It was written 280 years ago and is now being performed in Sydney for the very first time.
In fact, Pinchgut Opera’s staging of Vivaldi’s Bajazet not only represents a debut in the harbour city, but the first ever production of the work in the southern hemisphere.
Asked if he feels any sense of responsibility being the first artist ever to portray the title character for southern audiences, Hadleigh Adams says, “Not in the slightest because, any time you go into a role, you do it as well as you can. All you want to do is give as much of yourself as you can to the role.
“I don’t think about that at all, and I’m glad that I don’t because otherwise you’re giving different weight to different shows that you do.”
Adams is a New Zealand-born bass-baritone with hugely impressive credentials. His study has taken him around the world, most recently to London’s prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama. “Guildhall is where I really started defining who I was, musically,” Adams says.
But it was his time with the San Francisco Opera that Adams cites as his most crucial, as an artist, to date. “I got into the Merola program there, which is a three-month training program,” he explains. It’s a program for which 1000 people audition for 25 spots, and ultimately, four are selected as fellows. Adams was selected to fill one of those sought-after spots.
He describes the experience that followed as “very, very intense”, going on to undertake 75 performances over a two-year period. “In my final season there, I was in four shows at once. It was exhausting, but I learned more about myself, I think, as an artist in those two years than I ever had before.
“The old adage is, ‘All the training in the world is great, but you’ve just got to get up there and do it’. And that’s when you learn.
“That’s where I learned the most.”
Adam’s latest artistic challenge, Bajazet, includes an array of arias designed to showcase the incredible talents of the Baroque artists. Tamerlano, Emperor of the Tartars, has conquered Bajazet, Emperor of the Turks, but desires the hand of Bajazet’s daughter, Asteria. Meanwhile, Tamerlano has already promised to marry Irene, princess of Trebisond. To solve his problem, Tamerlano hands Irene off to Andronico, his Greek ally. But Andronico is also in love with Asteria.
Discussing his character, Adams says, “He goes crazy. His entire life has been defeated. He’s seen his wife killed, his son killed…all he has left, that makes him who he is, is his daughter.
“He has this aria…it’s so aggressive and visceral, and it’s almost like you can see his heart breaking, but with anger and fury and desperation.”
Talking about the process of the work coming together, Adams tells Theatre People. “It’s been a very methodical rehearsal process, which has been really good. Some directors work in big brushstrokes early on and then fill in the detail later. Thomas [de Mallet Burgess] is very intricate in staging a scene…”
Adams is full of praise for Pinchgut Opera and its artistic endeavours. “Of all of the companies I’ve worked with, they’re one of my favourites,” Adams says. “They produce work that no one else would dare put on stage.” Additionally, he highlights the painstaking attention to detail of the creative team. “Erin Helyard has re-written the entire score from the original manuscript…I couldn’t even guess how many hours it would have taken.
“Alison Johnston is an amazing company manager. I’ve never felt more cared for as an artist.”
Summarising what he enjoys most about working with Pinchgut, Adams says, “They trust us, and we trust them.”
Adams encourages theatre fans and non-theatre fans alike to attend the Australian premiere of Bajazet. The company has promised attendees a stunning performance with “vocal fireworks and melting moments of pure beauty”. Adams describes the work as “like Game of Thrones for opera”. He adds, “It’s the kind of opera you will not see performed anywhere else. And I really mean that. Pinchgut is the only company in Sydney who put on this kind of work, and to this level. Having worked all over the world, it’s a very high level. I feel so lucky to be here, I really do.”
Dates: Tues 7 July & Wed 8 July 7pm
Tickets: $30 – $135
Venue: City Recital Hall Angel Place – 2 12 Angel Place, Sydney