Rachelle Durkin, Mark Coughlan and Vienna Pops Orchestra in New Year’s Eve Gala at Perth Concert Hall | Ralph Lauren

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Many singers promise to be home for Christmas but soprano Rachelle Durkin is just happy to be safe and in work.

She teams up with conductor Mark Coughlan and the Vienna Pops Orchestra for the New Year’s Eve Gala at Perth Concert Hall and is grateful to have escaped the COVID crisis in the US.

“I came back from New York in October due to the mess over there and we figured it was time to make that change because I’ve been living there for 20 years and my husband for eight years,” Durkin says.

“Ethan, my son, is five and we thought it would be more beneficial for him to attend school rather than online schooling which we found ridiculous. A five-year-old online for six hours a day wasn’t working.”

Rachelle Durkin is back from New York for the New Year’s Eve Gala at Perth Concert Hall.
Camera IconRachelle Durkin is back from New York for the New Year’s Eve Gala at Perth Concert Hall.

The WAAPA-trained artist, who most recently graced WA stages in 2018 for The Cunning Little Vixen, Voyager Estate Gala and La Boheme with WA Opera, was unusal in being able to work this year in the US.

She was scheduled to play Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata for Victory Hall Opera in September.

But instead of live performance, the production was recorded for online distribution.

“They turned it into a movie due out next year,” Durkin says. “So we recorded Traviata and they got us to film our lives in lockdown, so it’s Traviata plus all that’s been going on in our lives — COVID, Black Lives Matter, the elections — and that will come out early in the New Year.”

The working title is Unsung, and it promises to be dramatic.

“It was rather devastating because the conductor who was to conduct Traviata, Joel Revzen, sadly died from complications of COVID,” Durkin says.

“I caught it in March in the beginning, and this was all happening and Trump was saying, ‘No big deal’, and the New York mayor was saying you don’t need to wear a mask if you’re not sick.

“I should have worn a mask in front of this person who didn’t.”

Rachelle Durkin is back from New York for the New Year’s Eve Gala at Perth Concert Hall.
Camera IconRachelle Durkin is back from New York for the New Year’s Eve Gala at Perth Concert Hall.

She describes the symptoms as body aches and pains and very high fever, plus a loss of taste and smell.

“I couldn’t even smell the strongest perfume or the taste the bitterness of coffee,” Durkin says.

“So you can imagine what it was like trying to get back. We had one flight cancelled and thought we wouldn’t be able to get a flight back, but we had no issues on the second flight.

“Still a lot of people haven’t been able to come home, so we have been extremely lucky that we could come home when we did.”

Durkin masked up when she was sick and neither her husband nor son caught the virus, but it left a strong impression on her.

“The strongest thing was coming home and finding no one’s wearing masks, and all out shopping,” she says. “I still walk into shopping centres and think, ‘Oh no!’.

“It’s great that we’ve had had no active cases here, touch wood.

“Obviously WA is doing a great job because all my (US) performer friends have lost their jobs because of how horrible it is over there.”

Durkin says the New Year Gala will include a lot of crowd favourites.

“A little bit of Celine Dione in there, a bit of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sondheim,” she says. “It’s just going to be a really fun evening which it needs to be, with a few laughs thrown in.”

Coughlan will conduct the orchestra in classical standards from Beethoven to Johann Strauss, including Waltz of the Flowers, The Blue Danube, and Strauss’s ever-popular Radetsky March.

He will also take to the keyboard for the finale of Beethoven’s exquisite Emperor Concerto, and introduce rising star baritone Devon Lake.

“I have to say it’s rather lovely being back in WA with the weather we’re having and in New York they’re having snow storms,” Durkin says.

In the new year she travels to the Adelaide Festival to sing Tatiana in Mid Summer Night’s Dream, by Benjamin Britten.

“All the rest of the cast are Aussies which is wonderful,” Durkin says. “Something good did come out of it in that there’s more focus on artists in Australia as we can’t really get guests in and quarantine.

“We really are the lucky country.”

But the relief is tempered by thoughts of people she left behind.

“I have felt a bit of guilt in regards to my friends in New York,” Durkin says. “I did abandon them, but with the elections I wasn’t there to be dancing in the streets when Trump lost.

“I’ll be dancing at New Year for sure!”

The family-friendly New Year’s Eve Matinee Concert starts at 2pm on December 31. The New Year’s Evening Concert starts at 9.30pm, with VIP packages available. Tickets and further information are at www.perthconcerthall.com.au.

The concert is sponsored by Perth Rotary which has helped raise more than $1million for charity over more than 50 years.


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