The Queen Of The Nile – Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra’s Cleopatra-Inspired Showcase

Published in Arts  
Queensland Chamber Orchestra Camerata Queensland Chamber Orchestra Camerata

Camerata – Queensland's Chamber Orchestra will aim to surprise and delight audiences when they present 'The Queen Of The Nile' at Redland Performing Arts Centre, just outside of Brisbane.

The performance will feature showpiece Baroque arias from Handel, inspired, of course, by the enigmatic Egyptian monarch Cleopatra. The orchestra will present the music without a conductor – ensuring a collaborative and dynamic performance space.

Founded in the late '80s and forming into a professional chamber orchestra in 2005, Camerata's primary aim is to inspire all those who attend their shows, as well as to empower artists and enrich communities through music.

'The Queen Of The Nile' will be a night at the theatre filled with music and wonder, with the talents of each of Camerata's members on full display.

Soprano Sofia Troncoso will take to the stage in a rare performance to feature in two arias from Handel's 'Giulio Cesare', and the night will come to a close with music from 'Il Tigrane' from Vivaldi – inspired by the other Cleopatra: Queen of Armenia.

Here, Camerata Artistic Director Brendan Joyce has a chat with us about the upcoming 'The Queen Of The Nile' performance at Redland Performing Arts Centre, and its origin story.

Camerata SofiaTroncoso
Sofia Troncoso

Give us a bit of a background on this performance.
Towards the end of 2020, Musica Viva Australia were at their wit’s end trying to run their concert series that has traditionally involved internationally-based guest artists. They came to us and asked if we’d like to step up and do a concert and the Artistic Director and I thought it would be wonderful to bring Camerata and the soprano Sofia Troncoso who had recently come to Brisbane to escape the unfolding COVID crisis in London. The concert was an all-Baroque music affair and I pitched to them the idea of making it about Cleopatra, and so 'The Queen Of The Nile' was born and was a huge hit with the audience. We gave them a range of Cleopatra arias from different operas including by Handel and Vivaldi as well as some other stunning music from the era. The orchestra was thrilled to be back on stage again – albeit challenged by being spread out with onstage distancing requirements – and Sofia was not only a great singer but a fantastic stage presence. When Redland Performing Arts Centre invited us to do a concert I put it to them that this was such a hit that it would be fantastic to do it again here and to make a few tweaks for Christmas, too.

Camerata performs without a conductor. Tell us a bit about that!
Playing without a conductor means that everyone in the group is self-reliant, they have to play with authority, and it also gives everyone the chance to work more collaboratively, in the spirit of chamber music and with democratic principles. Someone once suggested that the unconducted chamber orchestra is the equivalent of a giant string quartet. That’s pretty true. Personally, I think unconducted groups always come over as more engaged and involved and you see more of the necessary interactions between the players that aren’t there when everyone is following a conductor. Generally speaking, it’s more dynamic and exciting for the audience.

Tell us about what drew you initially to chamber music?
I played with Camerata in its earlier high level student iteration. This was a superb learning opportunity – perhaps the best I’ve ever had – learning on the job, learning from each, being inspired by each other and especially by what was possible. So I got excited about ‘owning’ the music making which is really something you have to do in chamber music. You have to get your ideas together, be passionate about them and then try to persuade your colleagues to try them or do them, yet also be flexible enough to release them altogether. Chamber music is more like a conversation I guess, and in large ensembles I feel a bit lost and like I can’t contribute. I’ve also had lovely experiences playing in chamber music classes in the USA and having some wonderful mentors such as the Guarneri String Quartet. All of these things led me down this path, as well as some very good luck!

What are you most excited for about Camerata playing this show at Redland Performing Arts Centre?
Well, I was intimately involved in programming all of it along with Musica Viva Australia’s Artistic Director, Paul Kildea, and so I just love all of this music. A particular favourite that most people won’t know is the 'Curtain Tune' by Matthew Locke which is so mystical and also dramatic, but then I really can’t get away from Handel’s 'Piangero'. I’ve played that many times when I was a member of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and it is one that lingers in my heart and never really goes away. Sofia sings it wonderfully well.

Camerata Alex Jamieson
Image © Alex Jamieson

You’re taking a ‘central role’ in Pisendel’s Violin Concerto in D major. What do you love about this piece of music?
I’m glad you are asking because this is really a terrific and unknown violin concerto. It has all the excitement of one of Vivaldi’s violin concertos but it has more episodes and drama and it’s brimming with virtuosic fireworks. The more I talk about it the more I realise I better go practise it! It’s a piece of music that really should get more airings so I’m thrilled that we can present it.

What’s the most rewarding thing about being Artistic Director for Camerata?
It’s an absolute joy to be so involved in programming and dreaming up programmes and concert concepts. I also learn so much from my colleagues be they players, management team or board. The most rewarding thing is that everyone loves this group and organisation, they really think it is a super special thing to be involved with, and there is so much joy around all of our activities – though these days it has a ‘business’ aspect, it’s first a family and then a business, and that really is quite an important point of difference from just about any group I can think of.

And what’s the most challenging part?
Well, we still don’t have a studio in Brisbane after 35 years of existence. That said, we have just moved our offices in to the Brisbane Powerhouse which is opening up an exciting new chapter, and we remain and feel privileged to be a Company-in-Residence at QPAC where we perform our mainstage concert series. We are also a so-called 'small-to-medium' company but we are very much at the ‘medium’-sized end of that, so we create a lot of opportunity for a lot of musicians and a lot of performances for so many Queenslanders to enjoy, so that challenge there is getting the message across that this is not at all a small operation and it needs a substantial amount of support and following to be able to share music with the world.

How would you describe this collection of music to audiences in one sentence?
It emerges fairly gently and as Cleopatra joins us it becomes more and more dramatic until an absolutely thrilling finale (oh and a bit of Christmas cheer thrown in).

'The Queen Of The Nile' plays Redland Performing Arts Centre 17 December.



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