samuel dale johnson

Very Proud Moment

Samuel Dale Johnson from Queensland has taken the world by storm and it appears rightfully so. We at AIM are very aware that we do have amazing talent in this country, world class in fact. Anyone who has gone to live theatre will know this. We at AIM know that the Government does do a bit to help foster and promote our talent and as such to be congratulated for this. No we are not a country of ockers and bogans yet the Aussie larrikin is still part of our culture and hopefully will be forever. We at AIM will always support more of what it takes to bring this talent to people. We have this vision to take this wonderful world class talent fully Government subsidised on the road to our remote areas to allow the distance disadvantaged access to partake in this exciting wonderful world of world class entertainment. Just imagine, opera/symphony/jazz in the Queensland cane fields, or Katherine Gorge, or the Kimberley’s, or the Margaret River vineyards. How Australian, how unique for this great country with its natural world class backdrop to have such an evening.

Yes, the tyranny of distance in Australia is real however Australians being Australians and the great mate ship attitude  simply say “so bloody what”. It can be made a 2 day party, local talent and the main feature. This is Australia, nothing beats us. The webmaster of this site is a symphony orchestra buff, Strauss in particular, but hey, we all have our likes. As dale himself said “It would be wonderful if [Australian opera singers] had more opportunity to come home.” Yes mate we would love it as well. Distance and population (lack of) kills that though. Take your success, your accolades and the prestige where you can, we admire you for it and yes mate, you can always still call Australia home – which it is.

Young Queenslander Samuel Dale Johnson makes his mark on European opera scene

A man in period costume sings while sitting on a red bench on stage. Behind him is a large group of people dressed in black. PHOTO: Opera singer Samuel Dale Johnson performs the role of Onegin in Eugene Onegin with the Scottish Opera. (Supplied: James Glossop, Scottish Opera)

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Samuel Dale Johnson grew up behind the famously wonky Ettamogah Pub on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Now at just 31 years of age, he’s making a name for himself on the world opera stage.

Key points:

  • Sunshine Coast artist Samuel Dale Johnson is a principal singer with the Deutsche Oper Berlin
  • A prestigious placement at London’s Royal Opera House springboarded him into the European opera scene
  • A large crop of Australian opera singers in their early 30s are leading “extraordinary” careers in Europe

Before he left Australia nearly six years ago, Johnson’s dream was to break into the European opera scene. Now he hopes to one day have the chance to do the job he loves in his home country.

Johnson, a baritone, is a principal singer at one of the world’s biggest opera houses — Deutsche Oper Berlin.

In 2014, the Queensland Conservatorium graduate was awarded one of five coveted places offered to singers from around the world in a prestigious training program at London’s Royal Opera House.

During the two-year program, Johnson received training from some of the world’s best vocal coaches, conductors, designers, and directors.

His ambition before he left Australia was to play a leading role at the Royal Opera House.

A man on stage acknowledges the crowd with cast behind him. PHOTO: Johnson sings his “dream” role of Silvio in Pagliacci at the Royal Opera House London. (Supplied: Samuel Dale Johnson)

“One of my dream roles whilst I was studying here in Australia was Silvio, in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci,” he said.

Johnson performed that role in London.

“It was really stressful, because the conductor we had, I’ve worked with him before and I know he’s a true perfectionist and I just really wanted to deliver,” he said.

“All these voices in my head kept challenging me; I got there in the end and it was a really good experience.”

Since then, Johnson has gone on to perform with the Scottish Opera and Northern Ireland Opera before joining Deutsche Oper Berlin.

‘I hadn’t really seen an opera’

Johnson’s journey to the opera stage began before he had even seen an opera performed.

He was invited to audition for the conservatorium after a musical theatre performance in Rockhampton, where he was finishing high school, and he got in.

“I started and I was like ‘I’m still not sure if this is for me’, because I hadn’t really seen an opera; I had no experience,” he said.

“All I had were the recordings that Mum and Dad would play for me in the car.

“They liked opera and it was just calming music, and gives you time to think. I think that’s how I thought of classical music at that time.”

A man in a top hat sits on a horse as part of a theatrical scene.PHOTO: Yes, that’s a real horse. George helps Johnson with his performance of Onegin in Eugene Onegin. (Supplied: James Glossop, Scottish Opera)

It was not until, reeling from a break-up, Johnson set off to Europe for an adventure where he had his first experience with live opera — and he fell in love immediately.

“On my first night, I got there and my friend … was working at the Royal Opera House … and he got me tickets to the opera, and this night changed my life,” he said.

“This was the first full opera experience I had, and it was unreal.

“And I cancelled the rest of my Euro trip and enrolled at Dante Alighieri in Siena the next day and stayed there for three months learning Italian.”

He then came home to complete his musical studies before being awarded a place at the Royal Opera House in 2014.

Opening night approaches

Now in Berlin Johnson is preparing to open the season singing Don Giovanni, opening at the end of this month.

“I love my job, especially when it’s sunny [in Berlin]; I’m always smiling riding [my bicycle] to work, so what more can I ask for? I’m living the dream,” he said.

But on a recent visit back to the Sunshine Coast he lamented the lack of opportunities available to the many talented Australian opera singers to perform at home.

A young man and an older woman embrace.PHOTO: Johnson relishes the chance to get home to visit his mother, Glenda Johnson, on the Sunshine Coast. (ABC Sunshine Coast: Tessa Mapstone)

“I don’t come home very often, and I’d like to come back and have the opportunity to perform,” he said.

“And I understand that the Australian culture, or our Sunshine Coast or Queensland culture, doesn’t necessarily gravitate to classical music.

“But I know there are a lot of people on the coast who love it, and I meet them and talk to them and they want to know where they can go and see something … and they end up packing their bags and going over to Europe, which is great, they make an experience of it.

“I just want to sing for my family; I want to come back and show them what I do.

“There’s a lot of great stuff going on in Australia and overseas from Australians making a great career, but I feel like there could be more done.

“It’s not necessarily our culture, but I think we could make a go at it. Just even little pop-up stuff around that people can go out to and just enjoy.”

A close up of hands on piano keys. PHOTO: His passion for music began with the piano when he was a small child. (ABC Sunshine Coast: Tessa Mapstone)

Associate Professor Margaret Schindler, who is head of voice at Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, said she would like to see more opportunities within Australia for emerging, young, and established opera singers.

“I think sometimes in Australia we might still be guilty of a little bit of cultural cringe, thinking that we must have the international name to attract an audience and I don’t think that’s necessarily true,” she said.

“I think that it’s important to have the finest artists that we can gather around us, but there are also very, very fine singers here in Australia.

“There is continued work for a large number of singers, but in particular I would love to see the celebration of some of these other younger singers, the ones who are in their early 30s, like Samuel Dale Johnson.

“There’s actually a crop of singers around about that age group who are leading extraordinary careers in Europe, really at a very high level.

“I’d love to see the opportunity to invite some of them back to Australia to feature in an opera and for us to be able to celebrate that achievement in that way and to recognise their incredible success.”

A young man stands in front of paintings.PHOTO: Johnson hopes to one day have the chance to perform at home, where his family can watch on. (ABC Sunshine Coast: Tessa Mapstone)

For now, Johnson is enjoying life in Berlin, and watching on from the Sunshine Coast his mum, Glenda Johnson, could not be prouder of her youngest son.

“The baritone voice doesn’t start to mature until it’s at least his age, if not a bit older, so he’s gotten where he is really quickly,” she said.

“He’s well recognised overseas. Just not here.

“It would be wonderful if [Australian opera singers] had more opportunity to come home.”


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