Grants and scholarships can be a real boost to the careers of emerging artists, but few competitions can boast as promising a leg up as the German-Australian Opera Grant. Established in response to the perceived lack of opportunity for young singers in Australia, the Grant comes with a one-year contract as a professional soloist at the Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden and a $4,500 financial support package. The recipient will also benefit from German-language tuition at the Goethe Institut and one-month work experience at the Staatstheater before their engagement as a soloist.
The brainchild of Australian conductor Dr David Kram, the Grant was established in 2003 with past winners including tenor Angus Wood, soprano Emma Pearson and mezzo Celeste Haworth. Facilitated by German philanthropist Hans Henkell, one third of the recipient’s salary is covered by the theatre in Wiesbaden, with the rest fundraised by a not-for-profit founded by Kram, More Than Opera.
“Opera has always been a global profession,” Kram told Limelight. “Possibilities for full-time employment in Australia are virtually non-existent. Germany remains the country with the most full-time employment and Wiesbaden is a long-established, top-grade house… let me be clear – this is not a scholarship. It’s a job. MTO-GAOG helps fund the wages, advertises for applicants, organises the audition process, and gets awardees set up in Germany and follows them whilst in employment.”
Speaking about the audition process, Kram says “the candidates love it. They leave feeling as though they’ve been able to express themselves to the fullest and they have learnt something. They all get together for an acting workshop at first, then they not only have to sing arias, but they workshop their repertoire in public and do a solid interview. That happens the first day.
“The second day is more of a PR event, [with] a public concert. It cements the panel’s decisions, which begin the moment we sit down for the preselection and examine CVs and cover letters. All in all, a singer has to convince the panel that they have the capacity to change countries, learn a new language, learn complete roles and be prepared to go on stage in front of a thousand people after having seen the show live or on video with just a couple of rehearsals with assistants for revivals, or have the stamina to rehearse for six weeks whilst still doing their normal repertoire and concerts for new productions. It’s a professional job.”
The semi-finalists of the 2019 German-Australian Opera Grant are mezzo Fleuranne Brockway (WA), mezzo Sarah Kemeny-Packwood (NSW), baritone Andrew Williams (NSW), baritone Matthew Lowe (VIC), soprano Jessica Harper (NSW) soprano Tamzyn Alexander (VIC), baritone Daniel Macey (NSW), bass Timothy Newton (QLD), soprano Olivia Cranwell (NSW), soprano Zoe Drummond (VIC), baritone Jeremy Dubé (NSW) and Tomas Dalton (VIC). Just four will proceed to the final on August 4 after an audition round held the previous day.
In addition to the GAOG, the finalists have the chance of winning substantial cash awards, including the MTO Grant – Developing Artist ($3500), the Audience award ($2500) and the Encouragement Grant ($1500).
The Semi Final Auditions are held on August 3 at the Lithuanian Club Theatre, Melbourne. The Opera Finale is on August 4 at Deakin Edge, Federation Square, Melbourne