Gertrude Opera

Buzz from the
Yarra Valley Opera Festival Subcommittee

Dear Partners, Sponsors, Supporters, Participants, Followers and Friends,

It is almost curtain-up for the inaugural GO Yarra Valley Opera Festival!

As excitement builds to opening night – just 10 days away – your local subcommittee would like to bring you up to the minute with what has and is happening for our first Festival

Yesterday the pop up, all-weather, Opera Theatre tent arrived at our main venue, Olinda Yarra Estate at Yering, in the biggest truck imaginable. Currently teams of construction engineers, electrical and staging riggers are feverishly erecting the temporary building, staging and seating on site. It is hard to believe that day and night-time performances will be in held in a blackout theatre for 200 eager Opera goers, in a paddock, right here in the Valley….. whatever next? Soon, passers-by and travellers will find it hard to ignore the Opera Theatre arising from the fields and gracing our local landscape: the Yarra Valley Opera Festival has truly arrived!

Rehearsals have been well underway in GO’s North Melbourne headquarters for some weeks, however they will transfer across onto the Yering site from the end of this week; so listen for trills across the hills.

There is much activity at Olinda Yarra Estate where “farmer Rob” Scanlon and partner Shelley Hughes – our principal venue partners – are expertly directing their multi-talented teams to magically transform their historic home and farm into an Opera venue.

The magnificent old trees and the beautiful 3-acre garden is bursting into leaf and flower befitting the occasion, as if on cue, forming a glorious backdrop for the elegant retro garden furniture being unloaded for our fancy luncheon pavilion. The Festival Bar is about to pop up on location, too.

Across the region large bill boards, banners and posters are out to catch the eye of locals and potential patrons, whilst Festival Programme brochures are being snapped up from locations far and wide. (Please call Suzanne 0407 438 038 or Michael 0413 058 361 if you would like a an A4 poster or brochures for your establishment or distribution point.)

McKenzie’s Tourist Services, our transport partner, will operate GO – Opera Festival Buses from Fed Square in the city to Olinda Yarra Estate and return . These buses will be stopping at Lilydale station for rail passengers. There will also be a local shuttle service for local patrons and visitors overnighting in the immediate region with a “Transit Lounge” at the Healesville Hotel. You can find more details on the Festival website. (

Giant Steps patrons were treated to a big surprise last Friday when 4 Opera cast members called in for lunch, and delighted lunch goers with a 15 minute impromptu performance. Giant Steps own in-house wine & food Divas have put together a one-off lunch and matinee ticket exclusive offer for the “Tale of Two Divas” with Max Gillies, in performance at the Memo Hall in Healesville on Friday 19 October. The team has created a delicious pre-performance lunch, with appropriate wines, designed to ensure you have time to amble to the theatre just down the road for the show. What a delicious way to spend an afternoon!

Contact Giant steps for bookings (5962 6111), and whilst you are in the neighbourhood, check out the special offering at Habituel for the Festival.

Following a local “Call for Voices” in August, a successful Community Chorus was formed and has been in rehearsal over the past month. Our vocal locals can be heard in full voice onstage in the Gala Opening Concert on Friday 12 October and in “The Elixir of Love”, 2pm performances on 14 and 21 October. Don’t miss hearing your neighbours sing.

A very enthusiastic group of Volunteers has stepped forward for a wide variety of essential jobs both front and back of house for rehearsals and performances. Don’t be surprised to see a friend showing you to your seat or hearing they have been backstage dressing the stars or preparing lunch for cast and crew. Volunteers make festivals possible, and being a volunteer is such great fun. It is always surprising to discover what hidden talents lie dormant in our midst: huge thanks to our volunteers!

Four Pillars drinks team joined with Madame Brussels’ cocktail wizards and they have created a world’s first cocktail especially for the Yarra Valley Opera Festival: the “Flirty Gertie” provides a very dangerous and delicious way to honour Gertrude Johnson, the inspiration behind the Gertrude Opera Company. Gertrude herself was a student of our world famous local ‘gal’ Dame Nellie Melba. Opera goers will have the chance to toast the Festival and friends with a “Flirty Gertie” from the Festival Bar right next to the Theatre… pre-order for interval, or make a bee-line for the bar. Cheers!

Well known ‘favourite foodie’ Caroline Grey has been busy too, creating a Picnic Box of local goodies for those wishing to enjoy the gardens and rural surrounds of our bucolic Valley. Bring your own picnic rug, select your own picnic-spot close by the amazing tented Theatre, or dine in shelter & style in the Luncheon Pavilion. For more details about Pre-booking your Picnic boxes, visit the Festival website.

Wine lovers will be well catered for too, with a selection of award winning Yarra Valley white and red wines, available from the Festival Bar. Our Festival patrons will be able to enjoy favourites and possibly discover some new drops, and Picnickers will be able to pick up a full bottle, to go with their spread.

The Committee has been able to establish opportunities for some students of local schools to experience Opera for the first time, via attendance at rehearsals. This is an exciting initiative, and a wider programme for student involvement is planned for future years.

Yarra Valley Arts has been spreading the word about our Festival across the Valley and beyond to their creative community of artists and followers, celebrating and broadening the cultural offering in the region. And this, in the midst of their own frantic “Open Studios” season. Thank you to the YVA Committee!

The generous hospitality of the Dowd family meant a successful fund-raising luncheon was held last month at Halcyon, their farm and country residence outside Healesville. Three singers performed, and the guests were blown away, with the generous assistance of some fine local wines, ample local fare, and the groaning Camellia bushes in full bloom.

The Yarra Valley & Ranges Magazine Spring edition features two articles written and photographed by our multi-talented secretary Michael Anderson and his photographer & right-hand partner Dr Khoi Bui. These articles provide the wonderful history of our unique Opera Festival venue and it passionate owners, and the back-story of one of our special events, “The Tale of two Divas”. The magazine’s editor was so excited, she gave us a full-page ad! Both articles make very interesting reading: you can pick up a copy locally to discover more.

We have been on a very fast track this year, and whilst some of our supporters have not been able to fully involved with programmed events for the current Festival, they are already planning their participation with the Yarra Valley Opera Festival for 2019 and beyond. We thank you for your current commitment, and for your projected collaboration in the emerging big picture. It has been hard to keep up with the necessary updating of our print material in order to mention all our supporters. The latest list of supporters can be seen on our most recent programme brochure and on the A4 posters scattered widely throughout the region and on GO social media posts, but the eventual roll-call will be celebrated in the Festival Programme itself. ALL of our supporters are important and vital, but special acknowledgement should be given to Leanne and Emeri de Bortoli and the Besen Foundation for recently offering their support as regional partners.

Media coverage has been terrific, with 2 minutes of unbuyable time on ABC Melbourne and regional news, announcing the arrival of our guest New York mezzo-soprano to star in “The Handmaid’s Tale”, this item also covered by Channel 9 News. These two stories got the festival off to a great start! It has been followed by excellent feature articles in the Age and other newspapers, including metropolitan and regional print media. Radio has found plenty of story material and has enthusiastically covered our milestones. Online sources such as Broadsheet and social media are working their influence for us too, and there is still more to come, so keep an eye on your Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram feeds. (If you’re not getting anything, and want to share content, please visit the website and check its associated social media.)

Gertrude Opera yesterday advised they are happy with ticket sales to date with major movement starting to flow. PLEASE do not delay booking your seats if you wish to catch a particular Opera or event, as there is a chance some may be heavily booked. And we certainly do not want you, who have helped to made it all happen, to be missing out.

Your local committee has been really encouraged and inspired by the vast range of businesses and individuals that have come on board to make the inaugural GO Yarra Valley Opera festival possible. It confirms our conviction that Opera and the Yarra Valley will be a perfect, beautiful, and lasting marriage. We are truly amazed and feeling very rewarded by what has happened since the local sub-committee met for the first time in July THIS YEAR, approximately 12 weeks ago. Thanks to you all for your speedy decisions, and earnest offers of support.

There has been – and still is – so much happening, and so quickly… so please excuse and forgive us if we have overlooked your special contribution.

In 10 days time GO Yarra Valley Opera Festival will premiere, realising the vision of Gertrude Opera, and bringing a vibrant new activity to the region, hopefully for many years to come. The Yarra Valley Opera Festival has lashings of local colour and world class entertainment for us all to share.

Please find below a few images illustrating the aspects of the above: you’re very welcome to share these as you may see fit.

All that is left now is to book tickets, enjoy the Festival, and bask in the wisdom of your decision to be a part of something wonderful… from its very beginning!

Best wishes
Your YVOF Local Subcommittee