Sophie Salvesani took an unusual path to stardom, beginning her career as a teacher but later became a star performer with Opera Australia.
After being introduced to musical theatre in high school where she was stunned by a performance of the Sound of Music, Sophie Salvesani went on to study education at university and became a primary school teacher for three years. But then, thanks to a twist of fate, Sophie landed a chance with the Ipswich Musical Theatre Company (IMTC). From there she progressed to Opera Australia where she landed her first role as a principal performer in the currently touring West Side Story.
We asked Sophie about her exciting pathway to fame.
LifeStyleQ: What was it like performing at the Sydney Opera House?
Sophie Salvesani: We had a lot of people in. We had actors from Game of Thrones, Elizabeth Moss and Hayley Atwell. It was such a fabulous experience to perform there, especially on the Joan Sutherland stage.
LQ: What do you enjoy most when on stage?
SS: The opportunity to make the audience feel something, especially in an iconic place. My character goes on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster and sometimes when we finish the show I’ll see people go through the door and they are still crying. As bad as it sounds that makes me feel really good because that means I’ve done a good job. That’s how you know they have gone on the journey with you.
LQ: How do you prepare for Maria who is such an unhappy character?
SS: Nothing in particular! I think that goes to show how well West Side Story is written. It doesn’t take much for me to cry multiple times when I hear the words, or feel completely overjoyed. It’s just as relevant now as it was back then.
LQ: How do you enjoy touring internationally?
SS: I’m loving it. I only found out just before we started rehearsing that we were going to Germany. I never thought I’d have the chance to perform in some of the most prestigious opera houses in the world. I did my best to get out and see as much as I could.
LQ: Any really memorable times from Germany?
SS: In a museum we met this incredibly lovely German woman. Her English wasn’t too great as she was from Dresden but she was so welcoming and tried so hard to speak to us. Later we realised our explanations got lost in translation and that she thought we were on holiday from doing the show. It was 5 days until we closed up and moved on that she found out. She was panicking and messaging me saying “I’m getting a ticket!” So we met up after the show and she told us that just over the river one of Germany’s favourite singers was playing. She took us and we watched him and had drinks together and that is one of my favourite memories because I loved that feeling of being welcomed. It’s the same reason I love performing, making a connection with people.
LQ: You started with the Ipswich Musical Theatre Company, how did you get to Opera Australia?
SS: It was a happy accident. I was having singing lessons in the old Ipswich courthouse and IMTC were rehearsing Phantom of the Opera there. I ended up auditioning and was cast as the Christine alternate but the lady who was playing Christine had commitments with another show and was very ill so I stepped in. Ken and Brenda with the IMTC gave me a lot of little things to do. Small groups, advertising, historical societies. I was doing singing wherever I could. They gave me so many opportunities that no matter how small it was I was interacting with and meeting new people. It all counted, it all went to where my career is now.
LQ: What do you love to perform?
SS: It would have to be Ah! non credea mirarti. The character believes that the man she loves doesn’t love her anymore and he’s blamed her for being unfaithful but it was a mistake. It’s this completely emotional, heart-wrenching aria and then minutes later it’s followed by Ah! non giunge and he decides to marry her and she’s completely over the top happy and I love that.
LQ: What would your dream performance look like?
SS: One of the Opera houses in Vienna! Phantom of the Opera in the Vienna Opera house with one of the original Phantoms.
LQ: Late nights, travelling through countries, performing every night what are your tricks for getting through it all?
SS: I don’t have any tricks! I didn’t learn like that, I’ve had a very different career path. I went to university and I became a primary school teacher and then I got my first professional role in a principal role. There is one thing I do. If I think I’m getting sick or my throat feels a bit funny, I’ll down an entire lemon straight. Do it in the morning and it will get you through the whole day.