what is opera

In an Opera Express project, groups of up to 30 students create their own original opera. Working collaboratively, the whole group devise the characters, plot, script, music, sets, direction, choreography and performance of their opera. All of this work is done in four, day-long, workshops

facilitated by experienced Opera Express staff. At the conclusion of the fourth day there is a celebratory world premiere of the opera so friends and family can witness the creativity of the participating students across all of the art forms involved. Opera Express is open to any willing student, not just those studying music or the arts.

the WotOpera legacy

In 2007 I was running education programmes introducing young people to opera. Having seen me in that capacity, I was asked by Graeme Wood to create an education programme which not only introduced young people to opera but one where they got to create something of their own. Under the aegis of Opera Australia, I designed and created the WotOpera programme which saw

groups of young people create their own operas in an intensive experiential programme. WotOpera ran with Opera Australia from 2008 to 2011 and then as an independent company from 2012 to 2015. In that time, we created 155 operas with more than 4,000 young people across five states and territories, from as far south as Hobart and as far north as Rockhampton.

During all that time it was only made possible by the unbelievable generosity of Graeme Wood. In 2015 Graeme decided to shift his priorities to his environmental work and announced that 2015 would be WotOpera’s last year. As I said to him at the time, WotOpera would never have been possible without him. For myself, however, I knew immediately that I could not let the amazing work

we had done and the incredible outcomes we had achieved for Australia’s young people stop. With my wife, Rae, who worked with me on WotOpera from the start, we created Opera Express to continue the philosophies and methodologies which we know has changed the lives of many Australian young people.

– Murray Dahm

meet the team

  • murray dahm

    creative director

    Murray began his opera odyssey in 1994 when, kicked out of choir for being too loud, he was sent to the opera company. He immediately fell in love with the art form and went on to study, sing in, direct, lecture on and write various operas in NZ and Australia. In 2007 Murray devised WotOpera and discovered a passion for helping young people discover possibilities through their creative potential. He continues the proven philosophies, methodologies and outcomes he has developed with Opera Express.

  • rae dahm

    administration manager

    Rae spent her formative years treading the boards of her local amateur musical society, singing in choirs and performing in numerous concerts. Rae was an inaugural Emerging Artist with Opera New Zealand after graduating from The National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art (NZ). These days Rae gets her performance fix with Opera Bites, a boutique opera company she co-founded, performing fully costumed miniature operas literally anywhere from pubs to historic houses and even the great outdoors!

  • jonathon holmes

    music director

    Jonathon is a songwriter, actor and comedian. His debut EP Plutonese was released in 2015, and in 2016 he dropped his angry jazz beat-poem Get Your Hands. Recent theatre roles include Berger in Hair and Alexander Downer in Keating! Jonathon directed the off-Broadway classic The Fantasticks for Exclaim Theatre Company. Jonathon graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Music Theatre with the Australian Institute of Music in 2012 and has been teaching music and drama for over 7 years.

  • joe richards

    music director

    Joseph is a composer living in Cradoc in the Huon Valley in Tasmania with his wife, daughter Zoe and Gerry the cat. He writes in a range of styles from popular, jazz to classical. He studied composition at the Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music and has played with various Tasmanian bands and his own one-man electronica – Projekt Camus and it’s offshoot, JR meets Mr T. Joseph’s music can be found on Soundcloud and Youtube.

  • adrian kingwell

    music director

    Adrian is a composer, music educator and musical director, currently composer in residence at Monte Sant’Angelo. Adrian completed a Bachelor of Music Education at the University of Western Australia and his wide-ranging original works and arrangements have been performed by schools and ensembles around the country. Composition also plays a critical part in Adrian’s role as an educator; he creates modules of work that allow students to analyse, play and create their own works.

  • nate gilkes

    music director / project director

    As a theatre maker, director, music director, educator and performer, Nate makes work at the colliding points of music theatre and opera. In 2011, he co-founded the Present Tense Ensemble. Nate regularly teaches at Federation University, the Victorian College of the Arts, The National Theatre Drama School, Monash University, GPACed and Opera Express.  He holds degrees from VCA in Directing, Sydney Conservatorium of Music in Education and Voice and is a NIDA graduate in Music Theatre.

  • kate walder

    project director

    Kate is an actor, singer, theatre-maker, director and clown. A graduate of the WAAPA Music Theatre BA and École Philippe Gaulier in Paris, she has created and performed in work across Australia, the UK and Japan. She is passionate about arts education and making original work with young people and is a regular tutor at the Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP), Monkey Baa Theatre Company, The Arts Unit and Opera Express.  Her solo clown show Lost in Space was part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

  • dani barnett

    project director

    Dani’s desire to pursue an arts career was peaked in 2007 when she scored the leading role in her school production of High School Musical. She performs weekly as front woman and lead vocalist for funk, jazz, dance and acoustic acts in Tasmania and Melbourne. Dani has recently completed an arts degree with a focus on theatre, directing and voice. Since graduating she has been thrilled to work on projects where she can help young people to express themselves.

  • katie mckee

    project director

    Originally hailing from Brisbane, Katie found her passion for performing at a young age. She relished in the dramatic, playing crazy old women, witches and evil queens. Katie is a WAAPA graduate and has since performed in numerous productions.  Most notably the recent tours of The Sound of Music and Wicked. Katie wrote, produced and performed her one-woman cabaret, Identity Crisis, in the Sydney Fringe Festival’s inaugural year. Katie is passionate about teaching all things creative.

  • david hidden

    project director

    A singer, actor and music educator, it was not until 2nd year at law school that David discovered a love for the stage. A chance meeting at a party full of lawyers some years later lead him to audition for Pacific Opera and a new love was born. In 2009 he finally took the plunge, studying at the Conservatorium of Music in Sydney and has since performed dozens of concerts, workshops and operas but his biggest joy is discovering the ideas which spring forth from young minds.

  • eddie muliaumaseali’i

    project director

    Eddie studied at the Brisbane Conservatorium of Music and was the winner of the McDonald’s Aria Award. He has performed in Innsbruck (Austria), The United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia and earned a Helpmann nomination for his role as Joe in Showboat. Eddie worked with Opera Australia’s OzOpera (1999-2014) and for them he developed Education Workshops which he facilitated in each state and territory at schools, conservatoriums and community groups.

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.