The State Opera South Australia exists to provide a broad, deep, and relevant cultural service to residents of South Australia and beyond, and to advance the development of the art form of opera by:

  1. Consistently producing and performing highly regarded opera, with a balanced repertoire that encompasses core classics, lesser-known masterpieces, new and unusual works;
  2. Creating a diverse, innovative, wide-ranging program of open engagement and education activities that reaches the widest possible community; and
  3. Developing exceptional emerging operatic talent.

We are proud of our position as one of the leading performing arts companies in the country and we acknowledge the vital role that we play in supporting the careers of Australian artists and bringing works of significance to local audiences.

Our mission is to be a twenty-first century Australian arts company, uniquely placed to provide a cultural service to the state of South Australia. We aspire to be recognised for our artistic program, for relentlessly pursuing the expansion of our reach and impact, and for investing in meaningful engagement for the benefit of the operatic art form. We are also a company which is passionate about our place and our community. To that end, we aspire to be the champions of development in our sector and of all things grown and made in SA – the place which we call home.

Since the days of New Opera, this state company has produced a diet of interesting, challenging and complementary repertoire. State Opera has created numerous landmark productions: Death in Venice, Parsifal, The Ring Cycle – twice, Makropoulos Affair, Fiery Angel, Dead Man Walking, Moby Dick, Phillip Glass Trilogy and Cloudstreet. In 2019 the critical acclaim received for the high quality of all aspects of our productions was unprecedented.  We have long played a leadership role in the presentation of critically acclaimed opera, and we will continue to play a leadership role in Adelaide and nationally by developing the art form through a balanced repertoire that encompasses core classics, lesser known masterpieces and new work.

The 2020 Artistic Program builds upon the new era of opera in South Australia; this includes a large outdoor event, the clever use of new and interesting venues, familiar works from the great canon of repertoire as well as rare Australian works that will be revived for posterity by SOSA alone.

By championing engagement (broad) and impact (deep), State Opera will succeed in delivering leadership in the sector as well as relevance for countless opera-lovers, arts-goers, students, children, families and industry specialists alike. In the longer term, we aspire to re-establish Adelaide as a significant national and international destination for opera, whilst maintaining existing audiences and growing new markets in our community.

The State Opera of South Australia’s Artistic Assessment Panel comprises well-respected and arts-aware members of the South Australian community; a group of peers whose experiences and credentials are wide-ranging and who are passionate about supporting creative endeavour in this State. Each panel member is invited to State Opera’s subscription season amongst other events and provides the company with regular structured feedback. The panel assists State Opera by responding to the season’s repertoire, the soloist selection, Chorus performance quality, audience engagement and the event experience of each production and in so doing informs State Opera’s artistic self-assessment and programming patterns.

Panel members are asked to attend at least 4 performances throughout the year, and complete at least 4 questionnaires post-performance. There will be an informal and non-compulsory gathering arranged 1-2 times per annum for Panel members to meet and talk.

Kerry Comerford

Kerry is an accomplished Non-Executive Director and CEO in the Global arts and entertainment industry. Since 2016 she has worked as an independent consultant and NED and is Director and Deputy Chair Hayes Theatre, NSW; Director Circa, Brisbane and an Ambassador Entertainment Assist. She is former Chair Monkey Baa Theatre 2005-2012; Chair, Jurors Council, Australian Women in Music Awards, 2019; Chair Arts on Tour, NSW 2018 – 2020; and Director Destination Sydney Surrounds North – part of DNSW Regional tourism network, 2017-2020; CEO Accessible Arts, NSW peaks arts and disability organisation 2018-2020. She is a member of the Helpmann Awards Musical Theatre Panel.

From 2012 – 2016 Kerry was Vice-President of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Really Useful Group Asia Pacific. She joined the company in 1996 as Executive Producer and was appointed General Manger in 2001. During her time with the company she was responsible for the exploitation of the Lloyd Webber catalogue, producing his record breaking musicals throughout Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the Middle East.

Prior to joining RUG Kerry worked with many of Australia leading performing arts organisations including MLC Theatre Royal Sydney, Actors Equity Australia. In South Australia she worked with: The State Theatre Company of South Australia, Come Out Youth Arts Festival and Carclew. She was: Director, Tandanya, Aboriginal Cultural Centre: Marketing Manager for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra: Executive Producer and Entrepreneurial Director, The Adelaide Festival Centre Trust. This year, Kerry returned to South Australia and took up residence in Watervale in the beautiful Clare Valley.

Thomas Fonua

Thomas Fonua an artist of Pacific decent with an established career as a dancer, choreographer and emerging leader. Thomas has worked for companies such as Black Grace (NZ) , Australian Dance Theatre, Red Sky Performance(Canada) and has been touring internationally from the age of 16.

Thomas’ alterego Kween Kong, is the Reigning Dragnation Australia Winner. With a strong focus to inspire, challenge and nurture our community with his loved based leadership style.

Thomas is the recipient of The (NZ) Prime Minster’s Award for Arts and Creativity(2015), Out For Australia’s Emerging Leader(2019) and has recently been nominated for the Dora Award For Outstanding Choreography in Canada.

Peter Goldsworthy

Peter Goldsworthy combines writing with the practice of medicine. He has won literary awards across a range of genres, including the Commonwealth Poetry Prize, the FAW Christina Stead Award for fiction, and, together with composer Richard Mills, the inaugural Helpmann Award for Best New Work for the opera Batavia.

Peter’s most recent novel is Minotaur, published by Penguin Viking in 2019; his 1995 novel Wish has been reissued in the Text Classics series, his 1998 novel Maestro as an Angus & Robertson Australian Classic.

His novels have been widely translated, and adapted for the stage, most recently the novella Jesus Wants Me for A Sunbeam at Belvoir St in February this year. He has also written opera libretti for the composers Luke Styles and Graeme Koehne.

Online, his poetry can be read and heard at The Poetry Archive and read at The Australian Poetry Library and at The Poetry Foundation.

Simon Lord

Simon Lord is the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s Director of Artistic Planning. He comes from Yorkshire in the UK and has been involved in music-making from an early age, playing both the clarinet and piano. He holds a BA from the University of Leeds, an MMus from the University of Surrey and a PhD in musicology from the Elder Conservatorium at the University of Adelaide. Before moving to Australia in 2010, Simon was a Producer for BBC Radio 3 in London and then, in Glasgow, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra’s Senior Music Producer where he was responsible for planning the orchestra’s artistic programme for 15 years. Simon is also an award-winning CD producer and has produced many commercial discs for Hyperion, NMC, Naxos, and BIS.

Penny Rafferty

Penny Rafferty has been the Executive Officer of Luxury Lodges of Australia since it formed in late 2009. This collective voice of independently owned and operated lodges and camps across Australia helped shape and define Australia’s high-end experiential travel.

Concurrently, Penny has led the development of Tourism Australia’s premium and luxury strategy since 2017 and mid-2020, transitioned to develop and lead Tourism Australia’s sustainability strategy, the aim of which is to articulate and amplify the many sustainability legacy stories of Australian tourism.

Prior to this, she was general manager of The Louise, Barossa Valley, one of the founding members of Luxury Lodges of Australia. Penny’s career includes 9 years in the UK and South Africa as well as Australia, honing her marketing and communications skills in travel and tourism, as well as associated industries including wine, performing arts and festivals, events and publishing.

Penny’s first real job out of university was in the corporate development team at (then) The Australian Opera in the late 1980’s. For the first half of the 1990’s she worked in London with an arts publishing company, managing the programmes and publications for 60 of the UK’s major performing arts companies, including the ENO, RSC, Edinburgh Festival, Scottish Opera and National Theatre. She spent 3 years in South Africa, post-Apartheid helping to establish the Spier Festival, a 5-month season of performing arts including opera, chamber music, symphonic movies, comedy and dance in the Stellenbosch Wine region outside Cape Town.

Stephen Watkins

Stephen Watkins is a veteran broadcaster for ABC Classic and ABC Religion and Ethics.

Since 2004 he has produced and presented ‘For the God Who Sings’. After an early introduction to ABC as a pianist, Stephen soon found himself working with international conductors and soloists during the heyday of ABC Concerts.

In Sydney he studied singing with Raymond Beatty before coming to SA with ABC Concerts to study piano with Clemens Leske Snr at The University of Adelaide. In radio he acquired awards for human rights, ethics in journalism, and documentaries on Mozart, Bach and Streeton. He is a patron of the Music Foundation of St Peter’s Cathedral in Adelaide and has worked privately to advance Aboriginal people and refugees.

He grew up farming on the Far South Coast of NSW.