Australian arts jobs, news, industry commentary, career advice, reviews & data


What's On

Licensed to Trill

Carol Flavell Neist

DivaLicious has developed over the years into a highly professional, highly entertaining and extremely good looking act.
Licensed to Trill

Fiona Cooper Smyth and Penny Shaw as DivaLicious. 

This ever popular duo (trio if you count Tommaso Pollio, their excellent accompanist) has developed over the years into a highly professional, highly entertaining and extremely good looking act. I have been following their work since 2011, when I first reviewed them at the Ellington Jazz Club, and they have never failed to entertain with excellent musicianship, humour and flair.

The act itself barely changes from one year to the next: two sopranos singing arias, sometimes in dead-serious vein, but more often with tongues in cheeks.  Recently I asked the ladies about their backgrounds. How did they learn to sing so well?  What gave them the idea of making a living by sending up opera?


Coloratura sopranos Fiona Cooper Smyth and Penny Shaw met when they were members of West Australian Opera. Keen to perform together, they formed the operatic duo DivaLicious, combining opera with musical theatre and popular cross-over songs. Add in a shared sense of humour and you have an act with a huge repertoire to complement their incredible talent and enthusiasm.

They have developed two acts: Opera Rocks, which has toured throughout WA, was nominated for Best Cabaret 2013 and 2015 and had a highly acclaimed and sold out season at Sydney Opera House.  The hugely popular show  Licence to Trill, combines Hollywood hits with operatic favourites. They had a Best Cabaret nomination and a sold out season at Fringe World 2014, and have toured to the Adelaide Festival, Kalgoorlie and Sydney Opera House.

DivaLicious have launched their own CD, DivaLicious – One Voice; reached the finals of Australia’s Got Talent, made appearances on The Voice and Channel 7’s The Morning Show; performed at The Ashes 2014, The Hopman Cup 2013, and many other prestigious corporate events and gala dinners.

It’s unusual to find two sopranos in the same act. After all, the stories about competing divas have a sound basis in real life, so Shaw and Cooper-Smyth turn the arguments into jokes. They upstage each other time and time again, only avoiding fisticuffs – or at least a bout of hair pulling – by a fine margin. But it’s all in fun, and funny as it is, their programs have a sound basis in good music, sung by excellent voices. They do occasionally sing together in beautiful harmony.

I have seen their act several times, most recently at the Perth Concert Hall, where they produced a daytime performance of Licensed to Trill. This venue does not get used often enough, to my mind. It has excellent acoustics, comfortable seating and good sightlines. It’s a big room with plenty of seating. The fact that the stalls were well over half full for a matinee says a lot about the duo’s popularity.

The stage was well dressed. The magnificent black grand piano was enhanced by an elegant chair, draped with scarlet, and what every singer needs – a well-stocked bar! The ladies further enhanced the gracious atmosphere with a series of beautiful matching gowns, complete with long gloves and sparking jewellery. Their versatility is such that a jump from ‘Two Liitle Girls from Littllerock’ straight in ‘O, mio babino caro’, sung as a duet, actually works! The melodrama of Puccini gave way to the humour of Rossini’s much-loved ‘Cat Duet’. Mozart, Gounod, Rossini, Lloyd Weber, Rodgers and Hammerstein melded fluidly into a program by the sheer artistry of the musicians. In between songs there were plenty of jokes, and a piano spot from Pollio with a selection of James Bond themes made a pleasant interlude.

Sydneysiders will have an opportunity to hear the divine duo at the Opera House in December. Don’t miss them if you love good music and good comedy!

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Licence to Trill

by DivaLicious

Perth Concert Hall

27 June 2017


What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Carol Flavell Neist has written reviews and feature articles for The Australian, The West Australian, Dance Australia, Music Maker, ArtsWest and Scoop. She was reviews editor for the now defunct Specusphere magazine and, writing as Satima Flavell, has also published poetry and fantasy fiction.