Contrasting Cultural Occasions

Culture in Broome

My readers in colder climates are very envious about swimming in mid thirty temperatures in August on pristine beaches with azure skies and turquoise seas. The downside is that you are so far from anywhere that the occasions whether cultural, sporting or social when people get together are quite limited. The physical environment does not altogether make up for social deprivation.

Only the pink seats are under cover and there are twenty rows of blue under the stars,

and the jets taking off and with the midges but a unmissable place to watch a movie.

The Sun Theatre, in the Chinatown section of Broome, claims to be the oldest continually operating cinema in Australia. It certainly wins out as the most different with its, canvas sling-back chairs, roof open to the elements and insects (free insect repellent at the Candy Bar) and with the big jet aircraft seeming to just clear the screen as the landed close by. What made it very special for us was the viewing of the new Australia musical Bran Nue Dae, written by locals about the issues of local Aboriginal young people and filmed in Broome. One scene was filmed in the theatre where we were sitting! We can highly recommend the movie, even if it’s not in Broome.

Saturday night was the gathering of the culterati of Broome. There are plenty of loud local rock bands keeping the pubs entertained with covers but the Symphony Orchestras, the opera and the big overseas entertainers now give Broome the bypass – it’s just to far and too small. The last Saturday of August is the big night when the Opera comes to this part of the North to perform under the stars in a natural amphitheatre between the sand hills and the sea on Cable Beach. It was a wonderful experience for the audience of about a thousand. No orchestra, just a grand piano, no chorus, only four principals, two tenors, a baritone and a Soprano, not an entire opera but excerpts from many operas, best chosen to fit the occasion.

Heroic tenor Stuart Skelton hits the high notes in "Nessum dorma" from Turandot from Puccini

Australian born tenor Aldo Di Toro now lives in Italy and performs internationally but in Broome here he was singing"Cielo! e mar!" from La Gioconda by Ponchielli

We actually extended our Broome stay by four nights to attend and it was a marvelous experience.

Photographically it was very challenging. Our seats were twenty rows back and to the side – the VIPs have the centre seats as usual! The difference from the big smoke was the lack of media – no TV cameras and paparazzi, just a single pro probably working for the Opera on the Beach organization, hoping to get images into the local press and sell a few prints. There was a no flash/no video rule. I left my seat for the second half and positioned myself behind the professional to the side of the stage, using my f2.8 80 – 200mm sports lens and 3200 ISO. Hang the noise! (Technical talk meaning you get a grainy textured background on the images). The performers were very dramatic and obviously having a ball performing, which made them fun to photograph.

James Clayton, the most expressive of baritones was here performing "Child of Glory" from the musical Bran Nue Dae to enormous applause from the appreciative audience

Soprano Antoinette Halloran performs "Song to the Moon" from Rusalka by Dvorak, appropriately under the full moon by the beach at Broome


7 thoughts on “Contrasting Cultural Occasions

    • She not only looks hot but is one very cool opera chick being a very regular cat member on Spicks & Specks with a very saucy tongue, very much enjoying being the only female on stage with two tenors and a baritone to play with.

    • Better tell Sue to check the blog or print out the page for Sunday. He was advertised as a Heroic Tenor and certainly filled that bill obviously enjoying every minute on stage. I think Bob would have enjoyed the performances and the occasion. Thanks for keeping up with us. Currently experiencing our first rain since leaving NSW 10 weeks ago. I suspect you have had your fair share. We are in Tom Price at the moment going on a tour of the gorges in Karijini National Park today. Give our love to everyone.

    • Jeanette,

      If Sue Fin is Sue Finlayson, then yes, I’m her nephew. Ralph’s oldest son. Cousin to David, Peter, Liz, Chris, Ros, Stephen and Ken.

      • Well it is a buzz to have one of my photo subjects actually respond on my blog! Thanks Stuart for the concert and the second appearance here – how did you find me? I suppoe a google either on your name or opera broome would probably pick up the blog entry. Your Aunt is very dear to my wife and I – we have known then and have felt kindred spirits for thirty plus years as members of the same church. We are looking forward to seeing Sue and Bill when we get back to Sydney at the end of November. We very much enjoyed the concert. I have dozens of photos – I was shooting mainly in the second half from behind the pro photographer on the western side of the stage.

  1. Yes Stuart, that’s the same Sue. Spoke to Bill today. He hadn’t looked at Gary’s blog for a while so hadn’t seen the picture. A small world.

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