Bearing the name of an Australian cricketing legend in a cricket mad country can be tough. Sir Donald Bradman’s granddaughter, soprano Greta Bradman knew when she performed in India with the Australian World Orchestra the question would crop up: was she only there because of her name?
“I knew there would be this interest around the Bradman name,” Greta said when the inevitable query arose in a press conference before the orchestra’s New Delhi performance on October 30. “I don’t know if any of you thought, ‘Is she here because of her name?’
“Obviously you’ve not heard me sing yet!”
Apparently even the orchestra harboured initial doubts about her ability to sing. Recalling her first rehearsal with them, Greta said: “Because they hadn’t hear me before, I think they were like ‘Oh wow, she can sing!’”
It’s not the first time Donald Bradman’s descendants have been haunted by his famous name. Greta said the pressure of his legacy pushed her own father to change his surname. “It did the trick, it allowed Dad to have his own life and forge his own identity,” she explained.
“For the first 15 years of my life or so I was Bradsen,” Greta said. “When my grandmother passed away and my grandpa was the only Bradman [left], Dad suggested that he change it back, and grandpa was absolutely tickled pink.”
But when her name changed to Bradman, Greta was stunned to find people suddenly began treating her differently. “I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I thought this is absolutely ridiculous. All on the basis of a name, being treated differently!”
When it comes to her own singing career, Greta agreed that her name could act as an “impediment”. But she shut down the idea that it had anything to do with her being asked to tour India by world famous Indian conductor Zubin Mehta.
“He is a big cricket fan as you know,” Greta said. “But he’s also a very discerning musician and there’s no way that he would ask someone to join him for a concert if he didn’t believe in that person’s instrument – so I knew that Maestro Mehta asked me on the basis of my voice.”
Greta came to India packing some impressive musical credentials. Since embarking on her professional career as a classical singer in 2010, she’s presented more than 1000 performances with orchestras and won a swag of awards, including the prestigious Australian International Opera Award two years in a row.
But in New Delhi, perhaps the best praise for Greta’s talents came from Alexander Briger, founder of the Australian World Orchestra, who told journalists: “She sings like her grandfather batted!”
Mehta kept the cricketing analogies rolling saying the Aussie orchestra was “an extension of the excellence we’re used to from the Australian cricket team all these years”. The orchestra was performing in India under the baton of Mehta as part of its first international tour, with concerts in Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi.
“When we come together, because we speak the same musical language, there’s something mystical that happens,” said maestro Mehta, who is Music Director for Life of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. “It’s something one can’t explain in words but it has happened – and in the concerts in Bombay and Chennai the orchestra proved itself magnificently.”
While the tour was still in full swing at the time, Greta wound up the interaction with media by dropping hints of a return. “I’d really want to come back… maybe do some more concerts and also to get outside of the cities, to really have more of a sense of this beautiful country, “ she said. “Being here, in what I would consider the modern home of cricket, is a really special thing for me.”