CSO Opera Gala at Llewellyn Hall will be in memory of Richard Gill

CSO Opera Gala. Canberra Symphony Orchestra and soloists conducted by Jessica Cottis. Llewellyn Hall, ANU, Saturday May 18 at 7.30pm. cso.org.au or 62626772.

Richard Gill was going to conduct the upcoming CSO Opera Gala. Gill, the CSO's first artistic director and chief conductor (2001-05), planned the repertoire before he died in October 2018 at the age of 76.

Jacqueline Porter, the soprano in the CSO Opera Gala, worked with Richard Gill, who did not live to conduct the event. Picture: Milk Photography

Jacqueline Porter, the soprano in the CSO Opera Gala, worked with Richard Gill, who did not live to conduct the event. Picture: Milk Photography

Jessica Cortis - who was an assistant conductor for the Sydney Symphony but is now based in Britain - will conduct the gala.

It features soloists Jacqueline Porter (soprano) and Jeremy Kleeman (bass-baritone).

Porter is an apt choice, having ties both to Canberra, where she has performed with Handel in the Theatre and the Canberra Choral Society, and with Gill.

"I was in the first developing artist program he ran with Victorian Opera in about 2007," Porter says.

Porter studied music at the University of Melbourne's conservatorium as well as Italian and linguistics and received the 2010 Dame Nellie Melba Opera Trust Scholarship. She says a friend who studied alongside her, conductor Nicholas Carter, knew Gill and recommended her to him.

"He was fabulous to work with and very generous with his information: he explained a lot and was also hysterically funny."

He was fabulous to work with and very generous with his information: he explained a lot and was also hysterically funny

Jacqueline Porter

Porter went on to perform with Victorian Opera, which Gill formed. She says he taught her a lot and also praises his championing of music education.

"He was a big inspiration to me as well."

 The CSO Opera Gala will be in memory of Richard Gill. Picture: Richard Briggs

The CSO Opera Gala will be in memory of Richard Gill. Picture: Richard Briggs

The Opera Gala is structured as a selective potted history of opera and musical theatre. It begins with the overture to Monteverdi's Orfeo and ranges through a selection of orchestral and vocal excerpts from the Baroque through to the Late Romantic period before venturing into operetta and Broadway musicals.

Among Porter's numbers are Che fiero momento from Orfeo ed Eurydice and a handful of solos and duets from Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro - both operas in which she appeared with Opera Victoria.

She has performed a wide range of opera roles, choral and solo vocal works including Gretel in Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel for the State Opera of South Australia,

Nowadays, she says, as the mother of two boys she now works more in concerts and recitals than operas as they require less time.

Among the concerts was Prokofiev's The Ugly Duckling with the Sydney Symphony conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy.

It was originally going to be performed in English but the conductor requested it be sung in Russian just a few weeks before the concert.

Here, Porter's study of linguistics came in handy.

One of the things she had learned was the International Phonetic Alphabet which helped her master the part in time.

Her husband is an engineer but as they met while singing in a choir he understands music and can give her feedback when she practises.

Porter says she will stay in Australia rather than pursuing an overseas career.

"I really love being here ... It's nice to be working in your own country."