Recently, one of our talented and clever young artists assigned 'A Gertrude' as the new collective noun for talented performers. Which got me thinking again about the name of our company, and what it has come to represent. Chosen to honour Gertrude Johnson OBE - the founder of the first 'opera school' company in Melbourne, and recognised as an Australian entrepreneur and international success story - albeit forever in the shadow of Dame Nellie Melba! 'Our Gertrude' was a one time protegée of the Dame before going to sing Queen of the Night at Covent Garden, and it strikes me her legacy perhaps is somewhat similar to her namesake opera company - flying high but somewhat under the radar: breaking new ground, premiering works, bringing young and established artists together on stage, fiercely advocating for Australia's artistic future - and boldly persevering in the face of zero government operating subsidy.
Founding the National Theatre Movement in the mid 1930s, Gertrude Johnson is responsible for companies and networks continuing to provide opportunities for young people of all ages and backgrounds to develop their natural talent - in opera, with our own Gertrude Opera, and in drama and ballet, with her beloved National Theatre - the offshoot of the training is the presentation of performing arts for an intrepid and appreciative audience. That is an 85 year legacy - so far!
The name Gertrude is derived from the Old High German Geretrudis, a compound name composed of the elements ger (spear) and trut (maiden, dear) or þruþ (strength). 'Spear of strength' is the most common attributed meaning - and 'Adored warrior' is a particular favourite!
In these devastating times, we're drawing on all our 'Gertrude' strength today, in preparation for the weeks and months to come. In one way, the scale of our company gives us a unique capacity to be flexible - and creative - we can react quickly and efficiently to the economic and cultural climate of the day - aware that this is still a developing situation. We've suspended our face-to-face contact with our 2020 Young Artists, after yesterday's inspiring and uplifting all-day aria workshop, and we remain connected via the internet thankfully, to prepare, coach, rehearse, advise - and if necessary, boost morale! We're working on our online introductions to our gorgeous 2020 'Gertrudes', and can't wait to share that content with you. Dedication, ambition, practise, learning and dreaming does not stop for these extraordinary young people.
We can assure you that Gertrude Opera - with spear raised, spirit emboldened - will bring our particular brand of contemporary and festival opera to you in the flesh, as soon as we're able!
Coats on the hook, for now, with hat held out - our March/April period is normally productive in earning income through performances to support our operating costs - if you are in a position to help us with the loss of that income, please consider making a tax-deductible donation today using the button below.
Do take care of yourselves, sending optimism, love and best wishes.