On the Couch with Shane Placentino

AAR-OA-Shane-Placentino-photo-by-Jennifer-SooWho is Shane Placentino?
Apparently I look very angry when I work. Ernesto Petti, who plays Rigoletto in the upcoming opera I’m reviving, asked me if I am an angry person. I think I scowl when I concentrate but I am certainly not an angry person. Anyone in a directorial position would get frustrated at times but I keep thinking how lucky and privileged I am to be working with such magnificent people in an extraordinary company.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
Exercise more. During the Covid lockdowns I was running every day until I pulled a calf muscle. Since then, I have gained some weight and not re-engaged the running or exercise on a regular basis. I have no excuse because I was a professional dancer and have the knowledge to exercise safely. It’s about creating a habit and not breaking the chain of the daily routine.

Who inspires you and why?
My family and friends keep me grounded and sane but also nudge me in directions I’d never thought to explore. My young nephews and nieces ask questions about the world that I used to ask when I was their age. When they want an answer from me, I end up with my head in a dictionary or encyclopaedia… online of course.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Well, what I’m doing now. I have been involved in the performing arts for over thirty years and I still believe in its ability to tell stories that cause reflection, ease pain, ruffle feathers, inspire and hold a mirror up to our world and society. The stories we tell can be a great vehicle or instigator for positive change.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Last year I went to Woolgoolga, just north of Coffs Harbour for about a week. A great beach, good food and really friendly people. I have also recently discovered Fiji with its fantastic climate and a knock-your-socks-off rum.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
A drive over the Anzac and Harbour Bridges to get a glimpse of Sydney Harbour, Sydney Opera House and surrounds. Then to Coogee for a meal overlooking the waves crashing in on the beach.

What are you currently reading?
Wagner and Philosophy by Bryan Magee. Only a couple of chapters in but it is written so clearly, it’s captivating.

What are you currently listening to?
A lot of Verdi’s Rigoletto at the moment. When I listen to any music over and over again, it changes as I grow accustomed to it. The familiarity of each section and scene reveal something deeper and more complex with every listen.

Happiness is?
A coffee in the morning reading a book and some writing, a casual ride on my motorbike during the day, a gin martini as the sun goes down, with a seafood dinner and either a night at the theatre or a movie. And then I wake up.

What does the future hold for you?
Hopefully more of the same. I love the people I work with at Opera Australia. They have been very generous to me. I’m also writing a bit in my spare time and formulating some ideas for future projects.

Shane is the Revival Director of Opera Australia’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto – which plays the Joan Sutherland Theatre – Sydney Opera House from 13 – 26 June 2023. For more information, visit: www.opera.org.au for details.

Image: Shane Placentino – photo by Jennifer Soo