Natalie Aroyan believes opera is more ingrained in pop culture than people realise. “Even in a movie like Superman Returns, whenever there’s someone evil plotting they’re always playing opera. When someone bad is up to no good, there’s always some beautiful Tosca aria in the background.”
The Armenian-Australian soprano suspects opera newbies may have their own epiphany as she performs some of the most famous arias of all time at Opera Australia’s Great Opera Hits. Aroyan thinks listeners may even recognise some of the works, with compositions from Carmen, La Boheme, Turandot, Aida, The Barber of Seville and more on the program.
“People who haven’t seen an opera before will get like a trailer of many different operas in the one concert,” she says. “They can experience this sense of transcendence, which will hopefully encourage them to return and see a complete opera in its full glory.”
Growing up, the soprano fancied becoming a pop singer in the mould of Celine Dion or Whitney Houston. While at university, her parents dragged a reluctant Aroyan to a concert by an Armenian opera singer.
“As soon as this woman opened her mouth and this sound came out of her body without a microphone, I thought oh my goodness,” she says.
The Opera Australia principal is still grateful that her musical ambitions changed course so dramatically. “When you dream about singing at the Sydney Opera House, when you’re young and now you get to do it for fun on a Sunday afternoon, what an opportunity. I feel blessed.”
Great Opera Hits, 5pm and 7.30pm, Sydney Opera House, $69-$89, opera.org.au.