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Role demands stamina



Rosario La Spina as Alberto and Katja Webb as Violetta in WA Opera's <em>La Traviata.</em> Photographer: Marcus Whisson  Rosario La Spina as Alberto and Katja Webb as Violetta in WA Opera's La Traviata. Photographer: Marcus Whisson

PERTH soprano Katja Webb may appear to be living the glamorous life of a jet-setting opera star, but all is not what it seems.

Webb, who is taking on the gruelling role of tragic heroine Violetta in West Australian Opera’s production of La Traviata, has found herself riding the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, just as she does in Giuseppe Verdi’s iconic masterpiece.

The WA Academy of Performing Arts graduate and this year’s WA Opera principal artist was among an elite group of 12 singers handpicked from around the world to study at the National Opera Studio in London in 2007 after winning the prestigious $100,000 Covent Garden Prize.

From mid-2010 to mid-2011, however, she found herself in her native Germany tackling the opera festival circuit, criss-crossing from Berlin and Munich to Leipzig and Dusseldorf in the hope of securing work on the stage.

The dream of performing in Europe’s hallowed opera halls is one she is still chasing.

“You go from agent to agent and opera house to opera house for auditions and it’s fairly soul-destroying, but it’s part of the job,” she told Community.

“You sit in your cheap little hotel room and get ready for the audition the next day and then you gather yourself and head off to the next one.

“You need a support group of friends that have nothing to do with singing and can take you out of that world for a couple of hours because if all you are doing is thinking about your singing, it can be a very slippery slope.”

Webb is accustomed to travelling where the work is, but the next two months will keep her in Perth for WA Opera’s productions of La Traviata and Don Giovanni.

In La Traviata, Webb performs alongside acclaimed Australian tenor Rosario La Spina, who has sung the role of Violetta’s bourgeois lover before on the Perth stage, as well as in Sydney and Melbourne with Opera Australia and in Modena, Italy.

Webb said immersing herself in the role of the beautiful young Parisian courtesan Violetta, whose loyalty and love for Aldredo forced her to pay the ultimate price for her happiness, was emotionally draining.

“It’s a long opera and it requires real stamina,” she said.

“But I like an unhappy ending – it’s a lot of fun to act out and experience and then be able to go back to normal life.”

Once the seasons of La Traviata and Don Giovanni wrap up, Webb will head to picturesque Lake Garda in northern Italy for her sister’s wedding.

“I now have two Italian operas, so hopefully my Italian will be half-decent by the time I get there,” she laughed.

West Australian Opera’s La Traviata
Where: His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth
When: April 9-20
Tickets: Ticktek (ticketek.com.au)

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