On the Couch with Yarmila Alfonzetti

SOSA Yarmila AlfonzettiWho is Yarmila Alfonzetti?
I am someone who enjoys time on my own and time with thousands of people. I cherish classical music and think it is without question the main source of beauty in my life (and the world)! I have a couple of degrees, including a Masters of Project Management, but nothing has been as good as the education I have received from living with three bitter and sarcastic teenage daughters. I love working, and believe in the great satisfaction that work can bring. I am a bit of a yoga junkie, and I spend a lot of money on plants. I mostly wear Issey Miyake Pleats Please which I purchase all over the world.

I have lost my wedding ring three times but have been married to that same old Italian for 26 years. I am the eldest of six workaholic siblings. I love and hate children in equal measure, but I have lots of clever and appealing nieces and nephews. I am slightly obsessed with cleaning, linen bed sheets, and coloured pens. I secretly love going grey and I especially love horrifying all my girlfriends and daughters about it. I have worked at Sydney Living Museums, the Premier’s Department in NSW, Sydney Opera House, the Powerhouse Museum and Sydney Youth Orchestras. I dream of being a politician, an orchestral musician, a landscape gardener or an arts leader!

What would you do differently to what you do now?
In life or at work? I’m very, very glad and a bit smug that I popped three kids out 20+ years ago…very handy when one is busy and keen to get on with life! I certainly wish I had lived overseas at some stage in my life, but the older I get the more passionate I get about Australia and the importance of enhancing our Australian cultural landscape. I care about what we get to see and hear.

I don’t think it’s fair that Australians have to go to the ends of the earth to see certain performances, artists, works of art, etc. That’s why I spent seven years delivering the World Orchestras Series for Sydney Opera House… I want to see the great orchestras HERE!

If we are talking about work, and career, and all things job-related, I have a million things I would do differently. I am learning and changing all the time, which I firmly believe is the best way to be. I would certainly have been bolder sooner…those are the people I admire in this industry; the uncompromising renegades, the outspoken personalities, and the people who will lay it all on the line for art. I try every day to be that person, to make a small sacrifice for something bigger and more important than myself, and to guard with intensity the importance of art for people here right now.

Who inspires you and why?
I am always and most passionately inspired by musicians. I would give anything to be the kind of person who locked myself in a room and practiced for 10 hours a day… that’s the kind of single-minded focus that makes me want to work with those types of artists.

I love classical music, and I love that sense of striving for perfection. My favourite people are always musicians and intellectuals; people who talk about books, and art, and ideas, and politics. I have a couple of close friends like this, and an old Italian husband who only sends me text messages with quotes from Satre and Dostoyevsky, and he lies in bed reading me passages from Machiavelli. Believe me, it’s sexy!

These people are rare and precious. These are the best people. They remind me that life isn’t actually about the toilets, and the carpark, and the fonts… it is about so much more. My oldest friend only ever talks to me about music. That’s all. He can’t talk about anything day-to-day. We sit, and eat, and talk about opera. He doesn’t know about TV, or groceries, or tax! He just thinks about music… don’t you love it?!

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Oh this is a crazy question. Really the best way to make a difference in the world is to be kind, and love absolutely. Or, I could have tried to earn buckets of money and give it all to the arts! But really, my way of making a difference is essentially to work hard. I think, and hope, that people know that about me. I have an outstanding work ethic (I can thank my Czech father for that…in fact my whole family are workaholics) and I don’t care if it takes all day and all night and all year…I won’t stop working until things work. So, my small difference is commitment and hard work.

Favourite holiday destination and why? 
I love Berlin, Mudgee, Ubud, St Petersburg, anywhere in the Australian countryside… but really I could easily have the best time ever in my yoga studio in Potts Point (thank you all the teachers at #bodymindlife)! Anywhere lying in the arms of the Old Italian. And to be honest, every day that I walk on Grange Beach I pinch myself at the unbelievable beauty of that place.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why? 
Beaches!!! Long long walks on South Australian beaches, which are basically the best-kept secrets in the world! Heaven. Divinity at work. And, I take them to the opera of course. Lots of friends and relatives are flying in to see Pearl Fishers, and we will couple that with great food and wine. I mean, really, is there anything better?

What are you currently reading? 
Well… My husband just bought me a volume with all the works of Schopenhauer!! Aaarrgh. Not quite sure I am up for that just now; I have just finished all the letters of Simone de Beauvoir (I’m still not sure if I like her); I am reading The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard to inspire me to get through each week (this job us BUSY); I am reading lots of opera synopses and delving into the high melodrama of this wonderful art form; and hopefully very soon I will be reading a stack of brilliant job applications for the three new roles we have just advertised at SOSA – come on, South Australians… come and work with me in the arts!

What are you currently listening to?
Opera, of course! The Pearl Fishers’ most beautiful melodic writing, lots of Strauss (because my music friend tells me I can’t “graduate” to Wagner until I know all of Strauss!) and I have just heard Cunning Little Vixen in Perth directed by our very own new Artistic Director Stuart Maunder (starting with us at SOSA in July).

This year I have been listening to a lot of Debussy (it’s the Debussy centenary year), lots of early music (I just presented Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI at the Perth Festival and I am madly in love with him), tons of chamber music (in prep for the Melbourne International Chamber Music Comp) and Bach. Always Bach. Lots of Bach. Whenever anything goes wrong… turn to Bach.

Happiness is?
Happiness is over-rated and boring. I’m chasing meaning. And impact. And value. And pleasure. All of which will come from hard work and commitment (see Question 4!).

What does the future hold for you?
Tears and long hours; laughs and melodrama (it is opera, after all); wine – buckets of it; exploring Adelaide; hours and endless hours on Grange Beach; more and more listening to music; menopause; more art, more shows, more productions, more audiences and better arts companies; tons of sex; and somewhere far away on the horizon, pottering around the south of Spain into the twilight years with my Old Italian.

Yarmila is the Executive Director of the State Opera of South Australia – who are currently presenting Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers in the Festival Theatre – Adelaide Festival Centre until 19 May 2018. For more information, visit: www.saopera.sa.gov.au for details.

Image: Yarmila Alfonzetti (supplied)