Congratulations on being awarded the German-Australian Opera Grant for 2020, which involved two days of competition. How was that experience?

The experience was quite different to other opera competitions! The first day included an acting workshop where the twelve semifinalists had to prepare a Mozart recitative to be staged with a partner, unrehearsed, as well as preparing a dialogue. We learnt a short ballroom dance routine, which was fun, and [then] sang individually that afternoon. The panel were watching for the duration of the day and conducted interviews during our scheduled singing audition time. My heart skipped a beat when I found out that evening I was one of the four finalists chosen to sing the following day at a pubic recital in Deakin Edge, Federation Square.

Michelle Ryan

What did you sing at the final?

At the final I sang Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben by Mozart and Norina’s aria Se anch’io la virtù magica by Donizetti.

It’s quite an extraordinary prize, which will see you spend 12 months with the Hessisches Staatstheater, Wiesbaden from July 2020-2021. How do you feel about this opportunity?

I feel extremely honoured, delighted and also feel a great sense of responsibility. When I first travelled to Europe four years ago, I spent most of the time in Germany, falling in love with the country and music culture. It is every young singer’s dream to have the chance at a full-time singing job in a theatre. For me in particular, being given this opportunity in Germany is a real bonus.

Have you spoken to any previous recipients about their experience in Wiesbaden?

During my time in Germany I had the chance to see the Hessisches Staatstheater while visiting my friend and university colleague Alexander Knight, who is a past recipient of the award. It was wonderful to see him perform there in two productions during my stay in Wiesbaden and to hear about the experience!

What are you hoping to gain from it?

 It’s a desire to make the most of this opportunity as possible. It will be wonderful to meet more people in the industry and I am looking forward to getting more operatic stage experience than ever before. I can’t wait to prepare more roles and perform them regularly as well as getting the German language under my belt!

You are a finalist in the Fine Music 102.5 Young Virtuoso Award on October 13. What repertoire will you sing there?

 As a frequent listener of Fine Music FM, I am really excited about this competition! I’ll perform two art songs including Les filles de cadix by Léo Delibes and Ein Traum by Edvard Grieg as well as Norina’s aria by Donizetti. The pieces will be accompanied by Jonathan Wilson.

You also competed in the Sydney Eisteddfod Opera Scholarship where you were placed third, and were a finalist at the  the Joan Sutherland & Richard Bonynge Bel Canto Award and Foundation, where you were awarded the DECCA award and the Tait Memorial Trust Award.  How you do feel about singing competitions? Are they an important part of a young singer’s career and are your successes a great encouragement as you build your career?

Initially I used to think that singers could be either a competition singer or not. No one really enjoys competing against their peers! Thankfully it helps to know that we are all learning together through the process. Competitions enable singers the opportunity to have a platform to present repertoire and be given constructive feedback. If I was being told a similar thing by more than one panel, I made sure to take note. After trial and error, I have discovered repertoire that sits comfortably and with [enough] challenge that allows for growth as a singer and performer. The successes have certainly given me a sense of security and confidence in that chosen repertoire to represent myself with as an artist. It has taken a number of goes to get here, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Michelle Ryan

In November you play the role of Anna Reich in Nicolai’s Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor at the Lisa Gasteen National Opera School.  Have you sung the role before and can you tell us about the character?

 This is the first time I will be singing the role of Anna Reich. The role sits comfortably in my voice and Anna is a fun, youthful character. Although she is in love with Fenton, she has to put up with other undesirable suitors by consequence of her parents own ideas of future prospects for her. It is quite comical and not too serious!

It’s a singspiel. Is the dialogue a challenging aspect?

 The dialogue is certainly a challenging aspect in that one needs to sound authentic when speaking in another language. Skill is required when projecting the dialogue out to the audience without wearing the voice out, quite like the challenges actors face in theatre shows.

How old were you when you became interested in singing?

 My parents have nice voices and music was always played in the house. Not really listening to opera for quite some time, I was exposed to artists including Whitney Houston and Tina Arena. I loved Shirley Jones in Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. I played piano, adored film music and symphonies when I was studying flute. It was when I turned 15 that I started studying classical singing and was introduced to the vocal repertoire.

Can you tell us where you studied?

 I was encouraged to audition for the Sydney Conservatorium by my teacher on the Gold Coast. After five years I completed a Bachelor of Music Performance and a Graduate Diploma of Opera Studies.

You have already sung overseas. How did those roles come about?

 At 24, I participated in a German auditioning training program in Munich. After being encouraged to return and pursue a career in Germany, I went back just a few months later with a giant suitcase, open ended plans and naturally, like most young singers today, looked up YAP Tracker when I got there. Lyric Opera Studio Weimar were looking for young singers to apply for Così fan tutte. Crossing my fingers, I applied and was offered my first Mozart and Italian role, Despina. I did a number of programs including Berlin Opera Academy in its first year and Prague Summer Nights Festival in its third year running. They were wonderful, challenging experiences and I made friends from around the world.

How would you like to see your career develop?

 To be entering into a year solely focused as an artist in an ensemble position is incredibly exciting! I hope to continue to work in theatres around the globe during the years that follow. Like many, I would also love to perform back at home in Australia.

The Fine Music 102.5 Young Virtuoso Award will be held at the Fine Music Studios on October 13

More information

Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor is at Griffith University’s Conservatorium Theatre, November 29