Ballina-based opera singer Katie Rutledge usually treads the boards with Opera Queensland, but this year things have been a little different.
She told Echonetdaily, ‘Although performances were limited in QPAC in Brisbane this year due to COVID, we did have the opportunity to perform “Opera Under the Stars” at Riverstage in the Botanical Gardens.
‘It was a beautiful concert with people purchasing a patch of grass rather than a seat,’ she said.
‘Online performances from OperaQ such as Aria a Day have also been great for artists to reconnect with their audience during COVID isolation and especially with border closures.’
Ms Rutledge remembers her journey to musical performance starting early.
Born in Grafton, she did her schooling in Armidale and was then admitted to the Queensland Conservatorium of Music to study Voice and Performance.
‘I have now completed twenty years of stage performances with Opera Queensland and some of those times with Opera Australia,’ she said.
Katie Rutledge says she can’t remember a time in her life when she was not singing.
‘My mum is a jazz organist, my brother a professional drummer and many of my extended family members are singers, musicians and actors. The fascination of opera developed when I sang as a soloist at the Sydney Opera House as a twenty year old and I was hooked.
‘There’s something special and exciting about live theatre with elaborate costumes, stage design, different cultures, history and languages, so I guess musically opera was a good fit for me.’
In terms of musical inspiration, Ms Rutledge says she grew up singing from a wide range of genres, including jazz, folk, hymns and musical theatre.
‘Music to me is another way of telling a story,’ she said, ‘so I am always drawn to songs or arias that I can feel a connection to, no matter the genre or artist.
‘I have so many artists and songs that I love and have been inspired by, however the music that I have been listening to recently ranges from Powderfinger Unreleased, to anything by Puccini and Handel to local [now Berlin-based] band Parcels.’
She told Echonetdaily that while there have been many people who have inspired her musically, ‘it always comes back to my family. Mum, Dad, my brother, and especially my husband and two sons.
‘They are all extremely talented musically and very clever and interesting people.’
A musical education
Ms Rutledge spent six years at the Con and then two years studying at SCU, followed by a short stint in London studying with the late mezzo soprano Enid Hartle.
‘Working with Opera Queensland and Queensland Symphony Orchestra gives me the opportunity to see the people that I studied with all those years ago, from singers to instrumentalists.
‘It’s like a school reunion each year, except with like-minded people!
She says there have been many performance highlights over her twenty years as a professional performance artist.
‘Some of my favourite times have been working as a judge for the Bluesfest Grommet Busking Competition,’ she said.
‘I’m always inspired listening to young people write original songs, and hearing their stories.’
Ms Rutledge loves musical collaboration, having studied, performed and worked with ‘some amazing people over the years’, including artists such as digeridoo performer William Barton, David Williams. the late Jimmy Little, Producer Nick Di Dia, Bernard Fanning, Kate Miller-Heidke, Karen Schaulb, Christine Johnston (Cransky Sisters).
She said working with these artists and others such as ‘Bryan Proberts, Ross Nobel, Narelle French, the late Richard Gill and Megan Washington has been a fantastic learning experience.’
Future of music in the Northern Rivers?
Ms Rutledge feels that the Northern Rivers is blessed to be a cultural centre for artists to create new and interesting work from all sorts of genres.
‘I believe that all music has a place,’ she said. ‘It’s just finding the time and space to perform the work. For example I am totally loving our local men’s choir Dustyesky, I mean who doesn’t love Russian? And singing in Russian is awesome. The future is bright!’
She also believes in giving back via education, and passing on the lessons she has learned, as a teacher and judge at musical competitions for young people.
‘I was lucky to be a guest lecturer for SCU and Griffith University in Music Education and Choral Conducting,’ she said, describing both institutions as great places for young people to study and learn about themselves, creatively.
‘I have been really fortunate to have been supported by amazing teachers and mentors throughout my performing and teaching career,’ said Ms Rutledge.
‘For me, performing is a calling but I wear many hats! So for the past 25 years I have been really focused on making sure my students understand the ups and downs in the arts, even without COVID.
‘Hopefully we have been able to guide and prepare young artists at a secondary and tertiary level for a performing career as well as opening doors to other job avenues to support and bring balance to a musical life,’ she said.
You can watch and listen to Katie Rutledge’s performance of Opera Queensland’s Aria a Day below: