How do you connect opera and popular culture? Australian composer Chloé Charody recommends using a circus highwire. Berlin-based Charody, 27, has opened a new Circus Opera Academy in Sydney to expand a new genre of which she is a pioneer – “circus opera”.

So what is circus opera? Think Puccini meets Cirque du Soleil – performances that fuse the power of operatic voices with the spectacle of pole-dancing, fire-eating and trapeze artistry.

If this sounds like an odd marriage of artforms, it’s one that seems to hold broad appeal: Charody’s most recent circus opera The Carnivalsold out when staged in London’s West End in 2011.

“Circus and opera meld together incredibly well,” she says. Charody’s business partner, violinist Sonja Schebeck, adds that “the new genre of circus opera represents a path we are exploring as a possible way to combat globally acknowledged declining classical music audiences.”

According to Charody, the aim of the Academy, which will hold classes in Paramatta and at Fox Studios, is to turn classical musicians into circus and physical theatre performers.

“As far as I can see, young opera singers are currently quite limited in their ability to extend themselves as performers....