When I first found out about Uluru’s inaugural Opera Gala, I knew straight away that my search for an unique way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of my Australia immigrant life was over.
For a very long time, as a young migrant, this Taiwanese ‘China girl’ had dreamt of seeing Uluru and the equally iconic Red Centre of Australia. For me, this ‘red desert’ is so exotic; the ever changing colour Ayers Rock (as I first knew it) is mysterious and this spiritual heart of Australia’s first people has an atmosphere of secrecy that I also found so alluring. Thanks to Voyages Indigenous Tourism and Opera Australia who combined this impressive backdrop and some of the world’s most heavenly voices; this first ever, one-night-only concert promised guests a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we were thrilled to be part of it!
Hold On To Your Tickets; Here Comes The Coaches
‘To help keep your party’s tickets safe, you will find these in your room upon check-in, together with a complimentary concert program…’ as our email reminded us and even better, tickets and programs were personally delivered to our hotel room. On the 2nd of November, the concert day, we followed the information given by making our way to the hotel entrance, ready to be picked up just before 6pm and the front foyer was already full with opera-goers. Everyone seemed to be in high spirits, we chatted with one another, about Uluru, the opera; the outback experience, the flies and our outfits for the evening.
Three air conditioned and dust-excluding pressurised coaches arrived at Sails in the Desert resort and soon the first bus was full, Kent and I made it to the second one. During this 20-minute ride which included a cautious glide over corrugated red dirt road, we looked out into this unique and vast desert landscape, the smoke from bushfires we spotted earlier was still dusting the horizon. Although there had been a massive cloud of dark smoke rising in the general direction of tonight’s event.. that the show went on meant the fires had not become a threat to our safety, but we couldn’t help noticing black smoke as it continued to appear on the horizon…
Not Even Bushfire Could Dent Our Excitement
Yes, black smoke, bushfire! Early on that day Kent and I noticed dark smoke from the direction we thought would be near the Opera Gala’s venue. I immediately called the hotel staff and they soon contacted local fire service. All assured us that the fire was not serious, and the show would be on schedule. Even our lovely coach driver also reassured us by saying that ‘when the Spinifex grasses burn, they create large amount of dark smoke due to their mineral composition; it appears worse than it actually is…’
And if that was not enough reassurance, our host of the night, Opera Australia Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini informed us all in the beginning of the event that ‘there are five fire engines driving five hours from Alice Springs which park and standby the venue to ensure our safety…’ The thing is, we were so excited to be here! Everyone was taking pictures, making phone videos; sipping a glass of sparkling wine (or beer or red wine), chatting with fellow travellers and opera lovers; really, not even some bushfire could dent our excitement of being at the first-ever Opera Gala at Uluru!
An Open Theatre By Field Of Light Uluru
It was about 250 meters from the bus stop to the venue. With British artist Bruce Munro‘s installation art phenomenon Field of Light Uluru on the left hand side, this short walk took a little longer than usual. It was the first time Kent and I saw the famous installation in person; although it was not yet dark, we were still dazzled by a view of a shimmering field of backlit white.
A stage, with Uluru as its backdrop and the Field of Light Uluru by its side; this event was truly a wonderful union of the nature’s raw beauty and fine art. Naturally this alfresco theatre in the desert had a tented bar too (champagne anyone?). What’s magical for me was the red earth, which seemed like a red carpet for all of us! The clouds above were displaying an impressive show too, appearing like spokes radiating out from the sacred Uluru.
With over one hour before the show, all seemed keen to explore the amazing surroundings, mingling with others and of course, taking photographs in the last light of the day.
Concert Attire Suggestions: Layers, Closed In Shoes And Avoid Light Colours
There was no compulsory dress code. However, being an outdoor stage we had been recommended to ‘bring layers’, wear ‘closed in shoes and to avoid light colours’. We were very lucky weather-wise, no strong winds, only light breezes, 26C which was very pleasant. A much nicer change from the day before’s 38km/h high winds in 40C heat!
And thank goodness, after sunset all the flies suddenly disappeared – another outback mystery! In case you wonder why you should ‘avoid light colour’? Well, perhaps I could show you my jeans, they were white and are now pink!
The Concert Commences At 7.45PM
Here are more images before our concert started. Among 750 audience members, some even travelled from as far as Germany and the United Kingdom. We were about to enjoy two acts’ worth of the most popular arias. Kent and I respected the request not to take any pictures during the show; it was surprising to notice not everyone did…
Inaugural Opera Gala At Uluru Program Features:
ROSSINI ‘Largo al factotum’ from The Barber of Seville
BIZET Habanera from Carmen
BIZET Toreador Song from Carmen
PUCCINI ‘Che gelida manina’ from La Bohème
ROSSINI ‘Una voce poco fa’ from The Barber of Seville
VERDI ‘Ritorna vincitor!’ from Aida
BIZET ‘Sempre libera’ from La Traviata
Exchanging Thoughts During Interval
Kent, as a long time opera and concert lover, thought the sound system was probably the best he had ever heard. With one caveat, ‘why so much reverb?’ ‘It seems with no walls to produce echo, the sound engineers might have slid the reverb dial a little too far!’ In Kent’s humble opinion. But he also said it was nit picking a fabulous experience.
Whereas for myself, the only opera experience I’d had was La Bohème, and that was back in the late ’90s in Hong Kong. I can’t say it turned me into a huge fan. However, the upbeat tone of ‘Largo al factotum’ (sung by baritone Haotian Qi) was very refreshing; I was moved and I’d love to hear more of it. Perhaps time for me to really discover opera!
ROSSINI Overture to William Tell
GOUNOD Jewel Song from Faust
GOUNOD ‘Avant de quitter ces lieux’ from Faust
PUCCINI ‘Vissi d’arte’ from Tosca
PUCCINI ‘E lucevan le stelle’ from Tosca
DELIBES Flower Duet from Lakmé
PUCCINI ‘Nessun dorma’ from Turandot
Our Talented Performers Of The Night:
Members Of The Opera Australia Orchestra
Conducted by Tahu Matheson
Hosted by Lyndon Terracini
A True Feast For The Senses
Flower Duet – how beautiful! This sweet-sounding and harmonious duet (sung by soprano Lorina Gore and mezzo-soprano Angela Hogan) would continue to be echoing in my head for days. Last but certainly not least, ‘Nessun dorma’, one of the best-known arias in all opera today, delivered wonderfully by tenor Simon Kim. To enjoy it in such an incredible environment, on the desert under the stars.., it gave me goosebumps. (And as a bonus, I thanked Mr. Kim for his performance when I saw him at the breakfast buffet at Sails in the Desert the very next morning – along with a number of other guests.)
Kent, here he talks about the stunning quality of the performers’ voices, the atmosphere and energy… ‘I was truly astounded that out there, in the desert night, such winning performances, to my ears quite flawless; it was a magical evening.’
Well this was not all! At the end of the concert, our host, Mr. Terracini had us sing along to the very familiar and popular ‘Libiamo Chorus’ from La Traviata – with the universal language ‘la~la~la~’. It was a fun ‘collaboration’ between us and the Opera Australia Orchestra and although we were told ‘don’t quit your day job’ after our first attempt, we nailed it of course the second time around, well sort of… Did I have fun celebrating my 30-year-Australian-life in this way? Absolutely! A remarkable indulgence in the middle of an exceptional place – my home, Australia!
Post Uluru-Climb-Ban Culture Activities
While Kent and myself are happy with the Uluru climb closed permanently from the 26th of October; we are hoping to see more art/culture events such as Opera Gala at Uluru would be a sign of things to come. Now I have seen, walked and touched this spiritual land of the Anangu people, I understand how special this place really is, and not just for the locals! There are so many ways to explore it other than climbing this monumental rock. We stayed for 12 nights (yes, a lot of material) and we can’t wait to show you the beauty of this amazing Red Centre through a series of my posts.