Songs to Die For, courtesy of Opera Queensland

Gold Coasters are undoubtedly dying (sorry) to see the brand-new touring work from Opera Queensland, Songs To Die For, a cheeky, celebratory and ultimately reverent look at Opera’s relationship with the art of dying.

Touring across regional Queensland from 2 August to 8 September 2019, Songs to Die For is directed by Opera Queensland Artistic Director Patrick Nolan and stars leading artists; Soprano Rebecca Cassidy, Mezzo Soprano Jessica Low, Baritone Jason Barry-Smith with musicians Scott Saunders and Trevor Jones.

Weaving some of the great operatic death scenes from Purcell to Wagner with contemporary pop songs from artists like Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain, Songs To Die For reveals that a great song speaks to the soul regardless of when it was written.

The show will feature operatic classics such as Così fan tutte, Don Giovanni, Rigoletto and La Traviata alongside reimagined hits from the likes of The Doors, Billie Holliday and Nirvana.

In the lead up to its one-night performance at HOTA, Home of the Arts, we shot a few questions over to Baritone Jason Barry-Smith.

It must be fun to revisit some old favourite roles / songs for a night. Which contemporary songs have you’ve been particularly enjoying, and why?

It’s huge fun revisiting an old role or song that you’ve performed before. It’s like meeting up with an old friend: you’ve changed, and even though the role looks the same on the page, you will often see it in a very different way because of your experiences. Don Giovanni is a bit like that. He was fun to play as a young man, but I’m much more disappointed with that young man’s choices in my middle-age. As for the contemporary songs, any AC/DC is an absolute blast. But the one I love singing the most is INXS’s ‘Never Tear Us Apart’, what a great sing!

What’s the most memorable performance experience of your career while on tour?

Tours are brilliant for wonderful experiences: audience members arriving in their hi-vis gear, children sitting on the floor transfixed by the singing. But my favourite would have to be a bloke in the front row letting out the most almighty fart right in the middle of a soft, beautiful duet for two ladies. He got the giggles, his mates did too, but the two brilliant singers continued singing without missing a beat.

Why do you think death makes for such fascinating fodder for songwriters and artists?

Death is the great unknown, and artists are into dealing with things that most of us don’t think about in depth. What will happen? How will I feel? How will I know? The questions are endless. Some artists have lived life on the edge for so long that death is a real presence in their lives, and many great artists have left us far too young. Many of those are represented in Songs to Die For.

How do you expect audiences to react as the show explores both opera and pop pieces?

I hope that audiences are going to enjoy having pieces that they know sharing the same space as pieces they aren’t familiar with yet, and the way that we’ve juxtaposed many of the numbers gives a greater understanding of their relevance. I’m pretty sure they’re going to love it!

Is there anything you’d like Gold Coast audiences to know about the show before it hits our shores?

Gold Coast audiences are very sophisticated concert goers, so I think it’s best if we leave the magic to unfold without any spoilers!

Songs To Die For celebrates the end of things with joy and wonder, brought to vivid life for one Gold Coast performance only, on 8 September. Tickets on sale now at hota.com.au.

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