Soprano Shania Eliassen and baritone Matthew Dixon have been announced as the recipients of two valuable West Australian Opera awards. Eliassen was awarded the Richard Bonynge AC CBE Encouragement Award, worth $1500, while Dixon received the Wesfarmers Arts Encouragement Award, worth $1000.

Shania Eliassen and Richard Bonynge. Photo supplied

Presented with their awards by Richard Bonynge, both singers had participated in a masterclass with the conductor, co-presented by Emma Matthews, Head of Classical Voice at the Western Australian Academy for the Performing Arts and Patron of WA Opera’s Wesfarmers Arts Young Artist Program. Eliassen performed The Doll Song from Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffman, while Dixon sang Di tua beltade imagine from Donizetti’s Poliuto.

Eliassen, who intends to use her prize money to gain a Masters of Opera Performance degree in the United Kingdom, said “I could not have hoped for a better outcome from the masterclass! I never expected to be given the award, because for me it was such an honour just to be asked to participate, especially along with singers I know always present at an extremely high standard. So although I still can’t really believe it, for me the award meant reassurance, that I am on the right track on my singing journey, and that maybe my dream of being an opera singer can, one day, in fact, become a reality.”

“Meeting Richard Bonynge was surreal,” she added. “Being coached by him was even more incredible! He has such in-depth knowledge of the music and style, all of his feedback made everyone’s pieces 1000 times better! The most amazing part for me was watching his hands when he was coaching us, his connection to the music is natural and the expression and level of detail he is able to get you to produce just by watching his hands is unbelievable.”

Matthew Dixon with Helen Carroll, Manager, Wesfarmers Arts. Photo supplied

Dixon, who intends to use his prize money to audition for opera courses in the UK, said of his win, “I’ve been away from home for approximately three years studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and it has been an incredibly rewarding and difficult experience for me. I love my home and to be recognised in Perth for my development means everything to me, especially from one of the greatest artists of our time in the field of classical music.”

“To be in the presence of such a figure in the music world was something in itself,” the baritone said about working with Bonynge. “To sing for one of the greatest conductors of our time was something I will never forget and will cherish as I head into the world of opera. He is one of Australia’s great treasures and I am proud to call myself an Australian when there are people like him in the culturally diverse world of music.”

Bonynge was also honoured that same evening, with WA Opera bestowing Honorary Life Membership on the conductor “in recognition of his outstanding contribution to opera and in honour of his visit to Perth.”