Western Suburbs Weekly - - Front Page - TANYA MACNAUGHTON

CHURCH­LANDS bari­tone Sam Roberts-Smith’s first WA Opera pro­duc­tion was in Richard Mills’s Batavia in 2004.

“I was in my sec­ond year of uni and the op­por­tu­nity came up to au­di­tion for the cho­rus,” Robert­sSmith said.

“I just re­mem­ber sit­ting in the re­hearsal room here and lis­ten­ing to the prin­ci­pal singers and these were re­ally quite well-known Aus­tralian opera stars – Michael Lewis, Barry Ryan and Emma Matthews.

“I find it has a nice sym­me­try to it that 12 years later I’m singing op­po­site Emma in The Pearl Fish­ers, in WA, in our home theatre.”

Roberts-Smith said he had al­ways been a sporty child, along with his brother and Vic­to­ria Cross re­cip­i­ent Ben Roberts-Smith, but an ac­ci­dent at a wa­ter slide park when he was 13 years old in­jured his knee and turned his fo­cus from rugby to singing.

“I couldn’t play con­tact sport any­more and all of a sud­den I had this free time; I’d al­ways wanted to have singing lessons and had the op­por­tu­nity to do that,” he said.

“Once I started lessons, my teacher at the time sug­gested I should think about singing opera be­cause I had that kind of voice.

“The knock-on ef­fect was that I got into WAAPA and it’s be­come my ca­reer.”

Roberts-Smith said his fam­ily had been ex­tremely sup­port­ive of his choice and his par­ents had di­vided their time be­tween tak­ing him to or­ches­tra and choir and his brother to rugby and cadets.

“They were two op­po­site worlds and our par­ents sup­ported us equally, which is so lucky,” the Hale School grad­u­ate said.

After train­ing as a bari­tone, Roberts-Smith joined Opera Aus­tralia where his ath­letic ap­pear­ance (a rar­ity in tenors) prompted his artis­tic di­rec­tor to sug­gest he chal­lenge him­self by singing tenor in­stead, which Roberts-Smith did pro­fes­sion­ally for three years.

“I then made the de­ci­sion that I didn’t want to ruin my voice,” he said.

“I wanted to sing what was right for me.”

De­spite be­ing a bari­tone, Roberts-Smith joined The Ten Tenors last year and will fly to Bris­bane after this WA Opera sea­son to re­hearse for the group’s next show.

His cur­rent role as pearl dealer Zurga in The Pearl Fish­ers sees him play­ing an an­gry Euro­pean man who has fled his past and set­tled in a colo­nial Cey­lon (now Sri Lanka) fish­ing vil­lage. The cast in­cludes John Long­muir and Wade Ker­not, along with so­prano Matthews.

“The story is about friend­ship and about pas­sion­ate love,” Roberts-Smith said.

“There’s emo­tional love and de­ceit and I find it in­ter­est­ing be­cause these char­ac­ters are like real peo­ple; there’s no good guy, the lover or the vil­lain, we all have some­thing wrong with us.

“So you’re go­ing to see these two friends fight over a girl, where they’ve made a de­ci­sion to re­nounce this woman, but they both love her.”

Pic­ture: Andrew Ritchie d460329

Sam Roberts-Smith and Emma Matthews.

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