Four culturally diverse musical icons join forces to celebrate the unity of the voice. Fijian-Australian bass Sitiveni Talei (Opera Australia), Korean-Australian tenor Jaewoo Kim, Indian-inspired soprano Heather Lee and Ukrainian soprano Larissa Kovalchuk (also on bandura, hybrid zither-lute) feature in turn with solo repertoire from their respective cultures.
Their soulful, heartwarming songs are heard over a single drone that weaves through the program into a heightened finale featuring all four artists composed by Dr Nicholas Ng.
Proudly part of the Sydney Sacred Music Festival 2019.
Born in Australia and partially raised in Fiji, Siti majored in classical vocal performance at the Australian National University. He achieved national attention by winning the Marianne Mathy Scholarship (2008), the Nelly Apt Scholarship, and the audience-determined Foster Award during the Australian National Singing Competition. He has worked with many of Australia’s state opera companies, primarily based in WA, and completed the Young Artist Program there. In 2012 he commenced full-time work with Opera Australia where he has performed lead roles in operas such asThe Mikado, La traviata, La bohème, L’elisir d’amore, Tosca, Il Tabarro, Manon, Die Zauberflöte, Madama Butterfly, La fanciulla del West and Les pêcheurs de perles. Concert appearances include Messiah, St Matthew’s Passion and Fauré’s D Minor Requiem Op 48. Siti is inspired by the sacred and has spent many years in the study of theology and the spirituality of diverse cultures.
Larissa Kovalchuk is a highly respected artist who has thrilled audiences in places as geographically distant as her native Ukraine, Western Europe and around Australia. She is especially known for her exceptional vocal range and the gentle sounds of her bandura (Ukrainian hybrid zither-lute). Larissa studied voice, bandura and conducting at Kiev Conservatorium of Music and soon became one of the nation’s leading players. She has performed in numerous festivals in the Ukraine and Western Europe, including Latvia, Estonia, Germany and France. Larissa was a laureate of the 1993 all-Ukrainian Bandura Festival and won international renown at the 1994 “All the World’s Violins Festival” in France, which was organised by Yehudi Menuhen. Since moving to Australia, Larissa has recorded with SBS Radio, and has appeared at Sydney Opera House, multicultural festivals, Musica Viva events, Café Carnivale, and Australia Day concerts. She completed a Master of Education at Sydney University and now divides her time between performing and teaching at the Australian Institute of Music.
Winner of the National Operatic Aria award, Heather Lee (Master of Voice) has taken many listeners to spiritual heights through her live concerts and recordings. She moves fluidly between sacred traditional and western classical music with her innate ability to sing in many languages and styles. Prominent performance venues include the White House, Sydney Opera House and Sydney Olympic Park (2000 Summer Olympics). She has released numerous ABC albums such as The Sacred Fire (2007), reinterpreting the sacred compositions of St Hildegard of Bingen; Sweet Dreams (2005), a selection of lullabies from around the world; and Music of the Dead Sea Scrolls (2000). She has also recorded for the Asian Games and Winter Olympics. Heather features in Beyond Karma (2016), a major New Earth Records album with the Grammy-nominated Gyuto Monks of Tibet. Many of her projects in collaboration with Dr Kim Cunio intersect with the music of the Indian subcontinent. These include Garden and Cosmos: The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur (2009), produced by the Art Gallery of NSW; and Jho-wa (Oneness) (2006), an international commission on the life of Swami Vivekananda, which premiered at the Sydney Opera House before touring Australia and Dubai; and a setting of Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem Savitri to Western chant styles with Carnatic flute legend Dr Natesan Ramani (2014- present). A project close to Heather’s heart is The Vanishing (2019), in which she brings the words of poet Dr Manisha Sharma to life on the topic of female foeticide in India. Recent highlights include an appearance at the Pushkar Sacred Music Festival, a concert at the Church Centre of the United Nations (New York City), and an award from the Government of India honouring her rendition of Mahatma Gandhi’s beloved Bhajan (devotional song), Vaishnava Jana To (‘One who is a Vaishnav’).
Jaewoo Kim moved to Australia from Korea in 1990 to obtain a Bachelor of Music (Queensland Conservatorium of Music and a post-graduate diploma (Canberra School of Music). He participated in Opera Australia’s Young Artists Program (1998) and was a principal artist with the company (2000-2006). He won the Opera Foundation’s Metropolitan Opera Award and the Sydney Eisteddfod McDonald’s Operatic Aria in 2000. During his time in the United Kingdom (2007-2012), Jaewoo was engaged in various roles including the Italian Singer (Der Rosenkavalier) and Edgardo (Lucia di Lammermoor) with the English National Opera; Lensky (Eugene Onegin) with the English Touring Opera; Harlequin in The Heart of Darkness at Linbury Theatre Covent Garden; Tamino (The Magic Flute) for Lyric Opera Productions in Dublin; Alfredo (La traviata) for Societa Filarmonia in Croatia and Italy; Tamino (The Magic Flute), Ferrando (Così fan tutte) and Orphée (Orphée aux enfers) with Diva Opera in the UK throughout Europe. He also performed in The Dream of Gerontius with the London Mozart Players and Oriana Choir at the Barbican. Jaewoo has enjoyed a successful career in Australia and New Zealand. He has appeared as Ottavio (Don Giovanni) for Opera Australia and NBR New Zealand Opera; and Count Almaviva (The Adventures of Figaro and The Barber of Seville) with Opera Queensland. Concerts include Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 2 with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (ABC Classics) and the Auckland Choral Society; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9; The Messiah with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra; a Gala Concert with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Opera Favourites in Korea; and a performance with Ensemble XXI in Sakhalin and Moscow under the baton of Lygia O’Riordan. In 2017, he took a lead role in Gareth Farr’s contemporary work The Bone Feeder with New Zealand Opera at the Auckland Arts Festival.