University of Melbourne Magazine

The Opera Singer – Olivia Cranwell

  • Singing in a fat suit while playing the wombat in the new Australian opera The Magic Pudding was part of the program for Olivia Cranwell when she was studying her Master of Music (Opera Performance).

    Cranwell, a soprano, was one of eight singers chosen to take part in the University of Melbourne’s inaugural postgraduate opera performance degree in 2012 and 2013. Forty-five singers auditioned for the program; each of the eight chosen was granted a scholarship.

    The program, a collaboration between the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and the Victorian Opera, is the first time a training institution has partnered a professional opera company. As well as hamming it up as a portly marsupial, Cranwell studied Italian language, German, French, English and Italian diction, researched soprano singing techniques and performed in Puss in Boots.

    Taking part in the inaugural program was wonderful, she says. “You got to shape and develop it, to fit what you wanted.”

    Olivia Cranwell (BMusPerf 2010, BA 2011, MMusic (Opera Performance) 2013)

    Olivia Cranwell (BMusPerf 2010, BA 2011, MMusic (Opera Performance) 2013)

    She has a spinto soprano voice, which she describes as a young dramatic voice. “It is a very difficult to categorise,” she says. “It is more of a rare voice type. There is not a lot of information about it.”

    Cranwell says she always loved singing. “When I am having a bad day, it gives me an endorphin kick. I really do get that rush from singing.”

    At school she performed in school choirs, taking voice lessons in Year 11. Her singing teacher asked if she had ever considered singing opera. “I hadn’t really,” she says, adding that she loves opera now.

    This year Cranwell is performing as Rapunzel in Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods with the Victorian Opera and as a soloist in the Victorian Opera Gala; she is also singing in the chorus in Carmen and Eugene Onegin with Opera Australia.

    She recently visited Germany and England, and acknowledges that there are more opportunities overseas for young singers.

    “One needs to be modest, but not too humble,” she says. “You have to put yourself in a position where you are heard. If you don’t believe in yourself, why would anybody else?”

    – Kathy Kizilos

    Watch Olivia and her fellow students on the Master of Music (Opera Performance) talk about their experience.