Apsara is an original project of classical soprano Michaele Archer, exploring a sound palate that is rich and raw. Composed with Latin text from Virgil and Roman woman poet Sulpicia, Apsara’s debut EP Galatea intertwines ancient and new sounds.
Leading the Apsara project on harmonium and vocals, Archer is joined by cellist Rachel Whealy, violist Gabrielle Laura Steele and guitarist Giuseppe Zangari.
It been a journey bringing together the different layers for this project – Ancient Latin text, alto instruments and a vocal approach that blends opera and early music. “Once I had it the music came quickly. The songs almost wrote themselves. They came so fast in a matter of minutes recording on my phone.”
In addition to medieval vocals, ancient Latin text and deep analogue instruments, the flow of water and nature inspires Apsara. In Virgil’s Eclogue 7 there are references to Galatea, a water sprite and the name Apsara also translates as Indian water spirit.
Michaele has performed opera, song and oratorio in Australia and internationally and has featured in several world premieres of new works by Australian composers.
“Coming from an opera background and having a larger voice type my sound has always been full on opera”. Michaele has recently been performing and studying in Los Angeles with Robin de Haas, a leading voice coach in Europe and founder of a new performance and body work method called Breathing Coordination. Going ever deeper into anatomy and the science of breathing led Michaele to a new vocal style, blending Opera into medieval straight tone.
Discovering the poetry of Roman woman poet Sulpicia struck a deep chord. “The portrayal of women in opera is often two dimensional and I wanted to depart from that,” says Archer. Sulpicia was a woman who lived outside the stereotypes of Ancient Roman society in terms of being unmarried, writing poetry and writing explicitly about love. The feel and sound qualities of old Latin text and stories interpreted from a female perspective form a rich layer, built with instruments from the deeper harmonic spectrum.
“I’ve got a thing for the darker sounding instruments so combining the tone of the viola with cello and alto harmonium was a perfect fit.”
Cellist Rachel Whealy has been a muse since high school. The pair met in Year 12 Music class, where Michaele fell in love with Rachel’s playing and the mellow sob of the cello. There were quite a few maths lessons skipped to play Purcell on Balmoral Island with the waves. They have been performing, writing and recording together ever since. “We’ve created some beautiful original recordings, but I kept putting them aside. I hadn’t quite cracked the feel of the sound I knew I was looking for. I wanted to move slightly left of opera with an instrumental foundation that was real and textured.”
APSARA – GALATEA is OUT TODAY August 23 and released through Foghorn/MGM.
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