cast and creatives.

Chris Clement McNee – Director

Chris Clement McNee is a London based Director of theatre and opera.

He initially studied Political Science and Philosophy at the Australian National University before studying Classical Voice at the Queensland Conservatorium.

He has worked in Australia, the United Kingdom and done outreach work in Papua New Guinea. Chris is the founder of Brisbane City Opera and served as Artistic Director of the company from 2017-2019. With BCO Chris directed ‘Opera Galactica’ (2019) – An Australian Premiere work from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, The Magic Flute (2018), Apollo & Dafne (2018), Bastien and Bastienne (2017) as well as a robust annual concert series which included the first performance in Queensland’s Parliament House since 1867.

Chris also took BCO on tour to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea for a week of collaboration and music making in early 2019.

Chris has a passion for providing intimate, unexpected and unique operatic experiences. His work places an emphasis on stripping opera back to its most basic components and staging them in intimate and unusual venues. This process allows audiences to engage with opera up close and it lets the artist communicate authentically and truthfully.

As a Director and Assistant Director he has had professional  engagements with British Youth Opera, the Queensland Conservatorium and Sound Thinking Australia.

He recently worked as Project Coordinator for the Lisa Gasteen National Opera School’s 2019 production of Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor (The Merry Wives of Windsor).

In 2020 Chris will join English Touring Opera as Staff Director for their Autumn Season.

Bridget O’Brien – Director (On episodes 1-5)

Bridget O’Brien is a creative with a diverse skillset.

In 2018 she graduated from the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University with a Bachelor of Music in Performance (Classical voice) where she discovered a love of various backstage aspects of performing arts. During her studies she was involved with Brisbane City Opera in a marketing and public relations role, and worked as an assistant director on productions. She also regularly contributed to music magazine CutCommon with reviews of performances throughout Brisbane. In 2019 she moved to Berlin, Germany to try her hand at stage managing.

At Berlin Opera Academy’s Opern Fest she stage managed productions of Die Zauberflote and The Crucible in the historical Theater Delphi, and moved across to the world of musical theatre for a production with Berlin Musicals. As the Covid-19 crisis brought the world to a halt, Bridget was midway through a stage managing apprenticeship at the Komische Oper Berlin learning and working on world class productions in a leading opera house. Now, she’s in quarantine with her parents and dog at the Sunshine Coast working on a project like this to manifest a silver lining.

Elli Welsh – Music Director

Pianist Elli Welsh completed a Bachelor of Music in 2016 and a Master of Music Studies in 2018 (Distinction) at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University under the tutelage of Natasha Vlassenko. Elli currently holds a scholarship position at the Royal Academy of Music where she is undertaking a Professional Diploma in Piano Accompaniment with James Baillieu. Elli also won the Ena Williams Award for Postgraduate Study Overseas.

Elli’s excellence in performance has also been recognised through the Margaret Nickson Prize for Voice and Accompaniment (2017) and the John and Sue Thompson Vocal Accompaniment Scholarship (2018). Last year, Elli toured northern and central Queensland with award-winning quintet, Topology.

Also a member of Brisbane City Opera (BCO), Elli was Repetiteur for the 2019 production of Opera Galactica (an Australian premiere direct from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival), Repetiteur and Performer for the 2018 production of Handel’s Apollo e Dafne and the 2017 production of Mozart’s Bastien und Bastienne. In 2018, she was also appointed Student Repetiteur and Performer for the Conservatorium’s production of Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, Puccini’s La rondine and Massenet’s Cendrillon.

Other achievements include her 2011 performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in E flat for two pianos with orchestra alongside Rachael Shipard under the direction of John Curro AM MBE, her performances for the 4MBS Chamber Music Prize, the Australian Piano Duo Festival and the Queensland Conservatorium Gala.

Rachel Pines – Fiordiligi

Canadian-Australian soprano Rachel Pines is a versatile performer known for her “sparkling, nuanced” singing (Cut-Common magazine 2018). Rachel is equally at home on the operatic and concert stage, and has performed as a soloist for Opera Queensland, Opera Australia, Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Gertrude Opera, and Brisbane City Opera among many others. Recent projects include concerts with Brisbane City Opera in Australia and PNG, Beethoven’s concert aria “Ah! perfido” with the Cadenza Chamber Players, and a soloist feature in the new chamber work A Church Made of Glass by Eliot Gyger with Opera Queensland. In 2019 Rachel also played “Roberta” in the children’s chamber-music production Da Vinci’s Apprentice which toured Australia with Musica Viva.

Notable operatic roles include Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos conducted by Simone Young AM; Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute (Opera Australia Schools Tour, Brisbane City Opera, Gertrude Opera); Dafne in Apollo e Dafne (Brisbane City Opera); Frasquita in Carmen (Queensland Symphony Orchestra); Tytania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Despina in Così fan tutte; Erste Dame, Zweite Dame and Papagena in Die Zauberflöte.

In concert, Rachel has appeared with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra performing Olympia’s aria from The Tales of Hoffmann and the Queen of the Night arias. Her extensive concert experience includes art songs and concert arias (Beethoven, Ravel, Debussy, Barber, Mahler and Strauss), and soprano solos in oratorios, masses and chamber works by Bach, Handel, Haydn, Monteverdi, Mozart, Vivaldi and Purcell.

Rachel Pines is featured in the documentary Love Opera, which premiered at the Brisbane Film Festival in October 2019. With operatic vocal ensemble The Seven Sopranos, Rachel created the role of Mary Sullivan in the new musical Songs from Stage and Screen which toured Australia in 2017/2018. Rachel was a major prizewinner in the 2018 New Zealand Aria Competition, and a finalist in the 2019 Belvedere Singing Competition.

Xenia Puskarz Thomas – Dorabella

Brisbane born mezzo-soprano Xenia Puskarz Thomas began her formal studies with her mentor, internationally renowned soprano Margaret Baker Genovesi, at 16 years of age. She continued her training with Dr Margaret Schindler at the Griffith University Queensland Conservatorium. In 2018, Xenia was awarded a Bachelor of Music with first class honours, and the University Medal for Academic Achievement. 

During her years at the Conservatorium, she performed excerpts from Mozart’s Idomeneo (Idamante) and Massenet’s Cendrillon (Le Prince Charmant) and the roles of L’Enfant (Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges) and Mrs Gladys Callaway (Paul Dean’s world première Dry River Run). Her Conservatorium awards include the Sir Mostyn Hanger Opera Award, the Linda Edith Allen Undergraduate Award, the Barbara Hebden Music Bursary and the Brisbane Club Award. 

Xenia was the recipient of the 2019 Amelia Joscelyne Scholarship for the Melba Opera Trust. Competition successes in 2018, included winning the Tinkler Encouragement Award at the IFAC Handa Australian Singing Competition, and also The Opera Foundation for Young Australians Lady Fairfax New York Scholarship, which she undertook in October 2019.

Recent professional engagements include; SongStudio 2020 at Carnegie Hall, Opera at Jimbour with Opera Queensland, Bangalow Festival with the Southern Cross Soloists, and the Camerata of St John’s Helpmann nominated ‘Home’ concert. Xenia was also invited to represent Australia in the 2017 China-Australia Film Festival in Wuhan, China. Xenia is passionate about continuing opera’s 400-year-old traditions and making this genre accessible for all ages.

Irena Lysiuk – Despina

Since graduating the Queensland Conservatorium in 2016 with a Grad. dip. in Music studies and in 2014 with a Bachelor of Music, Irena Lysiuk has worked extensively with company Opera Queensland. Irena played Gretel in OQ and Shake and Stir theatre company’s school touring production Hansel and Gretel (2017-18) and Adina in Fizz! (2016), as well as chorus roles in OQ’s main stage QPAC productions such as Gilbert & Sullivan’s Ruddigore (2017), Don Giovanni (2018) and A Flowering Tree (2019).

Turning to musical theatre, Irena played ‘Carmen’ in Sweet Charity at the Brisbane Powerhouse (2019) and Anne Egerman in the Brisbane Philharmonic Orchestra’s production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music (2018). In 2018, Lysiuk debuted the role of the ‘Pussycat’ in Little match productions new opera ‘The Owl & Pussycat’, performed at CommGames Festival and Brisbane Festival 2018 (QPAC). During her time at the university, Irena’s roles included Damigella in L’incoronazione di Poppea (2015), Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro (2013), Papagena in Die Zauberflöte- scenes (2012), and Una Novizia in Suor Angelica (2011).

Iain Henderson – Ferrando

Australian lyric tenor Iain Henderson is a widely sought after performer with a strong ringing sound and an energetic performance style. Iain has performed with Opera Queensland (Australia), Queensland Symphony Orchestra (Australia), Opera North (UK), Buxton Opera
Festival (UK), Glyndebourne Festival Opera (UK), and many other companies both as an ensemble member or soloist.

Iain has performed the roles of Vaudemont in Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta [Les Azurialies], Rinuccio in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi [RNCM]; Sellem in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress [British Youth Opera]; Rosy Lickspittle (The Witch) in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel [RNCM]; Basilio in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Mayor Upfold in Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring, Le petit Vieillard in Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortileges and Azaël inDebussy’s L’Enfant Prodigue [QCGU].

“Stealing the show was Iain Henderson as the Gingerbread Witch entertainingly sung and played and dressed in the manner of a Pantomime Dame…”

Iain studied at the Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester, UK) with Susan Roper and Peter Wilson, and was invited to undertake their highly sought-after International Artist Diploma. Iain is currently based in the UK where he was due to be covering the role of Pedrillo with Glyndebourne Festival Opera until the lockdown commenced as well as joining the Glyndebourne Ensemble for L’Elisir d’Amore, The Rake’s Progress and Fidelio.

Samuel Piper – Guglielmo

Samuel Piper, baritone, has worked with Opera Australia, Opera Queensland, Victorian Opera, Pinchgut Opera, Queensland Symphony Orchestra, and numerous other companies as either chorister or soloist. He is the 2019-2020 recipient of both the Arts Queensland Individuals Fund and Lord Mayor’s Young and Emerging Artist Fellowship, which has enabled him to undertake further study in Italy (where he is now quarantined). He received a scholarship from Melba Opera Trust from 2016-2019 and attended the Lisa Gasteen National Opera School in both 2014 and 2017.

In 2018, Samuel made his debut as Masetto in Don Giovanni in a new production conducted by Johannes Fritzsch and directed by Lindy Hume for Opera Queensland.

…Masetto was brilliantly played by Piper… It was a performance that evoked sympathy and compassion from the entire audience…”

With his home company, Opera Queensland, he has performed in numerous productions and events including the Helpmann Award nominated Mozart Airborne, which saw Mozart’s music sung and danced to by artists from Opera Queensland and Expressions Dance Company, and in education launches, season launches, gala events, and concerts.

Henry Pinder – Don Alfonso

Brisbane bass Henry Pinder maintains a busy performing schedule locally and interstate. A classical music lover from a young age, Henry began performing in 2004 at the age of ten in the children’s chorus of Opera Queensland.  Soon thereafter, Henry moved to Vienna to become the first Australian member of the Vienna Boys’ Choir, with whom he toured extensively and performed under the batons of many renowned conductors.

Henry completed his formal vocal training at the Queensland Conservatorium under Associate Professor Margaret Schindler. He performed several leading roles in Conservatorium operas, including the Speaker in Mozart’s Magic Flute, Superintendent Budd in Britten’s Albert Herring and the Drunken Poet in Purcell’s Fairy Queen. In 2018 Henry created the role of Joseph in the world premiere of Paul Dean’s opera Dry River Run. In 2019 Henry was a semi-finalist in the Australian Singing Competition.

Henry has recently accepted a position in the chorus of Opera Australia. He also hopes to move to England in September to undertake a Master’s degree at the Royal Academy of Music, if he’s not still in quarantine, that is. 

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