos in rehearsal for Lucia di Lammermoor. Photo: Charlie Kinross

Do you have any advice for young musicians considering a career in the arts?

Take any opportunity that will complement your stage of development - there are so many singers auditioning for the same role as you in an opera company, so it's important to seek out your own experiences and don't wait for opportunities to come to you. As a singer in a production, it's vital to remember that you're very small cog in the incredible machine that is an opera company.

What is your dream opera role, and why?

Carmen a thousand times over! I love her passion, her strong character and assured nature. Bizet's music is so lustful. I love portraying strong, independent women and telling their story.

What are some of your other passions? 

This year I'm the proud recipient of the Joseph Sambrook Opera Scholarship with the Melba Opera Trust, and in Melba's words, I agree that to succeed in opera one must be "more than a voice". As a freelance singer you're effectively maintaining a small business, so you have to be able to balance art with admin - something I'm still learning!

Before you head back to rehearsal, are you ready for your 10 Quick Questions?

Absolutely.

Carmen or Cherubino? 
Both!

Pavarotti or Domingo? Pavarotti

Verdi or Puccini? 
Puccini

Favourite mad scene? 
Lucia (I couldn’t choose any other!

Favourite soprano of all time? 
I’ll have to follow my Greek heritage and say Maria Callas

Favourite contemporary opera? 
Nixon in China

Vibe backstage before a performance in one word? 
Nervited (excited and nervous)

Young Australian opera singer to watch?
 Nicole Car. Her drive and dedication are just as impressive as her beautiful voice.

Warhol or Wei Wei? 
Warhol

The Phantom of the Opera – yay or nay? 
Yay!

Lucia di Lammermoor was performed at Her Majesty's Theatre as part of Victorian Opera's Season 2016.