On the Couch with Stephen Marsh

Stephen Marsh courtesy of Victorian OperaWho is Stephen Marsh?
I am a 29-year-old Baritone who grew up on the surf coast and then in Geelong. I graduated from Christian College in 2009 and since then I have been pursuing my career as an operatic performer.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
If you had have asked me if being an operatic performer was at the top of my list when graduating I probably would have laughed. When finishing school, I had 2 other potential career paths, these were to either be a pediatric nurse or a police officer. I always wanted to give back to my community and make a difference in the lives of others. However, being an operatic performer is amazing though because I feel that I can do both of those things anyway. I am incredibly lucky.

Who inspires you and why?
There are two people that have been my biggest inspirations in both my personal and professional life. These people would be my Grandfather and my singing teacher Roger Howell.

My Grandfather was one of the major pillars of my life. He was a strong but gentle person and always had time for me, regardless of how many questions I had. I spent a lot of time with him as a child and he just knew how to focus my energy and attention into new and exciting things. One thing I remember Pa having was this incredible calming presence. He always encouraged me with my singing and reminded me of the importance to always take time to enjoy the small things.

As far as people who inspire me as an artist, my teacher Roger Howell would be that person. I have been learning with him since beginning of 2012. I could not have asked for a more attentive and encouraging mentor than him. Since that first lesson he has encouraged me to stive to be the best I can be and to not forget that above all else, we sing because we love it. Roger’s career as a both a teacher and a leading operatic performer has spanned 5 decades and has taken him around the world. What could be more inspirational than this?

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Music has been such an important part of my life and I believe that it so important to be exposed to at a young age. I understand that this is not always possible for whatever reason. I have always been a big believer in giving back to the community and a great way to give back would be to raise money for children who would like to have music lessons who cannot afford to, whether it be piano, violin, etc. I would love to be able to help others experience and enjoy music as much as I have.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
My favourite holiday destinations would have to be split evenly between Narooma and Merrimbula on the NSW south coast. From the time I was born until I was about 14 my whole family would travel to these places either during Easter or the July school holidays. I have so many fond memories. My Grandfather was a very keen fisherman so many mornings and evenings we would go out to either the beach or the inlets and see what we could catch. Some of my fondest memories are from these to special places.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Coming from Geelong I am quite lucky to have a lot of the surf coast at my doorstep. When my friends come down from Melbourne, I like to spend a whole day going from coastal town to coastal town and doing something in each place. I would normally start in Torquay and then travel around to Barwon Heads, Ocean Grove, Queenscliff and then finish up in Portarlington. With so many incredible places to visit in each destination it could make for a great day of adventure.

What are you currently reading?
I have just started reading a book called Maus by Art Spiegelman, it is a graphic novel that depicts both Art and his father’s harrowing experiences during the Holocaust. My partner read it in high school and I found it on her shelf a little while ago. They way the story is told, and the graphic depiction of animals as opposed to humans is very thought provoking.

What are you currently listening to?
I must admit I find my Spotify littered with more opera tracks than I can count. At this current moment, Das Rheingold by Wagner and The Pearl Fishers by Bizet find themselves at the top of my list. I also love listening to Australian rap/hip hop, my favorite artists in this category would have to be Hilltop Hoods, 360 and award-winning local Melbourne Rap duo ‘Remi’.

Happiness is?
Over the last 12 months I spent quite a bit of time thinking about what my core values and recipe for happiness are. For me personally the answer that I discovered was quite simple. My Family, my love of music and keeping life in perspective are the key components to my happiness.

What does the future hold for you?
For the next 12 months I will be working with Victorian Opera. I was fortunate enough to be the recipient of the Michael Stubbs and Malcolm Roberts Opera Prize at the end of 2020. This prize allows me concentrated development as part of an opera company which I am so excited to be part of. The Sleeping Beauty rehearsals are well underway, and I will be performing the role of ‘Zurga’ in Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers at the end of April.

I am also meant to travel to Europe in July to perform the role of ‘Marcello’ in La Bohème at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland. Unfortunately, this is still up in the air with travel restrictions the way they currently are. Regardless of this, 2021 is an exciting year full of opportunity and I cannot wait to see where it leads!

Stephen stars at The Woodcutter in Victorian Opera’s production of Respighi’s The Sleeping Beauty – which will be presented at St Kilda’s Palais Theatre this February. For more infortmation, visit: www.victorianopera.com.au for details.

Image: Stephen Marsh – courtesy of Victorian Opera