Soprano Stacey Alleaume

In your opinion, what is the opera capital of the world?

If I had to choose one, I am going to say New York – the Metropolitan Opera.


What was it like working at the Music Academy of the West in California with [famed mezzo-soprano] Marilyn Horne?

Marilyn was very inspiring and she’s just such a wealth of knowledge. It’s not often you get to meet and work with some of the great artists of that generation, especially one that has had such a long, successful and celebrated career…overall, a fabulous experience.


How did you find California?

Santa Barbara is so beautiful. We were so lucky to be there for eight weeks and have the beach right there at our doorstep.


What is the most memorable opera performance you’ve seen and why was it so fabulous?

At the Metropolitan Opera in December 2014 I saw La Traviata, and it was just fabulous. The production was absolutely amazing…rapturous applause and so much excitement. It was just the whole experience. You walk into the auditorium and it’s 3,800 seats with gorgeous chandeliers hanging down from the ceiling and there’s a certain ambience about the opera house. Knowing how many great artists have performed on that stage and just the building itself – how much it’s heard and seen through the years that it’s been there. I think all that together is quite amazing.


Tell me a little bit about what you did in Italy and how you found the experience.

Certainly different living to Australia. I spent a month in Florence, I was studying Italian there. So every morning I would spend four hours learning Italian and then I would have the afternoon free to go and explore and practice the language. There’s so much history and it’s so beautiful. In Gianni Schicchi, [the character] Lauretta actually talks about the Ponte Vecchio in Florence and wanting to jump off into the Arno River. She’s pleading with her father to give her the money to buy a ring so she can marry this guy. To be there and make reference to those things that you sing about in opera, I think that’s really cool too. And then to actually have an experience that you can connect to, rather than just seeing a picture of what it is or looking at it in a book.


How did you find Italian? Can you speak it quite fluently now?

Not fluently! I was only there for probably two months in total. You have to be in the country a bit longer, and be practicing every day, to become fluent. I have basic skills and I can go back there and still be able to order a coffee and talk about clothes and sizes and all that kind of stuff, which is nice. You’ve just got to persevere through the hurdles and the painfulness of feeling like you’re speaking like a two-year-old.


Do you think it’s something you might continue to pursue, in terms of improving your Italian?

Yeah for sure, because there are so many operas in Italian. So we’re constantly trying to improve our language skills.


How do your travels influence your work?

We can draw on the inspiration from the architecture and the history and the scenery. Until three years ago, I had never experienced snow, and it’s amazing how many arias or songs make reference to snow or snowflakes falling. We were in Florence and decided to take a day trip to San Marino. The weather forecast had predicted “light snow.” I was with my husband at the time and I thought: ah, this will be good, how romantic “light snow”. It’s so magical it’s going to be like a winter wonderland; anyway, we get there and, I am not kidding you, it was a blizzard. The visibility was probably about five metres, there were such strong winds we could barely see and my feet were frozen. I thought I was going to lose a toe!


So you gain more of a sense of what you’re singing about? 

Yeah, you really do. And you can bring that into your performance as well. It’s the colours that you can create, by having those experiences. That is quite unique.


Are there any festivals or events internationally you could recommend to opera lovers?

I haven’t been myself, because I haven’t been to Italy in summer. But there’s a festival called the Arena di Verona. It’s an outdoor amphitheatre and in summer they hold opera performances. In ancient times these amphitheatres would house 30,000 people, but now it’s probably about half that. It just looks absolutely spectacular. It’s in Italy, it’s summer, it’s beautiful and you’re outdoors in this gorgeous and amazing historic, iconic amphitheatre.


Can you tell me a bit about your Mauritian background?

Both my parents are Mauritian. It’s a really small island; you could drive from the north to the south in about an hour-and-a-half.


So have you been there?

My first trip and our first entire family holiday was in 2014. I learned that my dad’s grandfather was the mayor of Port Louie, the capital of Mauritius, in 1916. When we got there, dad was telling me about the buildings and they let us into [the City Council] and they had the plaques of all the mayors on the wall. My dad’s uncle was the curator of the opera house in Mauritius. Unfortunately, the opera house has been closed since 2008 for renovations so that was kind of heartbreaking to not be able to see inside. But just to see the family history, and being with my dad and mum showing me where they grew up, that was really special.


That’s a shame about the opera house…

I really hope they can restore it because years ago they used to have travelling troupes. When my parents were growing up, people from France would come and perform at the opera house. Music used to be quite a big part of Mauritius, especially opera.


What’s the most luxurious travel experience you’ve had?

Luxurious is a term that everyone sees differently. But at the very end of our Italy trip, we went to the Amalfi Coast and stayed in a hotel that overlooked the coastline…surrounded by lemon groves. On New Year’s Eve we…celebrated with the entire town. I’m not kidding you, the whole town was dancing and playing live music, dancing with their instruments down to the coastline where they had fireworks. The next morning we woke up and had breakfast with Italian coffee overlooking a gorgeous view. So for us, that was a really beautiful trip and a memorable experience.


Stacey Alleaume

Share this article