Albany vocalist back from the big smoke

By Ashleigh Fielding

PORTRAYING characters more exciting than himself is one of international opera tenor Matt Ward’s favourite aspects of musical performance.

The home-grown Albany performer recently marked his 300th United Kingdom opera performance, and is coming home to celebrate.

His ambitions to perform on bigger stages were fed by early experiences at local eisteddfods and by taking centre stage with Albany Light Opera and Theatre Company.

Despite his favourite experience of performing in 18th century castles, and his dreams of singing in a historic Venetian theatre, Ward had to wait until well after graduation to experience such lavish stages.

When it came to choosing a career pathway in high school, Ward said he had a plan.

“On my TISC form, I crossed out all of the options except being a performer,” he laughed.

“I was later accepted into WAAPA (Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts) when I was 17, and I studied classical singing.

“In conjunction with my studies, I was a part of the chorus for the Western Australian Opera Company.”

Having discovered his passion for music early on in life, Ward drew inspiration from his music-teacher mother and avid musician grandparents, as well as other musical influences from his childhood.

“As a kid, I was struck by Jon English as the Pirate King in Pirates of Penzance,” he said.

“The idea of becoming other people in different times and different places captured my imagination.”

With music in his blood, Ward succeeded in conquering the opera world, performing in Olivier Award-winning spectaculars, the Queen’s diamond jubilee river pageant, working along-side Stephen Fry and performing at the King’s Head Theatre in London.

Now with a completed master’s degree from the Royal College of Music in London and an ever-growing list of opera performances under his belt, Ward will continue his work with an original piece whilst in residency in Albany this August.

“When you are a performer, you are primarily an interpreter of someone else’s work, in charge of taking their words and making them come to life,” Ward said.

“I am equally as passionate about creating my own work.”

In partnership with Albany’s Historic Whaling Station and Creative Albany Inc, Ward will become guest artist-in-residence at the Vancouver Arts Centre, and construct his own piece of musical history, to celebrate 40 years since the last year of whaling at Cheynes Beach Whaling Station.

Ward will use community singing and acting to join others in exploring the controversy surrounding whaling, and the conservationists who came from across the world in an attempt to halt it in Albany.

“Running these work-shops and attempting to create my own musical drama will give me the chance to test my creative muscles,” Ward said.

Ward’s residency will also include a live con- cert with a scratch choir at the Whaling Station, community singing and acting workshops at the Vancouver Arts Centre, and a final performance featuring Ward’s latest original work.