Teddy Tahu Rhodes will be a major drawcard for Mt Isa locals. (AAP Image/Claudia Baxter)
Teddy Tahu Rhodes will be a major drawcard for Mt Isa locals. (AAP Image/Claudia Baxter)

Unlikely Qld town bucks image with opera festival

FOR the wide open spaces of Mount Isa you need a big voice and they don't come any bigger than Teddy Tahu Rhodes. The renowned baritone from New Zealand has become one of our favourite leading men and boy can he belt out a tune to the back row.

Which makes him perfect as the headline act for the inaugural Festival of Outback Opera presented by Opera Queensland and chamber orchestra Camerata in The Isa from June 26-28. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk encourages people to attend the event and "back the bush". The Festival of Outback Opera is one of 15 regional Queensland events commemorating the Year of Outback Tourism.

Audiences will get to see Tahu Rhodes in a series of concerts taking place over the weekend with the main event the Concert Under the Stars on June 27, a large-scale outdoor opera performance under the stars with the backdrop of Mount Isa's spectacular Lake Moondarra.

There will also be workshops, events in pubs and even an underground opera paying homage to the town's mining heritage.

In Brisbane yesterday Tahu Rhodes was taking a day off to announce the event in Brisbane posing with horse in tow although he confessed his riding was rudimentary but the Akubra hat was fair dinkum.

Camerata musician Jason Tong, Brisbane soprano Eva Kong and Teddy Tahu Rhodes are saddling up for the Festival of Outback Opera in Mount UIsa in June - Photo Steve Pohlner
Camerata musician Jason Tong, Brisbane soprano Eva Kong and Teddy Tahu Rhodes are saddling up for the Festival of Outback Opera in Mount UIsa in June - Photo Steve Pohlner

"I do own an Akubra and I carry it in the back of my car always," Tahu Rhodes says. "So it's not a complete fabrication."

Melbourne-based Tahu Rhodes, 53, flew up from Sydney where he is currently appearing in Opera Australia's production of Faust at the Sydney Opera House. The Kiwi-born bass baritone has amassed a legion of fans in his adopted country with a repertoire that includes powerhouse productions of Don Giovanni and Tosca and the musicals The King and I and South Pacific.

He says he has never been to Mount Isa but is aware of their famous rodeo and can't wait to boom his voice out across the wide open spaces.

"I'm so lucky to get to these places," he says. "I've done a lot of outdoor concerts in regional areas and I love it."

Opera Queensland artistic director and CEO Patrick Nolan says the event "is a wonderful opportunity to show Queensland that opera as an art form is not confined to theatre stages in capital cities".

Opera Queensland’s artistic director and CEO Patrick Nolan : Photography - Russell Shakespeare/AAP
Opera Queensland’s artistic director and CEO Patrick Nolan : Photography - Russell Shakespeare/AAP

"The beauty of opera is its ability to connect with anyone who is excited by great stories and powerful music," Nolan says.

Others stars will include Brisbane's own Jason Barry-Smith and soprano Eva Kong who toured to Mount Isa last year with Opera Australia.

Eva Kong will return to Mount Isa for the Festival of Outback Opera in June. Picture: Richard Walker/RDW Photography
Eva Kong will return to Mount Isa for the Festival of Outback Opera in June. Picture: Richard Walker/RDW Photography

"I think they like opera out there," Kong says. "We had a full house so they must."

Festival of Outback Opera, Mount Isa, June 26-28 ; oq.com.au



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