Damien Murphy, Wendy Frew July 11, 2012
When AFL meets opera … Greater Western Sydney Giants Devon Smith and Stephen Coniglio make their mark outside the Opera House yesterday. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
IN A new version of a night at the opera with the marks brothers, the AFL's Greater Western Sydney Giants and Opera Australia are poised to make beautiful music together in a mutual chase for new audiences.
Such a closing of the great divide between sport and the arts is partly the brainchild of OA's artistic director, Lyndon Terracini. He has long believed elite sportsmen and women have much in common with elite dancers and singers: great natural talent and technical ability, rigorous training and a passion to be the best. Now Terracini is putting philosophy into practice with a nascent relationship with the AFL's newest Sydney team.
What started as a conversation between Terracini and the AFL chairman, Andrew Demetriou, about how the two organisations both wanted to target new audiences has developed into something that could see footy fans enjoy half-time arias courtesy of opera choirs with AFL players returning the favour by giving motivational talks to performers.
While two of his players, Devon Smith and Stephen Coniglio, posed for photographs on the steps of the Sydney Opera House, the Giants' coach, Kevin Sheedy, happily acknowledged the role of opera in sport, saying music lifts hearts and minds.
''The Opera House started off small and grew into something much loved by all Australians and so it will be with the Giants,'' Sheedy said.
''Opera and sport are two fields that Australians have always appreciated at the highest levels, whether it's the Olympics, tennis or the four football codes, and now, to think the Giants can stand on the steps of the Opera House and be part of such a great Australian giant, it's just brilliant.''
Terracini has flirted with football before, albeit a different code.
''I have always believed there are parallels between sport and opera,'' said Terracini, whose unorthodox approach to opera has included warning opera singers to shape up or ship out, staging opera on the harbour and having orchestras play in a different hall from the singers.
''I got [ Newcastle Knights coach] Wayne Bennett to come and speak to the orchestra, which he did, about the way to prepare for a performance.
''The way a singer prepares for an opening night is very similar to an athlete. Bennett told them they were all professionals and they would know ahead of a performance if they could play their best. If not, they should stay at home.''