Also in attendance at the consulate’s Opera Youth Night was the newly appointed Ambassador of Italy to Australia, Francesca Tardioli, whose visit to Perth coincided with the event.

During her speech, the ambassador said she was “pleasantly surprised” to see so many young people there who were “passionate about opera and the Italian language”. 

“Opera speaks about life and death, bringing together emotions, music and culture,” the ambassador said.

“Opera is a lot more than just music, it is a lot more than just a nice libretto; you can dream, you can cry and you can make comparisons to what is happening in your own life.

“I am very pleased to see that tonight this experience will be shared with people who have chosen to study my language – the Italian language.”

Left to right: West Australian Opera music director Chris van Tuinen, Ambassador of Italy to Australia Francesca Tardioli and Italian Consul General in Perth David Balloni. (Photo: Carri Forrester - All About Image Photography)

The theme of this year’s Week of the Italian Language in the World was ‘Italian on the stage’, and for many of the students Thursday evening’s compelling performance marked their first time seeing an Italian opera.

One of the participating schools was Kalamunda Senior High School, which is renowned for its fantastic Italian program and has participated in a number of incursions with West Australian Opera.

Maria Pennington, who teaches Italian at the school, said the event allowed her students to experience “a world of creativity, beauty, history, storytelling and exquisite music”.

Pennington attended the event with more than 50 students and parents from Kalamunda High School, including Italian, English and Drama students. 

One of her Italian students, Chloe Chorfe, said she felt “privileged” to be studying Italian and attending the event.

“Learning about Italian culture has helped me with my studies and provided me with many wonderful learning experiences and opportunities,” she added.

“The opera had a magical atmosphere and it has inspired me to listen to more opera and attend West Australian Opera events.”

Her peer, Blake Jelancic, said the event was one which “all Italian students should experience”.

“The theatre, set, costumes, performers, lighting and musicians were incredible,” he explained.

“I didn’t really understand the enormity of an opera production... It was exciting to understand the Italian language during the performance and feel like part of the story.”

Left to right: Italian Consul General in Perth David Balloni with Kalamunda Senior High School Italian students, Chloe Chorfe and Blake Jelancic, and their teacher, Maria Pennington. (Photo: Carri Forrester - All About Image Photography)

Another school present on the night was St Brigid’s College in Lesmurdie.

Italian teacher Maria Calabro said the event allowed her students to experience the language in a relaxed context and appreciate the added benefit of studying a second language while immersing themselves in the country’s traditions.

“The aim of the opera excursion is to allow students to experience an Italian cultural event in their city and to enhance their knowledge of the Italian language and appreciation of Italian culture,” she added.

St Brigid’s College Italian student, Inès Kelly, said that as a musician, she appreciated how “the orchestra played beautifully and enhanced the opera, making it even more dramatic than the story alone by itself”.

“The orchestra combined with the talented and powerful, beautiful voices of the vocalists and the stunning costumes, makeup and lights was just amazing and left me speechless,” she added.

Meanwhile, Massimo Cugola, Italian teacher at Chisholm Catholic College said the opera was a first for every one of his students, and one they probably wouldn’t have experienced if they weren’t studying Italian.

Chisholm Catholic College students Jason Millimaci (left) and Imogen Bowley (right) with West Australian Opera soprano Claire Condipodero and their teacher, Massimo Cugola. (Photo: Carri Forrester - All About Image Photography)

One of his students, Imogen Bowley, said she enjoyed hearing the Italian language in a context outside of the classroom.    

“Seeing something different and interesting makes it easier to concentrate and want to learn more,” she added.

Fellow Italian student, Jason Millimaci, also walked away from the new experience with a smile on his face.

“Since this was my first opera, it was very interesting to see how it worked and how important the art form is in Italian culture,” he said.

It seems that it pays to venture beyond the classroom every now and then in order to have some fun and learn something new!