Five questions for Shakira Tsindos

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SOMEHOW, WE WERE ABLE TO TRACK DOWN EACH OF OUR VERY BUSY SCHOLARS TO ASK THEM EACH FIVE BURNING QUESTIONS ABOUT THE OPERA INDUSTRY, AND WHAT THIS YEAR ENTAILS FOR THEM. TODAY, WE CHAT WITH MEZZO-SOPRANO, SHAKIRA TSINDOS.

You recently performed as a Minstrel in Victorian Opera’s collaboration with Circus Oz, Laughter and Tears! Can you tell us a little more about this production, and the role you have in it?

Laughter and Tears was a unique and dynamic production that I feel extremely privileged to have played a part. A co-production with Circus Oz and Dislocate, Victorian Opera coupled the very famous opera I Pagliacci with a selection of Baroque arias, duets and ensembles to create a ‘show within a show’, mirroring the story of Pagliacci. Following the tradition of Commedia dell’arte (which is a form of 16th century Italian theatre), I was cast as a singing minstrel who’s well rehearsed entertainment was continually disrupted by the incompetent stage-hands who could not understand that “theatre and life were not the same thing”. Not only was the show a true success but I also learned to juggle in our downtime!

Contrastingly, you played the role of Alisa in the tragic Lucia di Lammermoor earlier this year. How do you mentally make the transition between heavy and light roles, and develop your character?

I found it was easy to transition between the heavy drama of Lucia and the comedy of Laughter when I was being true to the thoughts and emotions of my character. In committing my intention wholeheartedly to the story and characters on stage I found it easier to feed off the energy of other performers and react honestly and naturally to their actions.

To avoid a permanent frown from the constant concern and devastation that Alisa endured during Lucia di Lammermoor, I couldn’t leave the theatre without forcefully relaxing the muscles in my face. So, it was a treat to perform such energetic characters in Laughter and Tears that were allowed to smile more that once!

Each performance is accompanied by highly detailed and elaborate costuming. Which costume has been your favourite to wear this year?

My favourite costume this year was my most recent Minstrel costume. Designed by Harriet Oxley and hand-made entirely of silks and trim detailing by David Anderson, this medieval inspired costume embodied the style of the Commedia dell’arte and suited the production perfectly. My costume in Victorian Opera’s production of Cinderella as Dorothée, Cinderella’s step-sister, would definitely come a close second. Once again hand-made by Justine Coultham and designed by Candice MacCallister the hilarious and colourful nature of this costume allowed for a silliness and over-the-top energy that the character required.

You are a first time scholar this year, receiving the Joseph Sambrook Opera Scholarship. Tell us about your time with the Trust so far, and what a highlight has been for you.

Over this year I have been astounded with how much Melba Opera Trust has enriched the early stages of my singing career. The program offers the opportunity to work with industry professionals not only in performance but also by offering workshops on time management, legal smarts, accounting, etiquette, etc. The opportunity to work with Deborah Humble, Guillaume Tourniaire, Daria Masiero and Dame Felicity Lott (to name a few) is a privilege I am very grateful for, as it is one that would not be possible without the program.

You also work in artistic administration with the Opera Scholars Australia, and have previously interned at Victorian Opera. How does a knowledge of the business side of music help you in your professional development?

Working in the small team at Opera Scholars Australia (OSA) I am made aware of how versatile your skills must be. Whilst working for both OSA and Victorian Opera I have seen and contributed to the preparation of large-scale concerts/productions, masterclasses, workshops, rehearsals and other events and I am continuously aware that within these massive ‘performance’ machines the singers are the small, but significant, cog. As a freelance performer, you must consider your career as your own small business, and developing skills in handling contracts, managing my social media and website presence, coordinating my time management and conducting communication with industry professionals and supporters has been invaluable.