AN ambition to be an opera singer began early for Brunswick-based soprano Danielle Calder. At 12 she joined the Children’s Choir with the Australian Opera, but it was not until her late teens that she began studying classical music at the Victorian College of the Arts. ‘‘I knew that I wanted to be a performer,’’ Calder says. ‘‘I love the music, I love the art form, and the talent; the technical talent of singing unamplified through large auditoriums.’’
Calder has lived most of her life in Melbourne, and says the significant support for opera here is apparent in the success of both state-funded and private companies.
‘‘There are lots of independent companies, such as Melbourne Opera, that manage to put on several operas a year and have a really fabulous following without government grants. They rely on their box office sales and on sponsorship, which is a huge achievement.’’
Earlier in her career Calder, 35, divided her time between the UK and Italy, where she trained and studied Italian while also working for an Italian opera company. She says while she loves Australian opera, it was beneficial to immerse herself in the European culture.
‘‘There’s plenty of great training and great opportunities in Australia in the opera world, but opera is a European tradition and there is a lot to be gained from understanding the art form in the context of European society,’’ she says.
This week Melbourne Opera will begin its 10th anniversary winter season with a modern adaptation of Mozart’s comic piece Cosi Fan Tutte, a tale about friends’ wagers on the virtue of their women.
Director Suzanne Chaundy has adapted the Italian-language work, traditionally set in 18th century Naples, to 1960s Melbourne.
Calder says there is an advantage to presenting an opera in its original language, in terms of music and meaning, but a translation to the audience’s native tongue can also be beneficial.
‘‘It makes it very accessible and you can connect with the opera without knowing the background,’’ she says. ‘‘It can really enhance the theatrical experience as you’re not struggling to understand what is going on.’’
Calder will play one of the leading characters, Fiordiligi. Some other career highlights include playing Mimi in La Boheme and the Governess in The Turn of the Screw, but she says she always has a tendency to love the role she’s in. ‘‘The role I am playing now is one of the biggest challenges for me of my career, and it is a favourite.’’
Calder said her favourite thing about her profession is working with fantastic people and being able to do something fun, and challenging. ‘‘I just love the chance to get to sing fabulous music. It’s a pretty nice thing to go and do each day.”
Cosi Fan Tutte opens at the Athenaeum Theatre on July 11. Bookings: visit melbourneopera.com.