‘Consumer’s friend’ Sims playing different tune leading Opera

After more than a decade of fighting for consumers, Rod Sims is to focus his considerable experience on encouraging more Australians to give opera a go.

Sep 26, 2022, updated Sep 26, 2022
Former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims said gas costs could be lowered (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims said gas costs could be lowered (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair is taking on the role of Chair of Opera Australia.

Mr Sims wants to change perceptions opera is elitist, stage more full performances in Melbourne and nurture Australian talent over the term of his appointment.

He wasn’t born into an opera-loving family but became hooked the moment he heard a recording of the famous duet from The Pearl Fishers more than 40 years ago.

“I was just blown away,” he told AAP.

“Trying to have more people have that experience would be a fantastic thing to do and does take a lot of creative thinking.”

Mr Sims will work closely with Opera Australia CEO Fiona Allan to “move the dial” by collaborating with other arts organisations and developing ways to draw in new audiences.

“It certainly can be seen as elitist, partly because it’s just expensive. But it also is simply wonderful, particularly when you’re hearing that glorious singing,” he said.

“Can we just make opera that bit more accessible to more diverse audiences through thinking about different ways of doing things?”

Mr Sims is taking on the role amid criticism Opera Australia, founded in 1956, is too Sydney-centric. No full operas will be staged in Melbourne in 2023, while seven full performances will take place in Sydney over a period of five months.

“Obviously our Melbourne season next year is thin. It’s extremely high quality, by the way, but thin,” he acknowledged.

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“We’ve got to do more in Melbourne but I’m also interested to see whether we can do more in other places as well.”

Mr Sims is also keen to attract more top-tier Australian and international artists to appear in local productions and explore how more Australian stories can be told through opera.

“Opera Australia played a big role in helping the careers of Baz Luhrmann, Barrie Kosky and people like that,” he said.

“Given our position, we can obviously play a role in helping the careers of Australian producers, directors, conductors, orchestra, people involved in staging but of course, most importantly of all, singing.”

According to its website, Opera Australia plays to more than half a million people a year and is the biggest employer in the local arts sector.

Mr Sims succeeds former University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Glyn Davis, who was hand-picked by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to become secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

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