On the Couch with Angela Hogan

OA Angela Hogan AAR On the CouchWho is Angela Hogan?
I’m a music lover. I learned how to harmonise with my family sitting around a fire plucking out guitar chords to accompany us in family singalongs. It was our way of bonding, passed down by our life-of-the-party dad. In high school, I formed a rock band and wrote songs about heartbreak, saving the environment, and everything in between. We even made it to the Espy in St Kilda. From there it was a short trip to an equally iconic venue, the Sydney Opera House.

All it took was finding opera without having seen one, moving to Melbourne, studying at VCA with now lifelong friends, shifting from soprano to mezzo, touring China and Australia in the OA National Tour as a motorbike-riding Carmen (appropriate as my prized possession is my trusty Triumph, gifted to me by a dear friend).

Today I count myself lucky to do what I adore every day with a renowned company surrounded by artists at the peak of their craft. And though I’ve had to make sacrifices, leaving behind friends and family in Melbourne, spending less time than I’d like with my handsome, supportive husband Jimmy and four wonderful stepchildren, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
I’m a small-town girl at heart. And though my family is a loving one and taught me to believe in myself, I spent too much time when I was younger worrying about what other people thought of me. Everyone experiences self-doubt in some form or another, so I’m not unique. Opera opened doors for me, to rooms I’d never seen. It took a while, and a lot of hard work, for me to realise there were spaces for me here.

Sometimes when I’m singing onstage in language I don’t speak, outfitted in a sumptuous costume, caught up in the beauty of a piece of music, I think to myself – yeah, I belong here, and I am enough. The applause is nice too, but the older you get, the less you worry about what strangers think. It’s the people you love and respect you want to impress.

Who inspires you and why?
My family inspires me. I lost my dad a few years ago. He died when I was performing Handel’s Messiah in Wollongong, and I felt him with me that day. Dad was the consummate host, always entertaining us with jokes, songs and stories, the first to arrive and the last to leave any gathering (I’m not ashamed to say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree).

My mum is still with us, a rock who keeps us all in line and loves our girlie weekends together when we get the opportunity. I know she’s proud of me and I am proud of her, too. The rest of my family is full of legends, and I could go on forever.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Ever since I spent my teen years holed up in my bedroom recording derivatives of Midnight Oil, I’ve been passionate about environmental issues. It’s the issue of our time, how we protect and safeguard our only home we share with all other living things. We have much to learn from the traditional custodians of this land, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I try to instil in my stepchildren respect for nature and gratitude that we live in this country. I also learn from them. They give me hope for the future.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I always think it’s not where you go but with whom you go. I’m an organiser through and through. Just give me a spreadsheet and I’m happy. I recently organised a beach house weekend on the Mornington peninsula with my Melbourne crew, who I miss very much. We went to the hot springs, drank wine and talked nonsense. It was the best.

My husband has taken up diving, and now so have I. We have had some wonderful, romantic holidays on break from opera season travelling around Bali, which is a place I keep returning to, full of delicious food, welcoming people, rich culture and the chance to ride around the gorgeous countryside on a motorbike, my chosen steed.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to and why?
I am the attraction, especially if I can get them discounted tickets for the opera and afterwards, we can gossip and laugh at the opera bar overlooking the stunning Sydney Harbour sights. I kid. It’s not where you are but with whom. I have a pizza oven in my backyard and my Italian husband makes the best pizzas. I’ve also made my back deck the hub of our house and it’s perfect for a catch up with friends, sharing stories and continuing the tradition of singing round a fire I got from my family.

What are you currently reading?
I’ve just started reading My Brilliant Friend, the first of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series, on the recommendation of a friend and I can already tell I am going to love it. I’m also true crime aficionado. I think women are drawn to these stories as they are warnings of what is all too common in our society.

What are you currently listening to?
Not including the operatic repertoire I hope to sing, I’ve got eclectic tastes. I’ve always been partial to Babs Streisand and her millennium concert – including all the witty patter in-between songs. I love the 90s grunge era, jazz standards, protest bands spanning from Midnight Oil to System of a Down, most Musical Theatre and many of Triple J’s Like a Version recordings.

One of my dear friends is Golden-guitar winning country folk singer Michael Waugh and I’ve been privileged to get a preview of his new album Beauty and Truth, coming out this year. He’s already released the queer anthem, We Are Here – which is in heavy rotation, as well as ‘Playlist’ about new love. And then I always end my night with a true crime podcast, a bedtime story that strangely helps me get to sleep.

Happiness is?
Sharing space with people I love. It might be a rehearsal room, a hotel balcony, a car with a tape player, a backyard nook, a seat at a table or by a fire. I’ve been blessed with wonderful colleagues, friends and family and spending time with them, with my husband, with my stepchildren, wherever we are, is where I’m most happy.

That being said, nothing beats smashing out an emotional aria accompanied by a full orchestra, giving all that I can, to unite with an audience in a darkened theatre in a moment of connection. It’s a feeling and an energy that is impossible anywhere else, and it’s pure magic. For that reason, I will never give it up.

What does the future hold for you?
I’m so grateful to have full time work as an artist in Australia, with the supremely talented Opera Australia Chorus. The opportunities afforded to me, including being a soloist at a concert at magical Uluru, are unforgettable. I’m so excited to step forward for some more roles this year, including Flora in La Traviata and La Zia Principessa in Puccini’s Suor Angelica – my first leading role on the Sydney Opera House stage. I also had the privilege of performing with the hilariously quick-witted Rueben Kaye for Opera up Late for Mardi Gras last year. It has reignited my interest in writing and performing in a one-woman cabaret show interspersing show tunes, opera and pop power ballads with funny anecdotes I’ve gathered over the years. Stay tuned – hopefully coming to a fringe festival near you.

Angela is starring as Flora Bervoix in Opera Australia’s production of La Traviata in the Joan Sutherland Theatre – Sydney Opera House until 14 March 2024. For more information, visit: www.opera.org.au for details.

Image: Angela Hogan – courtesy of Opera Australia