1. Sophie Serese

22 Mar

At 24 Sophie Serese, a Banyule local, lives and breathes music. Sophie has completed twelve full scale operas, founded the Australian Youth Opera, and even studied Musical Composition at the University of Tasmania. Drawing her inspiration from everything including fairy tales and TV shows, Sophie wrote her first full scale opera, The White Cat, at fourteen, and didn’t stop there.

Walk us through the process of writing and performing an opera.

The process started off when I wrote my first opera, The White Cat. First I read the fairy tale and I really liked the story so I thought why don’t I put it to music? The next thing I did was write the first piece for it. After reading the story, working out the text, and setting it all to music I then applied for arts grants which I was successful at getting, and that helped me to put the show on at the Victorian Arts Centre. All in all, operas can take me anywhere from three months to two years to write.

Why opera? Not every 14 year old chooses to write an opera!

I think I was just a very over ambitious child! I’ve always been a classical musician so when I was fourteen I got into watching a lot of operas, and I thought maybe I should try to write one! In hindsight it was a bigger project than I actually perceived. I may not have attempted it now, if I knew what I know now.

Do you have any musical role models?

I was really inspired by my favourite Classical and Baroque composers – Mozart, Handel, Beethoven, and Bach, until I got to Uni, then I started liking all the 20th century people! They inspired me to get outside of my comfort zone and write some really different music. I still want most people to like it when they hear it, so I don’t want to get too crazy but at the same time I want to have a little bit of craziness and try to do something different with what I’m writing.

What were your aims in starting the Australian Youth Opera and what gap did you see it filling?

I started that up as a not for profit organization to provide performance opportunities for young people. The idea was that it’s really hard for young singers to break into the industry and get their first role. It’s there to be the place where younger singers could go and get a role before they’re ready to move into the realm of professional opera.

What was your biggest obstacle in getting where you are today?

Arts funding was the biggest obstacle, but it was also the biggest help in how I got here. It’s a bit of a double edged sword – as a composer you’re reliant on funding and I’ve been lucky enough to get that, but for most composers who aren’t successful with funding, it would be really tough funding your shows and performances yourself.

Do you have any advice for other aspiring composers?

I think it’s important to get hands on experience in as many shows and productions as you can. Saying that, I’m really glad I went and studied, and would definitely suggest it to anyone who wants to pursue a career in music because you need to be able to back up your skills with the little piece of paper at the end.

Sophie Serese

Words By: Zoe Cooper Sutton

Photos by: Sean Porter

© Sean Porter 2011


2 Responses to “1. Sophie Serese”

  1. Cathy March 23, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    Inspiring story, congrats Sophie. Great writing and great photos!! Keep up the good work. I look forward to seeing more.

  2. Annalisa March 24, 2011 at 7:29 am #

    Sophie, you’re amazing! Congratulations on your many successes and I look forward to hearing more from you in the near future!

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