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A Diary by Marie Campbell

About Winter School

16 high-school and tertiary students from around Australia are taking part in State Opera South Australia’s 2019 Winter School. 

Winter School runs from 24 June and culminates in our production of the Wesley-Smith opera-musical Boojum! at Dunstan Playhouse.

Winter School students will spend a fortnight in an intensive program of rehearsals, workshops and tuition sessions where they will learn about everything from vocal health, to stagecraft, and how to give a strong audition.

All Winter School participants are part of our production of Boojum! taking chorus and minor roles alongside some of State Opera’s most familiar faces.

Marie Campbell

Hello! My name is Marie Campbell, and I’m a mezzo-soprano currently residing in the Barossa Valley. This is my fourth engagement with State Opera South Australia, and I’m thrilled to take part in such a wonderful initiative for young artists in Australia.

Day 1

24 June 2019

Today started at 10 am for me at the opera studio in Netley. I was very excited and eager to start and thought I’d use the access I had to the studio to practice some repertoire for a mock audition the winter school participants have been granted this Friday. Other members of the winter school started arriving later and we all greeted each other and the “official stuff” began at 11 am. 

We were introduced to our Stage Manager, Jess Nash, the conductor, Warwick Stengårds, and the director, Joseph Mitchell. Joe gave us an in-depth rundown of his idea for the show, including some quite perplexing and intriguing thoughts about what exactly a snark is, and why the whole opera is about hunting one. I don’t want to ruin the show but pay attention to the use of flowers and the Lewis Carrol/Dodgson character.

At midday, the winter school had our first music call with the incomparable Andrew Georg. It was wonderful to hear everyone else’s voices and what they bring to this work.

Winter School - Sate Opera South Australia
State Opera Winter School Students creating a human Oropharyngeal resonating Chamber

After lunch was a masterclass about Vocal Preservation and function with the amazing Eleanor Brasted, a speech pathologist and impressive performer in her own right. She had quite amazing factual and inspirational comments on vocal production and we even made a human model of the oropharyngeal resonating chamber (pictured left).

At 3 pm, those of us with minor roles jumped over to the opera studio with the other principals to commence production rehearsals. After our dinner break, we were joined by choreography extraordinaire, Larissa McGowan to refine the pieces The Hunting of the Snark and The Mark of the Snark.

It was an action-packed day, and after 10 hours of music making (and very intense brain work during production) all I can say is I’m so inspired and that I have some work to do before tomorrow!

Day 2

25 June 2019

Day two of the winter school started with a masterclass with Warwick Stångards. Four students were chosen to sing their favourite aria or art song. It was an informative session and a group discussion meant each singer had multiple points of feedback.

Arianne Rich - State Opera Winter School 2019
Victoria Ballestrin - State Opera Winter School 2019
Macintyre Howie-Reeves - State Opera Winter School 2019

At midday, we started our music call and split off into the two sections of the winter school. Team A worked on FLASH!, which is a piece right at the end of act one, and Team B worked on The Hunting of the Snark, which is right near the beginning of the opera.

At 1 pm we were joined by the Production Manager at State Opera, Ben. He told us about all things production and the incredible team effort that goes into putting on just one opera. I found it inspiring to know that there are so many people behind the scenes, in stage management, set building, costume designing, lighting design, scheduling, props and so on, that all have such an immense passion for the art form (and, of course, for their individual craft) and are extremely dedicated to making sure the shows are successful.

“It was insightful to hear from Ben and Emma about all the work and planning that has to happen way before the cast starts rehearsals for an opera.”

Arianne Rich, 20, South Yarra, Melbourne (but SA born)What did you get out of the afternoon

Next, we were joined by Emma Brocklis, who is the Wardrobe Supervisor at State Opera. She went into detail about the importance of her relationship with the designer for shows like Boojum, and the sort of liaising that would go into each individual costume, right down to what shade of red that the hat Al, the American (Jeremy Tatchell) is wearing in this production. 

State Opera South Australia Wardrobe

We all joined together again after lunch at 3 pm to stage the winter school scenes Mourn for the baker, The hunting of the snark and FLASH!. Alex Fowler (17, from Tranmere, Adelaide) said:

“Working with the principals for the first time was very exciting; they were so welcoming. Overall, a great experience for us just entering the industry.”

State Opera South Australia - Boojum! Rehearsal

In the evening session, I got to watch the Tweedledee and Tweedledum duet for the first time and was in stitches the whole time! Get ready to laugh your pants off in this one folks!

Day 4

27 June 2019

Sadly, I could not make the morning workshop with Alison Nadebaum about “the business of show business”. So I asked Jolanta Kudra (The White Rabbit, 20  Yeronga, Brisbane) to tell me all about what she learnt. “It was interesting to learn tips and tricks about the ways that we, as artists, can be our own CEO’s and navigate our way through the arts profession”.

I arrived at 2 pm to join the winter school in a movement workshop with Amanda Phillips. For the hour I was there (before I had to join the production call for Boojum) we focused on three main points, proprioception (or our body in space, and the space in our body), the active space that surrounds the actor, and the seven levels of tension. I learned quite a lot of new activities to centre myself before a rehearsal or show. Rachel Wong (21, Cowandilla, Adelaide) said: “Amanda gave very insightful tips about body movement which I find very helpful as I often find myself stuck to one position during performances.”

The principals had the standard 3-6 and 7-10 production calls and we started staging act 2 today. It’s looking really good so far!

Day 7

1 July 2019

Today, Stuart Maunder, Artistic Director of State Opera South Australia joined us for an acting masterclass. For this masterclass, we workshopped 4 dialogue scenes from operetta and musical theatre. Starting with Yum-Yum (from Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Mikado”), then only Petra and Anne’s dialogue from Sondheim’s “A little Night Music”, a section of dialogue from Sondheim’s “Company” and Fairfax’s dialogue from G&S’s “Yeoman of the Guard”.

The most important 3 points I took away from this masterclass was to make a decision, think and take your time. Particularly in audition settings.

At 6:15 pm we were joined by a few of the generous donors who had natured there were a number of full scholarships provided to exceptional winter school participants. There was cakes, nibbles and wine, though no wine for us as we went straight into our final rehearsal at the Opera Studio, which was particularly interesting as ALL OF THE SET had already been bumped into the Dunstan Playhouse. The run required a lot of focus and determination in order to present a convincing show for the donors, who left after act 1 wanting more.

Tomorrow we have our first rehearsal the theatre!

Day 8

2 July 2019


Today we bumped into the Dunstan Playhouse for two Wandelprobe calls with the full company.

It was exciting to finally be in the space and to be reunited with the set and our props after two rehearsals without them.

We got a chance to really focus on the music, which was much needed after limited music calls.

It was wonderful to hear how the piece sounded in the space and I can’t wait for our dress run tomorrow!

Boojum at the Playhouse
Boojum! Sitzprobe

Day 9

3 July 2019

For today’s diary entry, as we had two dress rehearsals and slowly worked through the score, I asked everyone to “describe Boojum! in one word:

Joseph Mitchell (Director) “Nonsensical”, Warwick Stångards (Conductor) “death”, Mark Sandon (Repetiteur) “Absurd”, Ben Flett (Production Manager) “Super green”, Jess Nash (Stage Manager) “Boojum!”, Taylor Cheid (Assistant Stage Manager) “Spritely”, Emma Brockliss (Wardrobe Supervisor) “colourful, Ash Thomas (Wardrobe Assistant) “Unusual”, Sue Taylor (Hair and Makeup) “Wonderland”, Robyn Brookes (Winter School Coordinator) “Manic”, Tori Ballestrin “Whimsical”, Catherine Campbell (Cora, The Boots) “unknown”, Alex Fowler “hectic”, Nick Geddes (The Hare) “confusing”, Adam Goodburn (Charles Dodgson) “mysterious”, Gianna Guttilla “whitty”, Norbert Hohl (Carl, The Russian) “Awkward”, Macintyre Howie Reeves “curious”, Charlotte Kelso (Clarrie, The Butcher) “Snark”, Jolanta Kudra (White Rabbit) “complex”, Harmony Lee “fantastical”, Katrina Mackenzie (Alice) “quirky”, Joanna McWaters (Mrs Hargreaves/The Beaver) “Snark-tastic!”, Jamie Moffatt (The Hatter) “Kooky”, Mark Oates (The Catapillar) “crazy”, Brock Roberts (Lewis Carrol) “Ahhh!”, Arianne Rich “wonderous”, Josh Rowe (The Bellman/Wal) “ding-y”, Darci Sullivan “Versa-vice”, Sean Tanner “Bonkers”, Jeremy Tatchell (Al, The American) “unfathomable”, Andy Turner (Errol) “whacky”, Georgie Raft “educational”, Ruby Washington (Lorena) “visa-versa”, Emilie Woolfall “fun”, Rachel Wong “eccentric”.
And my word is “EXTRAORDINARY!”

Tomorrow we have our final piano dress and then it’s opening night.

This is Marie  Campbell signing out. See you at the show this Friday and Saturday at the Dunstan Playhouse!

OPERASA_BOOJUM_Marie Campbell, Nick Geddes © Soda Street Productions

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