Renowned solo performer, opera singer and mother Tarita Botsman is the Creative Director behind The 7 Sopranos. She’s a woman whose career continually evolves, and her latest creative offering, “Songs from Stage and Screen”, is a brilliant musical featuring the talents of the gorgeous sopranos – in a way you’ve never seen (or heard) them before …
Hi Tarita. Many people say they fell into their performing career by accident; while others tell me they always knew they were going to be on stage! Where do fit in?
My story was like a blazing arrow from the beginning. I told my kindergarten teacher I was going to be an opera singer! I never changed my focus …. Well, at one time I think I did want to be Madonna – but I stayed on the performing arts treadmill through high school, the conservatorium [Queensland] and then when I went on to have a solo career.
It was something instilled in me by my father. We only had classical music at home – there was always opera playing in the background, and I used to run around the house imitating it. Dad would read me the stories of opera at night … You know, they’re actually not very good children’s stories!
Of all the operas you’ve performed throughout your career, ranging from the Magic Flute to Carmen, what character have you sang that you’ve particularly related to?
I loved singing Mozart when I was in my late 20s/early 30s. A lot of his characters were fun and young and really held the shows together. They were often instrumental in running around the stage and making all the magic happen! I suppose I relate to that, because as a performing artist in Australia, you have to be multi-skilled and willing to try many things.
There’s a role called Despina in Mozart’s opera Cosi fan tutte … she’s the maid, but she’s quite a character, and she really does play everyone off against one another. She uses her skills, but she’s incredibly wise for her youth – very practical, down to Earth and knows how to make things happen. If there’s anything I can relate to right now, it’s the practical side of her – because I do often feel like I’m spinning around like a chook with its head chopped off!
Considering all of the success you’ve achieved in your solo career – you’ve studied in Italy, performed worldwide – what was the impetus behind creating The 7 Sopranos?
It was a multifaceted journey, the way it’s evolved. I had my first child in 2002. I realised I needed to look at other ways I could keep singing, that wouldn’t mean I needed to travel away for extended periods of time … I started doing corporate events with another soprano back in 2002 and semi-retired from the operatic stage.
Then in 2009, I had another child. I was approached by some agents to do an event overseas with this other soprano when I was seven months pregnant. I thought, “Maybe not this month!” They actually wanted more girls and asked if I’d be able to get seven women together. I had the contacts, so I said yes!
The first 7 Sopranos job came about as a corporate job, and they performed on top of the Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I didn’t perform – because I was pregnant – but I put the group together. I thought they sounded amazing, they looked incredible – so that was the birth of The 7 Sopranos.
For a couple of years we did corporate events, then we did some concerts, and I invited an ABC recording executive to one of our concerts. A week later, we had a three CD recording contract.
It’s been a dream, the way it’s transitioned. It’s allowed me to continue my solo career and be Creative Director for the 7 Sopranos, and I do feel like the luckiest woman alive some days.
Songs from Stage and Screen is the show you’ll be presenting locally – and it doesn’t sound like the type of show you’d expect when you hear the name “The 7 Sopranos”! Tell us more about it …
It’s essentially a jukebox new Australian musical. I’ve set it in 1956 – it was a beautiful era, in terms of how it looked. Who doesn’t love a vintage dress! The music of the era was classic, timeless, everyone knows it, and it’s accessible. In those days, on the wireless and on television when they performed variety shows, classical music was always an integral part.
The first Act is about The 7 Sopranos being radio stars. Every Saturday night, they sing the top tunes of Australia. As we know, back in 1955-56, everyone would sit and listen around the radio on a Saturday night.
Why 1956? Because, this was the transition time between wireless and television. In the first Act, at the beginning the girls discuss how in America everyone is transitioning to television, and they can’t imagine how the wireless could become so unimportant in their lives.
At the end of the Act, their producers tell them they’ve won their first contract to do a TV show, and they’re all in complete melt-down. All they have ever had to worry about is what they sound like – not what they look like!
The show goes from a completely beautiful monochrome colour scheme in the first Act – to technicolour brilliance in the second Act! We join the girls two or three years later, when they’re TV stars – some are good, some are not so good!
It’s a fun frolic! There are hit tunes, a little bit of opera thrown in there – I just love this show. It has so many elements that are interesting, exciting and accessible … Songs include When I Fall in Love, I Got Rhythm, Big Spender, Dream a little Dream, Summertime, I Could have Danced all Night … It’s just one hit after another.
I keep thinking of the parallels between that time, and our lives now, with the power of technological change … It’s really illuminating!
Final say …
If anyone has a vintage fetish, from beginning to end in this show there are some wonderful props and costumes. I think there are about 42 costumes over the entire show. Every time the girls walk on stage, they’re wearing another gorgeous piece of vintage heaven!
Interview by Jo Robinson.
Photo (top) by Sherbet_Birdie. Photo (bottom) by Troy Galvin.
See The 7 Sopranos at the Glasshouse on April 14, at 8pm.
Visit glasshouse.org.au or call the Box Office on 6581 8888 for details.