Behind the Scenes with Elizabeth Rusli, Fleta of Iolanthe
Making her acting debut as flighty Fleta, the youngest of the immortal fairies of Iolanthe, is Elizabeth Rusli. We asked Elizabeth a few questions about her upcoming role.
You’ve studied and sung with choirs in both Indonesia and Australia, what drew you to this most classic of British operettas?
Indonesian music culture is very distinguished to its own style and not as varied as music we enjoy in Australia. The most crossover I found between Indonesian and Australian music cultures are sacred songs which are normally sung as part of masses, and popular excerpts from well-known larger works such as Handel, Mozart, Beethoven and other very commonly mentioned composers.
It was not until I settled in Melbourne in 2010 that I discovered musicals, opera, operetta and other secular works. In addition to years of experiences in choral singing, I decided to enhance my vocal learning. I began my voice lessons two years ago, and have since been on the lookout for solo singing opportunities and to be involved in a theatrical music production. Then I found Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Victoria. It turned out to be perfect timing as they were looking for Iolanthe cast at that time. I watched one of the Iolanthe recordings on YouTube and immediately fell in love with the music. They remind me of my favourite musicals, The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady. And the fairies! Who does not love fairies?
"I love Arthur Sullivan’s music.
He was such an extraordinary talent and composer."
Has Fleta been a fun role to prepare? What do you think of your character?
Fleta has a very unique character, making her different than other older fairies in the story. She is curious, asks lots of questions, has many ideas no one thought about, and quite naïve. Having had no prior acting experience, I find my biggest challenge is to get all the expressions across to the audience and not to think too much as an adult would! After all, Fleta is the youngest fairy! She is probably only five and twenty – a hundred years old!
So far, I have thoroughly enjoyed the learning process, and very appreciative of all the feedback I’ve received from my fellow cast, chorus members, and especially Diana Burleigh and Michael Angelico. Having English as my second language, it was not easy to get the British diction for the role, however having a lovely team around me makes it fun and very motivating.
You’re also a multi-talented musician, studying not just the piano, but the trumpet! What do you think of the music of Arthur Sullivan? Had you seen many G&S shows before?
My parents started my piano lessons when I was three and used their savings to buy me a piano so I could practice. That was the beginning of my musical journey. Since then, life has never been too far apart from music. In middle school, I had an opportunity to join the school’s marching band. Each candidate had to go through an audition to test which instrument would fit us best. After the audition, I was assigned to the trumpet section and played with them for 3 years. I remember practicing under the sun for 2 hours straight every Saturday, and marching around the empty school parking lot which used to be our rehearsal ground. After middle school, I did not continue with the trumpet as I found a new love in singing, but I miss playing the trumpet greatly!
I love Arthur Sullivan’s music. He was such an extraordinary talent and composer. He composed all these beautiful and joyful tunes which are always a pleasure to listen to. They are lively, captivating, and vocally challenging enough to put on a great show. Every note from the orchestra and vocal lines makes the right mood for a particular scene from the show which kept the play interesting throughout the performance. The last G&S show I’d saw was H.M.S. Pinafore presented by Melbourne Opera. That was beautiful and enjoyable in every way, and made me feel so very happy that I couldn’t help myself and bought a choc top!
What do you do when you’re not rehearsing or performing?
You’ll find me working in the bank during weekdays, and I enjoy cooking, but I love nature and going bush walking, especially with my lovely husband on the weekends!
Interview by Judith Clark
Iolanthe premieres at the Darebin Arts & Entertainment Centre for a strictly limited season: May 5th - 7th
Bookings & Enquiries: (03) 8470 8280
Beloved and beautiful, immortal Iolanthe has broken one of her fairy kingdom's biggest rules – she fell in love with a human and was banished for marrying a mortal.
Now twenty-five years later, these two worlds will collide as her son, Strephon (half fairy from the waist up, and mortal from the waist down), has rapturous plans to wed pretty Phyllis, a sweet voiced shepherdess and ward of the Lord Chancellor. Unfortunately, Strephon has a lot of competition from just about every peer in the House of Lords, including the Lord Chancellor himself!
With class complications, mistaken identities, and not a little bit of supernatural shenanigans, will true love be enough to win out when party political lines are drawn?
GSOV is the performing arm of The Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Victoria which has been delighting audiences with its productions for over 80 years. One of the longest running theatrical organisations in Australia, it has been hailed as one of our country’s leading light opera companies. GSOV performs not only in Melbourne and regional Victoria, but has also won awards on the international stage at the premier Gilbert & Sullivan Festival in the United Kingdom.