Emma Pearson is an Australian soprano, based in Wellington with her husband Wade Kernot. Emma was scheduled to sing the Countess in our production of The Marriage of Figaro, due to open next month and now rescheduled for next year.
What has Emma been doing in the meantime? She’s launched Avenue Opera with Wade, a socially distanced opera company that’s allowing opera-lovers in Wellington to get their music fix.
What and who is Avenue Opera and what do you do?
Avenue Opera is a small touring group of opera singers. We will set up a small stage on your front lawn, street or driveway and perform a 20 minute mini-concert for people (the hosts) who are either isolated in their homes, missing live music and opera, celebrate a special occasion or just cheer up someone special, for the same price as a large bouquet of flowers including delivery.
We are able to move and perform at two or three different addresses in a day, which helps keep the price low for our hosts.
Healthline and the local police have approved my plans in Level 3, as long as it is only my husband, Wade Kernot (bass) performing with me and the event must stay contactless. As we move to Level 2, I will be able to engage more local singers and musicians, and possibly perform indoors for small groups of people.
We are now performing in our region of Wellington, outdoors, at a very safe distance. We have a small podium or stage (repurposed from the Wellington nightclub Boogie Nights), a big battery-powered bluetooth speaker to play our orchestral accompaniment and Mother Nature as our back drop.
What sparked the idea?
Avenue Opera is inspired by my very talented friend’s work, Australian soprano Harriet Marshall and her company, Freeze Frame Opera. F.F.O. has been employing many singers through Australia’s lockdown. They perform 25 minute concerts, at several different addresses a day, on the back of a ute (now a Bedford pick-up truck). People, similar to my parents and my parents-in-law who over 70, have been in isolation for a long time now, because this virus would be devastating to their health. I am unable to help my own parents but I am sure there are many people like them, in our region of Wellington, who would enjoy some live music to lift the spirits now and then.
Can people request a particular aria from your repertoires?
Yes they can! Please mention if you have a request, with enough time we can include them in our playlist.
We have two programmes at this stage, ‘Light Classics’ (which is art song and famous arias) and ‘Opera Geeks’ (for those who really know their opera.)
Wade is very busy during the week with his work for the New Zealand School of Music, so he will only be appearing on weekends.
How does it work in the world of social distancing?
The main goal is to remain contactless, the host/s must stay inside their own bubble, more than two metres away from the singers, who must remain in their bubble. We try to leave maximum distance possible, as our sound of course, can carry a long way. That also means we may only accept online payment and we must perform during the day without amplification or lighting, (that would require an extension cord to the host’s power supply).
Will you keep going after lockdown? What would you like Avenue Opera to become?
We probably won’t continue after the vaccine for COVID-19 has been distributed in New Zealand. But we are open to suggestions! Right now, we are filling a need for people while they are in isolation, the theatres are closed and many artists, like me, are out of work because of this pandemic. Supporting us also means a source of income for professional and emerging artists based in Wellington.
We were thrilled to collaborate with Avenue Opera for our the Wellington part of our Mother’s Day Serenade promotion – you can watch highlights below.