Expanding opera’s reach

A long and distinguished career in opera has taken Dr David Kram all over the world, but it is his work here in Australia that fills him with the most pride.
Born in London, Dr Kram studied at the Royal College of Music (London), at Luigi Ricci (Rome) and at Adelaide and Monash Universities where he completed his PhD.
He came to Australia in 1978 to take up the position of resident conductor at the Australian Opera, a position he held for the next eight years, before relocating to Adelaide as music director for the State Opera of South Australia.
“I’m very proud of my service with Opera Australia in the early days,” he says.
“It took me not only to the Sydney Opera House but also to Melbourne, where I was the last person to conduct an opera in the Princess Theatre before they closed it (in the 1980s) and the first person to conduct with Opera Australia (Fiddler on the Roof) in the new Arts Centre.”
Dr Kram has held academic positions as a senior lecturer at the Victorian College of the Arts where he taught orchestration and was Head of Opera, and continues his association with the University of Melbourne as a senior fellow. He has also worked with the Bendigo Children’s Choir.

Among his international roles, he is musical director of the New-York based International Opera Productions, making regular visits to conduct the Prague Radio Orchestra; he is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Commerce and Manufactures in the UK; and an Associate of the Royal College of Music (London).

In 2000, Dr Kram established the company More Than Opera (www.morethanopera.com) to expand the reach of opera to diverse audiences.
“There are two ways you can view your profession,” he says.
“If you’re an artist you may say ‘well I’m a bird, I sing’, but I’ve always felt that the Arts have a more sociological role in society.
“Imagine if there was no TV, no films, no concerts, no music of any description, no museums. We’d survive, but (the Arts is) part of what makes us human beings rather than just a lower form of life.
“So I’ve always sought ways in which this could be shared, not only to create bigger audiences but more diverse audiences, more understanding.”
Dr Kram says that while Australia doesn’t have the musical tradition of Russia or Germany or Italy, where there is that activity here it’s of very good quality.
“That’s why you see Australians excelling and being accepted into major institutions all over the world, whether they’re dancers, or painters, or film stars, or orchestral musicians … composers even,” he says.
“So I’ve seen it as my job to try to contribute as much as I can, by advocacy and through my work with the Victorian College of the Arts where I worked for 14 years.”
A highlight of his work includes collaborating with Indigenous Australian soprano, actor, composer and playwright Deborah Cheetham.
Dr Kram supervised Ms Cheetham’s PhD as she wrote her own opera and formed her own Indigenous opera company.
“She’s one of the most intelligent, brilliant women I know,” Dr Kram says.
“I’ve worked with Deborah for 10 years and in October we’re going to be reviving her opera Pecan Summer for the 10th anniversary in the Melbourne Recital Centre.”
Dr Kram has been made a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours for his significant service to the performing arts, to opera and chamber choirs, and to education.
He lives in Malmsbury with his wife Belinda (a director, choreographer, teacher and creative therapist).

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