Dream Weaving, The Herald Sun 2011
A veteran singing teacher and a star in the making combine their formidable talents, writes Harbant Gill.
From nowhere to a glittering role in the multi-million-dollar Wicked has left 22-year-old outer-suburban student Erin Hasan reeling.
The man fortifying the spinning soprano is Herald Sun Aria veteran Jon Weaving, now a 78-year-old committed to getting the best out of his students.
"My life feels surreal at the moment. I can't believe I'm living what I am living," Hasan says before a lesson in Weaving's studio.
"I literally stepped into my dream role as my first role. It's incredible."
Her teacher, with whom she has trained twice a week for nearly four years, is equally agog.
"She had this dream she was going to do it. Blow me down, she did," a proud Weaving says. "I went to see her and I couldn't believe she hadn't done it 200 times. She was born for the role."
Hasan, who grew up in a non-musical family on a farm in the Yarra Valley, was 15 when she played Laurey in Oklahoma at Lilydale High.
It got her hooked on performing - "I thought it was the most amazing thing anyone could do for a job, the most magical way of living".
She enrolled at the Melba Conservatorium but quit six months later to take lessons with Weaving, a finalist at 19 in the 1950 and 1952 Sun Aria that launched his international career.
In 2000 she was cast as Dorothy in the Schools Spectacular, and two years later was awestruck by her "very classical" favourite singer Kristin Chenoweth, who had played the original Glinda on Broadway.
Hasan was already listening to the Wicked soundtrack every day and had learned every song by the time she found Weaving.
He saw in her an exceptional talent, and worked hard to nurture it.
"She has a very sweet way of singing. She has a good vocal extensions. I'm always nagging her to show off the extension at the top of her voice. It's beautiful, it's not a sharp tinny one.
"There are hundreds of sopranos around the world - you've got to be an outstanding one," he says.
"Erin was so prepared. She worked so hard on her voice and that's what has done it." Hasan has also been taking acting lessons, credits Weaving with sharing the wealth of his experience over 30 years of an international career, which at one stage included performing eight shows a week while filming for five days for his ABC-TV show and running a radio program.
Hasan is no doubt inspired by him as she waits in the Wicked wings eights times a week, just in case she is needed to step in.
"Jon's main help is that he really set me up for all that this role demands," says the performer, who at times practises for hours a day.
"He gave me a solid technique, which carries me through the production.
"Glinda has to belt it out. I'm a classical soprano, so I had to learn to do that."
Weaving, who also has three students in this year's Herald Sun Aria, admits that having talented students can be a heartache.
"It's a terribly sad business," he says. You love the people you work with. They become family.
"You hand on what you've learned and when they become successful they go they away. It's like losing children."
HARBANT GILL, 2011 ARTICLE: Dream Weaving, The Herald Sun. Accessed The Herald Sun 2011.
ANDREW TAUBER, 2011, IMAGE: Born performer, singer Erin Hasan, the understudy for Glinda in the musical Wicked, goes over some lines with singing teacher Jon Weaving. Accessed The Herald Sun 2011.