4 Min Read

A Jolly Good Sing-Along: Christmas at the Quarry

Even total newbies to opera like myself would enjoy the fun and festivity of Freeze Frame Opera’s Christmas Concert under the stars, no prior experience required.

The Quarry Amphitheatre is a suitably dramatic backdrop for a night of culture, the big rock walls towering over us lit up in red green and pink. Our designated seating was marked out along the grassy rows, everyone allocated a chair’s width of space, but unless you’re in the back rows you need to have brought your own. Luckily, my friend and I were prepared with low-back beach chairs and a picnic to set out in front of us, which we enjoyed while listening to the pre-show entertainment by Boox Kid, whose soft voice and gentle guitar and perfectly set the mood for a relaxed and festive evening.

The first half of the show was a shortened version of the opera Hansel and Gretel, revised down to fifty minutes by Musical Director and pianist Tommaso Pollio. Ruth Burke’s Hansel and Sophia Wasley’s Gretel were delightfully cheeky in their yellow and brown Scouts uniforms, and the Australianisation of the script moved the action to a camping trip and changed the infamous oven into a classic Aussie barbeque. Prudence Sanders and Robert Hofmann as Mother and Father were also hilariously Aussie, but without a doubt Harriet Marsall’s energetic, fairy-floss-clad witch stole the show with her spiky black boots and magic bubble gun. I wasn’t the only one watching the lurid pink gun enviously as she sprayed bubbles across the front row, threatening to overtake our minds and wills with her “hocus pocus bubble gun” magic. Who ever said opera was stuffy and unrelatable?

Photography by Nic Babic/Artshoot Media

After a twenty-minute interval (which gave us time to spread the sweet portion of our dinner across our picnic blanket) we were treated to a variety of Christmas carols and musical numbers, MCed by the stunningly sparkly Penny Shaw.

All the music for the night was provided by Trio Tiramisu, made up of Tommaso Pollio on piano, Sophie Curtis on cello, and Cathie Travers on the piano accordion, an instrument that I haven’t seen on stage often but fitted right in and even provided occasional humour in its jaunty melody.

The songs of the second half included a gender-swapped, jealousy-ridden rendition of my favourite, ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside,’ a hilariously dramatic performance of ‘Agony’ from the musical Into the Woods, and a rock/opera mash-up from our de-wigged witch Harriet Marshall and Freddy Mercury fan Vin Trikeriotis. All the performers wowed us with their incredible vocals and cheery stage presence, and special mention has to go to first-year WAAPA student Devon Lake, whose performance of ‘Stars’ from Les Mis put Russel Crowe to shame and got the biggest cheer of the evening.

Photography by Nic Babic/Artshoot Media

To drive home how accessible Freeze Frame is making opera, the last few songs were real family affairs, with kids on stage to dance to ’12 Days of (Aussie) Christmas’ and everybody getting involved in a sing-along to ‘Good King Wenceslas.’ When all the company sang together it filled the quarry to the brim and I wondered how many people on late night walks through Perry Lakes were also enjoying the music.

Everyone on stage had an infectious enthusiasm and clear love for their art which made the evening an absolute delight. Freeze Frame’s Christmas Concert is a feel-good, festive night that really makes it feel like Christmas.

Freeze Frame Opera’s Christmas at the Quarry is on now until December 18th.