One of Australia’s foremost entertainers, Matt Gilbertson, is experiencing a rare emotion.

He is nervous.

The former journalist has attracted worldwide headlines with his alter ego Hans, a bold and brassy character who owns the stage in his cabaret shows.

But now he is entering the world of opera with a role in Leonard Bernstein’s operetta Candide, a co-production between South Australia’s State Theatre Company and State Opera.

“I was very nervous the first few rehearsals, I’m not going to lie, but it’s actually a very warm cast,” Gilbertson says in a break from another long day of rehearsals.

Matt Gilbertson will perform in opera production Candide this week.(Supplied: State Theatre SA)

Hans has toured the world with his cabaret stage show. He also starred in the US reality TV program America’s Got Talent in 2018.

He won over its panel of famous entertainment personalities, including Simon Cowell, with his unique song and dance numbers.

But performing in an operetta is a whole new ball game.

“Normally I’m used to singing trashy pop songs and Kylie Minogue and Beyoncé. This might be a little more sophisticated,” he admits.

“The beauty of my [cabaret] show is when something goes wrong I can always find a way to fix it up.

“But when there’s a million other people on stage, you’ve really got to be on the ball, so still I’ve got a little bit of work to do.”

Matt Gilbertson with the cast of Candide.(Supplied: State Theatre SA)

The spotlight will shine directly on Gilbertson as he aims to prove he has the voice to match it with his fellow cast members musical theatre veteran Caroline O’Connor and opera star Alex Lewis.

“It’s very different to what I normally do on stage,” he says.

“I think it will stretch me musically. I mean, I’m enjoying the rehearsal process. This is a very different world for me.”

Ensuring he successfully makes the transition are State Theatre artistic director Mitch Butel and fellow co-director Amy Campbell.

“Absolutely, I think this opera’s going to stretch Matt musically, but in the best way,” Campbell explains.

“It’s a big change to step into the world of an operetta, but with the kind of confidence and energy that Matt has, I think it’s a perfect fit.”

Matt Gilbertson’s alter ego Hans the German has toured the world with his cabaret show.

She says it helps that Candide is a light-hearted departure from a normal opera and Gilbertson’s role as Maximilian suits him well.

“My role is very camp which, if you’ve ever seen one of my regular shows, might be something I can handle,” Gilbertson says.

The 39-year-old is still learning to manage the daily impact of a horrific fall he suffered while performing on a cruise ship near Türkiye almost two years ago.

He fell 4 metres from a stage into an orchestra pit, badly injuring his right foot and spine. He was medically evacuated to London.

Gilbertson’s injuries mean he can no longer tap dance or perform his signature splits between two chairs.

He cannot talk about the incident because he is engaged in legal action.

Gilbertson is also learning a new way of getting ready to perform a show.

“It’s weird for me not to be a total bossy bitch in rehearsal, but it’s also a joy to get to sit back and let other people make the tough decisions as well,” he says, laughing.

Ms Campbell has directed Gilbertson in a show before and believes he can bring a whole new audience to a night at the opera.

“Matt’s audiences are phenomenal. I’ve met so many of his fans,” she says.

“They’re just so warm and so fun and perhaps they’re going to step into this world and be more open to like, ‘Maybe I will go and see an opera if Matt’s in it.'”

Candide will be performed at Adelaide’s Her Majesty’s Theatre from May 23-25.

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