Emerging Arts Leadership Awards
Recognising the unwavering dedication and visionary leadership of grassroots arts company leaders in Western Australia.
An initiative by final Operabox board members Jenna Robertson, Thomas Friberg and Margaret Stockton.
Operabox Board Members with Award Winners, L-R: Thomas Friberg, Karl Brown, Hannah Lee Tungate, Jenna Robertson and Margaret Stockton, June 2023. Image by Story Creative.
Operabox's production of R. Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, 2016 featuring principal artists Eva-Marie Middleton and Michael Heap
Operabox, the celebrated opera company in WA that captivated audiences from 2011 to 2017, announce their windup and the Operabox Emerging Arts Leadership Awards in 2023.
This initiative aims to invest the remaining funds of $15,000 into the next generation of grassroots artist-led arts organisations in Perth, contributing to the continued vibrancy of the local arts ecosystem.
Operabox was founded in 2011 by composer and conductor Daniel Masmanian and in 2014 Jenna Robertson took the helm, propelling the company to new heights and establishing it as an innovative and professional contributor to the Western Australian opera scene.
Robertson, currently based in Queensland, took on the role of chair of the board from 2012, producer from 2013 and co-CEO and artistic director positions from 2014. A remarkable feat, she also performed the leading soprano role in every production while leading the company. Reflecting on Operabox's remarkable journey, Robertson expressed her pride in the company's accomplishments.
Over the years, Operabox presented seven new opera productions, involving 533 artists, arts workers, and community participants, and reached an audience of 4,050 in the Perth metropolitan area and Albany.
Operabox produced and presented seven new productions of traditional opera from 2011-2017. The first four were Mozart's Così fan tutte (2011), Puccini's La bohème (2012), Verdi's Rigoletto (2013) and Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel (2014); all of which completely sold out.
The next phase of Operabox moved the company into proscenium arch theatres with orchestra pits and into programming operatic rarities including the modern Australian premiere of Donizetti's Anna Bolena (2015, Perth FRINGE WORLD Festival and 2016) and the first performances in Western Australia with orchestra of Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos (2016), and Massenet's Manon (2017).
Notably, Operabox extended its reach beyond Perth by touring productions of La bohème (2012) and Anna Bolena (2016) to Albany, engaging local performers in these performances.
The company's dedication to presenting opera at scale and commitment to showcasing operatic rarities at a professional level garnered praise from critics and opera enthusiasts alike.
Robertson acknowledged the unwavering support of Thomas Friberg, the Board Treasurer, Co-CEO, and Associate Producer, as well as the dedicated team of generous volunteers who provided the energy behind the success.
Despite minimal funding support, Operabox fearlessly delivered fully staged operas with orchestra, chorus, and even a ballet; setting it apart as the only opera company in Western Australia, other than the state company, to consistently achieve this feat.
Operabox's production of Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel, 2014 featuring choreographer and dancer Claire Thomas
Operabox Emerging Arts Leadership Awards
With Operabox’s conclusion coinciding with Robertson’s departure from Western Australia in 2017, and windup occuring in a General Meeting in February 2023, the board unanimously agreed to create a one-off Operabox Emerging Arts Leadership Award as a way of investing the company’s funds in the next generation. This prestigious award will provide support to two deserving organizations that embody leading-edge practices and hold a unique place within the Perth arts ecosystem.
Operabox is proud to announce Tenth Muse Initiative and Bloomhouse Projects as the co-winners of this award.
The award is specifically designed to support the producers for the two companies’ future projects, and each company has received $7,500 from Operabox.
Tenth Muse Initiative is led by founder, artistic director and producer Hannah Lee Tungate and artistic advisor and soprano, Jessica Taylor. They demonstrate exceptional leadership through their programming choices, which promote the work of diverse and underrepresented musicians, filling a vital role in the Perth and Australian opera landscape. Tungate’s excellent capacity as a producer as well as her approach to nurturing artists ensures a bright future for Tenth Muse Initiative.
Bloomhouse Projects was co-founded by co-CEO and executive producer Karl Brown and co-CEO and artistic director Daniella Sicari. They demonstrate a niche approach to casting, recognising early-mid career artists who are connected to Perth and work interstate or internationally. Sicari’s engagement of a diverse range of artistic practices and her deeply collaborative approach, represent an important step towards distribution of power in the opera sector.
The Operabox Emerging Arts Leadership Awards not only recognize the exceptional achievements of these emerging leaders but also acknowledge the tireless efforts of individuals like Hannah, Dani, and Karl, who form the producing backbone of grassroots organizations. Through this award their unwavering dedication and visionary leadership are recognised as being instrumental in fostering a thriving arts ecology in Western Australia.
Operabox's production of Donizetti's Anna Bolena, 2015-6 featuring principal artist Michael Heap
Award co-winner Hannah Lee Tungate, Tenth Muse Initiative
Hannah Lee Tungate
Founder, Artistic Director and Producer, Tenth Muse Initiative
Hannah Lee Tungate is a soprano, producer, and arts administrator, who passionately champions the works of marginalised composers through her performance, research, and advocacy work.
With a penchant for exploring lesser-known pieces, Hannah embraces the challenge of early baroque cantatas and 21st century art songs. Her journey as a producer began during her studies at UWA Conservatorium of Music and has thrived through her work with TMI.
The Priestess of Morphine marked Hannah's debut as an opera producer, and she cannot wait for TMI’s next production. Hannah's unwavering dedication to the amplification of underrepresented voices will continue to drive her artistic endeavours.
“It feels unreal to receive this award from Jenna, a woman I’ve admired for years. It means the world to me, not only does it recognise all that TMI has achieved so far, it also is an acknowledgment that I’m heading in the right direction and guarantees a future project for TMI.”
Hannah Lee Tungate
Award co-winners Karl Brown and Daniella Sicari, Bloomhouse Projects
Co-Founder, Co-CEO and Artistic Director, Bloomhouse Projects
Perth-born soprano Daniella Sicari is an international performer and producer working between Australia and the UK/EU. She has performed with the Bergen Nasjonale Opera, Opera Holland Park, Waterperry Opera Festival, Clonter Opera and the Buxton International Festival.
Daniella is the Co-Founder, Co-CEO and Artistic Director of Bloomhouse Projects in Perth, Australia. Recitals curated and produced by Sicari include Belle Nuit (2014), Send Off (2014), I’ll Be Home for Christmas (2020), Side by Side (2021), Let’s Misbehave (2021), My Best Judys (2021/2) and bloom (2022). Her degrees include a BMus and PGDip in classical voice from WAAPA and an MMus from the RNCM in Manchester.
Co-Founder, Co-CEO, Executive Producer, Bloomhouse Projects
Karl co-founded Bloomhouse Projects as a platform to develop and showcase world-class performances delivered by exceptional artists. Karl is driven by a passion to see individuals and communities flourish, and his contributions in the arts, leadership training, governance, and professional development are key expressions of this.
His legacy over the last 20 years has been in the development of individuals and groups seeking to grow, mature, and excel. Karl is the proud father of Arthur and Benjamin and is married to the incomparable Davia.
"Bloomhouse Projects is delighted and humbled to receive this wonderful and prestigious award. This legacy contribution from Operabox will become a cornerstone to fund our producers, as they focus on creating and delivering future Bloomhouse Projects.
With our particular focus on emerging and early career artists, we’re delighted to continue the important work that Operabox has championed over many years. Thank you to all involved in this process, and in entrusting the baton of leadership to the next generation.”
Operabox's final production of Massenet's Manon, 2017, featuring principal artists Jenna Robertson and Gaetano Bonfante
Operabox Executive Leadership
Jenna Robertson. Image by Maleika Halpin.
Operabox Chair of the Board, 2012-2023
Operabox Co-CEO, Artistic Director, 2014-2017
Operabox Producer, 2013-2017
Operabox Production Manager, 2011-2012
Operabox Principal Soprano, 2011-2017
"Robertson made a significant contribution to supporting emerging singers and broadening the operatic repertoire for WA audiences”
Limelight Magazine, 2017
"Jenna Robertson found her footing with the Australian première of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena in 2015 and an edgy, hilarious production of Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos in September 2016 which established OperaBox as a company that was serious about presenting operatic rarities at a professional level."
Australian Book Review, 2016
Scottish-Australian Jenna Robertson is an internationally award-winning independent creative, performer and arts leader based on Wangerriburra country (Gold Coast Hinterland, Australia). Her diverse career in the arts over two decades has included board membership, artistic direction, curation, singing, writing, directing, and creative producing. Renowned as Australia's leading independent creative producer in opera, Jenna's projects have engaged 973 artists, arts workers and community participants as well as 8640 audience members across Australia, including her most recent 2021 project La traviata in Concert. Jenna is the only Australian to have trained in new opera producing with global leader in contemporary opera producing, Beth Morrison in New York.
Since 2019, she has focused on creating, writing, directing and performing new works that embody her own genre between opera, music and film. Her recent genre-defying works include sci-fi music-theatre full dome film, Endless Universe, touring Australia for National Science Week August 2023, an internationally award-winning short documentary and opera-film in development, Spirit Orphan, her multi-genre debut concept album Unravelling the Voice for October 2023 release and world premiere performance, and her full dome film Return to Planet Earth for World Science Festival Brisbane 2021.
Jenna will also speak (and sing) at national arts leadership conference APAX in Cairns, August 2023 about her Australia Council for the Arts funded, arts leadership action research project, Burnout to Rebirth.
Jenna's passions for creativity and leadership led her to become a Certified Life Coach and facilitator for creatives and leaders. She currently runs a full coaching practice supporting 1:1 clients around the world and leads her first group leadership development program for creatives in July 2023 called Creative Change Makers. She is also a Doctor of Musical Arts candidate researching the intersection of creativity and leadership at Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University.
“As I think of my time with Operabox, the thing I'm most proud of is the space we created for courageous experimentation and learning for so many.
As we thought about how to windup Operabox, we looked towards what could have helped us sustain the company for longer, which was support and recognition for our producers.
Our investment and recognition from these awards recognise the important, yet often overlooked, contribution of grassroots arts company leaders and independent producers in the arts ecosystem.
It is a privilege to be able to recognise the next generation as we windup.”
Operabox Board Treasurer, 2014-2023
Operabox Co-CEO, Associate Producer, 2014-2017
Operabox Baritone, 2011-2014
Thomas loves building great organisations. As a Baritone, Engineer and Management Consultant, he brings his professional background to management so artists can focus on making great art. Thomas grew up as a treble at St George’s Cathedral, Perth and continued to principal roles with OperaBox and the WA Opera.
Thomas has been a soloist for the Oxford Bach Choir, the Kings College London Opera Society, the Rodolfus Choir and many of Perth’s choirs and orchestras. Thomas now focusses on helping larger organisations change course in the face of disruption as a Management Consultant with IBM and as a Board Director for the Australian Institute of Energy.