Anna Dowsley has established herself as one of the most exciting mezzo-sopranos to emerge from Australia in recent years.  She has performed many leading roles with Opera Australia, has sung with major Australian orchestras and festivals around the country and in recent years has relocated to Germany to embark upon a European career.  

In 2024 she returns to Australia for her Musica Viva Australia debut as the star of Long Lost Loves (and Grey Suede Gloves), an evening of songs by William Bolcom and Arnold Weinstein. Ashleigh Ho spoke with Anna at the creative team's first workshop to develop this show.  

Hi Anna. Can you tell us how you came to be doing this show for Musica Viva Australia? 

Michael Curtain [pianist in Long Lost Loves (and Grey Suede Gloves)] and I have been working together for at least 10 years. We first met at Sydney Conservatorium. We became housemates which meant I had a beautiful piano player on tap for my whole university life.  

Michael was always my repertoire man. He said to me, ‘Anna, we have to do the song Amor by Bolcom.’ 

I didn't know anything about Bolcom but he insisted. Then, when 2020 hit we were invited to do a digital recital with Phoenix Central Park and we decided to do a whole lot of songs with English lyrics, including Amor. Paul [Kildea] happened to watch this recital and he called me up to say, 'Anna, how about doing a whole recital program of the Bolcom?'  

What an amazing idea, what a great adventure this will be, I thought, especially with Mikey on board. I love theatre, and not just on the opera stage. I've always had this idea of creating an art song recital with a theatrical element, making it a piece of drama for the audience. This seems to be the perfect opportunity.  

Can you tell us a little about the music and the composer? 

William Bolcom is a 20th-century American composer. From a singer's point of view, his most famous music is this group of cabaret songs that we are performing, which he wrote for his wife, Joan Morris, who happens to be a mezzo-soprano. We're exploring a different way of approaching them and we don't want to give too much away, but we are hoping to have a theatrical element at the core of it, to explore human emotion and the psyche of a performer being onstage and offstage and combining those two, those two personas as a performer.  

Anna Dowsley rehearsing during the creative development of the show.

Anna Dowsley rehearsing during the creative development of the show.

What is it like performing Bolcom's music?  

It's a great selection of songs to sing because you have huge arcs of emotion as a character.  

One of my favorite songs is Amor. It is such a catchy, upbeat, hilariously written piece of music, both vocally, musically and with the text. Then in other songs in the series, there is such gravitas, some real darkness and some very, very funny moments, in true cabaret style.  

What are you looking forward to the most about this tour? 

It's rare to collaborate on such an intimate, close level on a blank canvas project, in that we have free rein with what we can do with these cabaret songs. And then we get to take it around Australia and show it to audiences and hopefully entertain them and challenge them and introduce music that hasn't been heard in Australia before. 

These cabaret songs are often done as encores in recitals but never as a whole, so now you can hear them all together and see a recital from a different angle.  It's going to be a really exciting night for everyone. See you there! 


Long Lost Loves (and Grey Suede Gloves) tours to Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Newcastle Perth and Sydney from February 20. 


Con Costi, Michael Curtain and Anna Dowsley rehearsing in the Janette Hamilton Studio

Con Costi, Michael Curtain and Anna Dowsley rehearsing in the Janette Hamilton Studio