Peter Rose is a man of sublime contradiction. The bear-like British bass is in Sydney starring in Opera Australia’s Der Rosenkavalier, in which he plays the amoral Baron Ochs.

Given a night off, however, and he’s crooning a Cole Porter song, his chosen number as a guest at OA’s annual Divas And Diamonds auction. And posing for shots at Canturi Jewels (who are raffling diamonds for the event), Rose cheerily belies his onstage villainy, in tones both cheeky and deep.

Given such an introduction, it seems permissible to ask about Rose’s most acclaimed role in the opera A Midsummer Night’s Dream: he’s famous for being an incredible Bottom.

He laughs. There have been several references to my -˜world-renowned Bottom’, or -˜I hear you’re a marvellous Bottom’. Which I don’t mind, but of course they’re talking about the role. But that wouldn’t generally be my role. I just thought I’d mention that.

Playing Baron Ochs is almost as much fun, it seems. Der Rosenkavalier is one of the great queer operas: it begins with two women in bed, but one is meant to be a male character who disguises herself as a woman, although the role is traditionally played by a female singer.

Confused? So is Ochs, who pursues Count Octavian when he/she is disguised as a chambermaid.

Rose eschews a comic interpretation.

A lot of people think of him in the buffo tradition, the comic tradition, and of course there are marvellous comic moments, but I think that underneath that he has to have a certain elegance, otherwise he’s just a yobbo, he says.

Rose’s repertoire is extraordinary and he has performed everywhere from the Metropolitan Opera to Covent Garden to Aix-en-Provence. It’s a r?m?hat makes his choice of Cole Porter for next week’s fundraiser even more unusual.

They suggested something light-ish from opera but I just thought people don’t want to necessarily listen to opera all evening -¦ I haven’t absolutely made up my mind, but I think So In Love from Kiss Me Kate. -˜Strange, dear, but true, dear’, he says.

Divas And Diamonds is held at Sydney Town Hall on Saturday 9 October. Tickets are $250: phone 9318 8335. Der Rosen-kavalier plays at the Sydney Opera House until 29 October. Phone 9318 8200.

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