Mendelssohn’s epic Elijah immersive at UWA’s Winthrop Hall with WA Opera stars & Conservatorium students

Faith and doubt, fire and fury dial up the drama for Mendelssohn’s biblical oratorio Elijah, an Old Testament epic coming to UWA’s Winthrop Hall in an immersive production drawing on West Australian Opera stars and Conservatorium of Music students.

Baritone James Clayton takes the title role, with fellow principals Paul O’Neill (tenor), Lisa Harper-Brown (soprano) and Chelsea Kluga (mezzo), under the baton of WAO artistic director Chris van Tuinen.

More than 150 student musicians and singers will swell the theme, with artists filling every corner of Winthrop Hall’s massive architecture, from a central stage to the floor, aisles and galleries, surrounding the audience with sound.

Elijah has his moment of doubt, but amid earthquake and fire he hears God in a still small voice – all have a place in this production.

Isabella Cisse, 21, will sing as part of UWA’s Symphonic Chorale and Chamber Chorus, alongside WAO’s Opera Chorus, in ensembles ranging from eight to 80 voices.

Chris van Tuinen rehearses socially distanced strings for Elijah at UWA’s Winthrop Hall.
Camera IconChris van Tuinen rehearses socially distanced strings for Elijah at UWA’s Winthrop Hall. Credit: UWA

“It’s a huge honour to be involved in a performance of Elijah’s scale, and learn from many talented artists at the apex of their career,” Cissde said.

“Working with West Australian Opera has been an incredible journey and the experience I have gained is vast.

“Watching these professionals put together such an incredible production has been inspiring — everyone counts in the performance, no matter how big or small our role.”

Conservatorium Professor Alan Lourens said real-world experience with leading artists was central to UWA’s approach.

“The world of professional music demands excellence — audiences expect the best, and West Australian Opera is helping our students deliver just that,” he said.

WAO executive director Carolyn Chard said changing COVID curbs had presented challenges that students and professionals had met.

“The singers, musicians, creatives and crew have all adapted to working under new restraints and the conductor, Christopher van Tuinen, who is also the State opera’s artistic director, has done a ‘pivot’ and arranged some outdoor rehearsals at UWA’s New Fortune Theatre,” she said.

Elijah is at UWA’s Winthrop Hall, May 14-16, 7.30pm.

Tickets are available at https://www.waopera.asn.au/shows/events/elijah/.

Chris van Tuinen rehearses with strings, percussion and socially distanced singers at Winthrop Hall.
Camera IconChris van Tuinen rehearses with strings, percussion and socially distanced singers at Winthrop Hall. Credit: UWA

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