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An Opera for Everyone: Grace Chow makes her opera debut in Our Little Inventor

Presented by the West Australian Opera, Our Little Inventor is a show that’s providing a series of ‘first moments’ both on and off stage.  

The story follows a young inventor named Nell who has designed a machine to fix the city’s pollution and won’t let the nay-saying adults deter her from success.

Leading the show as Nell, is actor and playwright Grace Chow who is making her opera debut, “This is very new territory for me. I feel like I’m Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz! I’m very used to hitting the ground running and excelling in theatre – sometimes in musical theatre… but opera? It’s a real privilege to feel like a beginner again.”

Describing Nell as plucky and headstrong, Grace says her acting skills play a large part in this role, “I’m very excited to be able to bring my actor’s skill set to this leading character. The performance style we’ve chosen allows the opera to be more accessible for a child audience, I think. And not just children! First time opera go-ers in general. There are some very sophisticated themes for all audience members, no matter your age.”

Our Little Inventor 2022 | Grace Chow sings “My name is Nell”

A key part of Nell’s character is her Asian-Australian identity. For Grace this is the first time she has been cast with an Asian-Australian family on-stage. “I love having a family on stage. Everyone in the on-stage family speaks Mandarin. It’s really beautiful to have that connection, which I don’t usually have working on a project.”

She explains that this type of representation is important for all children to see, “I think that growing up I would have really benefited from seeing more colour on screen in terms of our faces; not just me but any child would have benefited from that.”

“I read an article recently about a study that found the same part of your brain that can envision the future is the same part of the brain that deals with memory. So, if you don’t see someone who looks like you on your screen or stage, you can’t imagine a future where you could possibly exist in that realm – whether as the role the actor is portraying, like a doctor or a reporter or an inventor… or even as an actor itself. Media, live and filmed, are such incredibly potent educational spaces for both children and adults.”

The show is described as a work for people of all ages and Grace reveals this extends to the performers on stage too, “There’s going to be 40 kids singing on stage alongside really seasoned professional performers. That alone is fantastic, it’s a very special opportunity for both parties.”

She adds that what distinguishes Our Little Inventor from traditional opera is its performance style, “Perhaps, at times, it is closer to musical theatre in its style of delivery! And at its heart is a beautifully crafted character-driven story that is easy to follow, but sophisticated in layering about the agency of children in the climate crisis we face. And that’s because Sher Rill and Emma Jayakumar, the co-librettists, are brilliant artists. It’s thrilling visually and musically and I think everyone should come!”

Our Little Inventor is playing a limited season, as part of the Awesome Arts Festival, from October 1st to 2nd at His Majesty’s Theatre.