Mozart's protegee unveils new chamber opera at free Sydney Conservatorium of Music recital

14 August 2013

At 10 years old, Sophie Spargo eclipsed Mozart to become the youngest person in history to have written a full scale opera and libretto
At 10 years old, Sophie Spargo eclipsed Mozart to become the youngest person in history to have written a full scale opera and libretto

A new work by one of Australia's most prodigious young composers will go on show at a free recital at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music on 23 August.

Sophie Spargo, a Sydney Conservatorium of Music student who became the youngest person in history to have written a full scale opera and libretto when she clinched the world record from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at the age of 10, will stage her most recent chamber opera, Somewhere Between the Sky and the Sea.

Starring a cast of Sydney Conservatorium of Music students, the opera will be conducted by acclaimed conductor George Ellis, who has worked with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, conducted the Millennium Choir at the Sydney Olympic Games, was the Musical Director of the Athens Olympic games and has conducted various internationally acclaimed orchestras.

"In the past I've composed mainly full scale operas, but a chamber opera gave me the chance to write for a smaller ensemble and work more closely during my collaboration with the performers," says Sophie, who is currently studying her Master of Music (Composition).

"I chose to study the effects of collaboration on modern Australian dance and opera composition for my thesis, which is how I came to compose such a collaborative work. I'm enjoying working with the singers, instrumentalists, director and stage manager, and it's providing some great opportunities for us to come together and share our ideas."

The opera follows Ramon, a Portuguese composer living in a big city, as he struggles to decide between the two great loves of his life. Will he choose the world's greatest violinist, Stephanie Lythe, for whom he has composed the perfect violin concerto? Or his new girlfriend Madeleine, a cellist, who makes the best beef vindaloo and pays the rent?

"There's been a lot of giggling through our hard work - which really doesn't help my thesis, but reinforces why it is that I feel compelled to write operatic works."

Based on a short play of the same name by Alex Broun, which was a finalist in the 10-minute play festival Short + Sweet, the performance is part of the Conservatorium's extensive program of events.

The Conservatorium stages regular events featuring rising stars, seasoned performers and staff and students in a broad range of genres.

"Opera is a coming together of all of my favourite musical and theatrical elements - it's more than just a play and more than just a chamber music performance. The human voice is one of my favourite instruments as it gives another level and layer of meaning to the music, and it's so much more emotional," Sophie says.

"I think the most important thing is that audiences know there is much more to opera than the stereotype of a screeching soprano in a Viking outfit!"

At the age of 27, Spargo is already a seasoned composer and performer. As a 10-year-old, she trumped Mozart to become the youngest person in history to have written a full-scale opera, including musical score and libretto.

By the age of 14, she had completed 'The White Cat', a full-scale two-hour opera and ballet with an orchestrated musical score and libretto, based on a 1699 French fairytale. She directed the world premiere performance of her opera at the Arts Centre in Melbourne in 2003, which had three sell-out performances.

When she won a $3000 performance grant from the Foundation for Young Australians in 2011, Sophie decided to share it with her fellow students to stage 'New Works by Young Composers', which included 15 new compositions.

Event details:

What: Somewhere between the sky and the sea, a new chamber opera by Sophie Spargo

When: 7.30pm, Friday 23 August 2013

Where: Music Workshop, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, corner Bridge and Macquarie Streets

Cost: Free, no bookings required, unreserved seating

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