Curtain falls on Dame Joan Sutherland Award

NFA founding membersRegional Australia’s richest opera award, the Dame Joan Sutherland Vocal Competition Award (DJSA), has taken its final breath. For nearly three decades, the finals of the prestigious national opera award were held in Noosa annually (and later bi-annually), proudly hosted by its patron Noosa Federation of the Arts Inc. (NFA).

Since 1999, the DJSA has helped 13 past winners plus numerous other young Australian singers aged 20-34 to reach dizzying heights performing with illustrious opera houses nationally and abroad. Past winners who have achieved international fame include Mirusia Louwerse, who sang under contract to Andrei Rieu, and Kang Wang who is under contract to the New York Metropolitan Opera. Guy Booth, Virgilio Marino and Shaun Brown currently have major roles with Opera Queensland.

Founding chairman of NFA, Meg Lawrence OAM, said it was with deep regret that the Federation had to shut down in April due to a continuing lack of funding and a paucity of interest by a younger generation.

The NFA was founded in 1989 to promote the arts within the local community and to elevate Noosa as a cultural destination. The Federation was based on four pillars: music, art, dance and avant garde. It became a cultural force to be reckoned with when Professor Anthony Camden, the then provost and director of the Queensland Conservatorium, became NFA’s artistic advisor. The following year (1990), Prof Camden invited founder and music director of St Martins in the Fields, Sir Neville Marriner, to be the NFA’s patron, which he was until his death in 2016. Marriner and his Academy hold a record for the largest number of classical music recordings in the world – more than 500 albums – but he was most famous for his soundtrack to the 1984 Oscar-winning film, Amadeus.

“As a champion of the arts, we really were unique in Australia,” Meg said.
“We were a museum, art gallery, film club, dance organisation, music, theatre and more, all rolled into one. Anthony was instrumental in our being able to present, here in Noosa, the entire Queensland Philharmonic orchestra, conducted by Nicholas Braithwaite, and featuring Xong Dong Kong, the winner of the 5th Sydney International Piano Competition.”

Other luminaries brought to Noosa by NFA include international pianist Piers Lane, renowned flutist Jane Rutter, Sir Neville Marriner, two 13-year-old pianist prodigies from the Hong Kong Performing Arts Academy as well as the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra, which played on four different occasions at NFA’s Strauss balls. NFA also screened the Queensland premiere of the film,’ Love’s Serenade’, winner of a Camera D’Or in Cannes (1996-7), ‘32 films by Glen Gould’ and the iconic ‘Tales of the Vienna Woods’. At the Noosa Regional Art Gallery it held an exhibition curated by Arthur Boyd and other specially-curated art exhibitions.

“One of the most magical experiences was the John Nixon singers with the Camerata of St John singing the Maria Mass,” Meg said. “I recall looking around me and seeing the audience on their feet, hands clasped in rapture with tears of joy streaming down many of the faces. That experience has never left me.”

Noosa high schools were enriched by the annual Year 12 graduate incentives, each receiving an award valued at $300; the $600 Rick Farbach jazz scholarship (awarded to an Immanuel College student for the past 14 years); and the Schools’ Instrument Bank, which loaned three cellos, a violin and the Hofmann pearl flute for talented school children to use.

“We found the kids who were playing stringed instruments were absolutely fantastic musicians but because the instrument and bow they were using were inferior, they thought they couldn’t play,” Meg said.

“We gave them quality instruments and when they heard the ‘colour’ of the music, they were assured it wasn’t their bad playing.”

NFA also created the Anthony Camden Fund, which lent exceptional quality instruments to older talented musicians. Its assets include a $37,000 Capellini cello, the last one made by Virgilio Capellini in Cremona, Italy, when he was 80, and a $25,000 Primavera violin. The Capellini is to be donated to the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, Griffith University in memory of Anthony Camden.

Meg said she would like to express her heartfelt thanks to the Coast community because without their moral and financial support over the years NFA wouldn’t have existed.

“The most important people in the world are an audience, because without them there is no point in staging a performance,” she said.

Pictured: NFA founding members. Left-to-right Hillary Roots, Albert Thoma.

Dame Joan Sutherland Award Finals 2016

DJS2016 Group Photo

The finals of the 2016 NFA Dame Joan Sutherland Award were held on Friday 22nd July at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Hall in Noosaville.

Results as follows:

  • First : Iain Henderson
  • Second / Margreta Elkins Award : Tabatha McFadyen
  • Judges Encouragement Award : Anastasia Bickel
  • Peoples Choice Award : Iain Henderson.

Congratulations to all participants and finalists.

Pictured: Finalists and Judges. More pictures below...

Read more: Dame Joan Sutherland Award Finals 2016

Afternoon Delight - Feeling the Pinch of Dad's Shoes

Robin DonaldGuest speaker: Famous opera tenor Robin Donald Smith (retired), son of Australia’s greatest operatic tenor, the late Donald Smith OBE
When: Friday 24 June 2.30-4pm 
Venue: 131 Shorehaven Drive, Noosa Heads (private home, bookings essential) 
Cost: $25 members, friends $30. RSVP & payment by Mastercard or Visa to Joanne Daley M: 0447 280 521 or E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Refreshments & cash bar

Passion is set to soar at Noosa Federation of the Arts’ Afternoon Delight where famous opera tenor Robin Donald Smith (retired) will regale the audience with tales of his uber-famous father, Australia’s greatest operatic tenor, the late Donald Smith OBE.

Hear spellbinding stories about opera duets the father-and-son from Bundaberg, Queensland, performed and Robin’s struggle to assert himself as a world-renowned tenor in his own right. Brace yourself for surprise bursts of song by Robin along the way and (as rumoured) a duet with NFA’s artistic director, Brad Jarrett, whose illustrious titles include former artistic administrator Opera Queensland.

Donald and Robin made history as the first father-and-son tenors to perform together in Wagner’s Opera, Der Fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman), with the then Australian Opera Company, (now OA – Opera Australia). They also appeared on the same stage as an operatic double bill at the Sydney Opera House with Donald performing his famous role as Canio in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci and Robin singing Turridu in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. Hear some hilarious tales of how they both prepared for a life on stage by studying the acting skills required of their profession.

Robin will also speak candidly of his journey to find his own voice by leaving Australia to forge a stellar international career with the Sadler’s Well Opera Company (now the ENO – English National Opera). Despite dropping “Smith” from his name, the comparisons with his famous father were inevitable as the two mostly performed the same roles and both voices had a very similar vocal timbre.

Robin DonaldRobin made his professional debut at the Coliseum Theatre, London, in 1968, in the role of Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Boheme. He toured Britain and Europe with Sadler’s Well Opera Company for a decade performing leading tenor roles in Verdi’s Rigoletto and La Traviata; Donizetti’s L'elisir D’Amore and Massenet’s Manon.

Career highlights include performing in operas celebrating the opening of the Sydney Opera House in 1973: Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi in the role of Rinuccio, and as Walther von der Vogelweide in Wagner’s Tannhäuser (Opera Australia); and signing with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa as Ferrando in Mozart’s opera Cosi Fan Tutte, at the London Opera Centre.

In 1974 the prodigal son returned to Australia permanently. For more than 10 years Robin was Opera Australia’s major principal tenor singing in La Boheme, Der Fliegende Holländer, Cavalleria Rusticana, Madam Butterfly and Fledermaus. An exciting raconteur with a great sense of humour, Robin will talk about working with many famous singers, conductors and producers including Dame Joan Sutherland and Janet Baker; Sir Charles Mackerras and Richard Boynage; and Sir Robert Helpmann and John Copley.

Noosa’s search for ‘The Voice’

renne flemming jade mofffat webRegional Australia’s richest opera award calls for contestants

Are you an emerging opera diva or male vocalist looking for the next big break? Regional Australia’s richest and most prestigious opera prize, the Dame Joan Sutherland Vocal Competition Award 2016, could help you hit a career high note.

Founded by Noosa Federation of the Arts (NFA) in 1994, the Dame Joan Sutherland Award (DJSA), has helped 12 winners plus numerous runners-up to reach dizzying heights performing with illustrious opera houses nationally and abroad.

If you’re an amateur or professional soprano, mezzo, contralto, baritone, bass, tenor or counter-tenor singer aged 20-34, and an Australian resident, you’re eligible to apply for this coveted national award.

Applicants will audition live before a panel of adjudicators on Sunday 5 June at Griffith University Conservatorium of Music, Brisbane. Contestants at the heats will sing their song of choice plus either an aria, a song from the classical repertoire or an operetta / music theatre piece chosen for them by the panel. The top six will then battle it out at the final in Noosa, Friday 22 July.

This year’s panel for the heats and final are Brad Jarrett (NFA artistic advisor and former artistic administrator Opera Queensland), Andrew Collis (performer with major opera houses in Germany, US and Australia) and Margaret Russell (a long-standing soloist and guest in more than 25 German opera houses).

Jarrett said at the heats and the final, judges would be looking for voice quality, natural ability and vocal technique; repertoire choice, language ability and understanding of the text; performance; musical style; and a well conceived plan about how they would spend the prize money.

At the final (Noosa) the audience votes for the People’s Choice Award and the judges also assess how the finalists communicate with the audience emotionally and musically.

“We’re looking for someone with that indefinable star quality,” Jarrett said. “The best performance on the night, taking into account the judging criteria, wins.”

NFA past chairman Meg Lawrence said the DJSA was a tremendous opportunity for young singers to receive feedback from a panel of accomplished judges.

Over the past 15 years, 500 young singers have auditioned to some of the world’s most seasoned opera divas and artists. Past adjudicators include Marilyn Richardson (who opened Sydney Opera House), James Christiansen (Chorus Master Queensland Opera and one of Australia’s foremost voice teachers), Jillianne Stoll (repetiteur Opera Queensland and Principal/Guest Vocal Coach for its Young Artist Program), Lisa Gasteen (1991 winner Cardiff Singer of the World competition) and the late Margreta Elkins (who sang with her friend Dame Joan Sutherland at Covent Garden).

Jarrett said the DJSA was a “stepping stone” to becoming a successful opera singer in today’s world. The winner could travel anywhere to pursue the best opportunities to either continue their vocal development, immerse themselves culturally in preparation for an operatic career, or to access opportunities to get work in major international opera houses.

Jade Moffatt, winner 2014, advises young opera singers to “go for it!”.

“It’s not only a wonderful opportunity to perform for an incredibly supportive and encouraging panel and audience, but you might just find yourself with some much needed cash to help you on your way,” Moffatt said.

After her win, Moffatt travelled to the UK for auditions and to be coached by David Harper, have lessons with opera diva Yvonne Kenny and work with the great Welsh tenor, Dennis O’Neill. She’s currently undertaking her Masters on a full tuition scholarship at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London. She said signing for her “opera idol” Renee Fleming in London in February was a career highlight.

“I remember listening to her (Fleming’s) recordings over and over, and going to see her in MET live screenings at the cinema,” Moffatt said.

“I never thought I would ever get the opportunity to meet her! She was so incredibly warm and welcoming, and I came away from the masterclass with newfound motivation. She was also really funny. She realised I was Australian, and told me stories about hanging out with Hugh Jackman.”

Moffatt and other past star winners expressed their gratitude for the moral and financial support of NFA members and friends.

“I am incredibly grateful to the NFA for its amazing support of young opera singers, and would not be where I am today without their generosity,” Moffatt said.

Winner 2008 Russell Harcourt said being awarded the DJSA was “a great encouragement, both financially and professionally, and a recognition of the countertenor voice”.

“Without it, my postgraduate studies at The Royal Academy of Music (2008-2010) would not have been possible,” Harcourt said.

“I now study with Yvonne Kenny in London, who continues to encourage me in every aspect of fine bel canto technique – beauty of tone, ease of vocal production and delivery of text. Qualities Dame Joan made appear effortless!”

Where are they now?

 • Amy Wilkinson (winner 2001) (soprano) won a three-month scholarship to study at the NY MET and was invited to audition for Opera Paris. After living and working in the USA for some years she has now returned to Australia.

 • Mirusia Louwerse (winner 2006) at 21-years-old was the youngest DJSA winner. Since 2007 she has toured the world as the star soprano of Andre Rieu and as a solo artist.

 • Virgilio Marino (winner 2007), tenor, will be performing Pinkerton in Opera Queensland’s production of Madama Butterfly in May, followed by Count Almaviva in The Barber of Seville in July.

 • Victoria Lambourn (People’s Choice Award winner 2007) (mezzo soprano) will perform Oberto in Handel’s Alcina at the Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden, Germany in April and Smeraldina in The Love of Three Oranges for Opera Australia in May-July.

 • Kang Wang (People’s Choice Award Winner 2010), tenor, is on the Lindemann Young Artist Development Programme at the MET this year. He’s a regular soloist with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and returns in March for the Mozart Requiem. He was also a principal singer at Theater Basel in Switzerland.

About Noosa Federation of the Arts

NFA was founded in 1989 to promote the arts within the local community and to elevate Noosa as a cultural destination. The bi-annual DJSA is integral to NFA’s mission to encourage youth involvement in the arts and relies on donation for its continuation.

First prize $15,000, Margreta Elkins Award $4000, Judges Encouragement Award $1000, People’s Choice $750 and an Audition Encouragement Award $300.

Applications close 5pm Friday 29 April 2016. Visit to download a DJSA entry form. For more information P: (07) 5473 0958 or E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Photo: L-R (centre) Renee Fleming, Jade Moffatt (on Fleming’s right). Russell Harcourt, Kang Wang & Mirusia Louwerse.

For further information, please contact:

Lucinda Dean – Raindrop Digital Marketing M: 0403 949 280 / E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

King Arthur - at the Brisbane Baroque

King ArthurBrisbane City Hall
Monday 11th April – 7.30pm
Noosa Federation of the Arts package includes: Bus transport - Noosa / Brisbane return and reserved tickets.

Semi-opera by Henry Purcell to an original text by John Dryden Adapted by Terence Clarke Directed by Mark Gaal with chorus, soloists and members of the Orchestra of the Antipodes conducted by Brett Weymark

Stirring choruses, sparkling solos and delicious incidental music combine to make King Arthur a memorable musical epic with the widest possible appeal.

This specially commissioned edition directed by Mark Gaal includes distinguished international and local recitalist, concert and stage performer Greta Bradman.

Greta Bradman – recipient of Australian International Opera Award, critics choice award APRA/ AMCOS Performance of the year 2013, numerous Ozcart awards. Helpmann award nominee.

Recordings for Sony Music, ABC Classics – latest album “My Hero” debuted at No.1 on the ARIA classical and crossover charts.

Other soloists include: Jacqueline Porter, Nicholas Scott, Brenton Spiteri, David Greco and Samuel Piper.

All proceeds contribute to fundraising for the Dame Joan Sutherland Award.

Numbers are limited to 24-33 people due to available bus size.
Reserve your tickets by contacting:
Noosa Federation of the Arts Ph: 0447 280 521 (close off date for reservation - early Feb 2016) Information regarding bus departure / return times will be provided closer to the date.
Cost: $150 single, $280 couple.

Young Musician Recognised For Excellence

2015 Rick Farbach ScholarshipMulti-talented Year 12 student at Immanuel College, Jarvis Miller, has been awarded the prestigious 2015 Rick Farbach Jazz Scholarship for outstanding work with cello, trombone and piano. Throw in an original composition or two for school musicals.

Pictured left to right: NFA Treasurer, Joanne Daley, Jarvis Miller, NFA Deputy Chairman, Juanita Overson

His Principal, Colin Minke, described him as “an accomplished cellist, trombonist and pianist of many years standing who performed with numerous ensembles during his time at Immanuel”. “Jarvis is a dedicated musician who has consistently excelled and this year, he composed an original song for the student devised musical, Teenstars.

“In Music Extension, he achieved at the highest level possible.”

Noosa Federation of the Arts established the Rick Farbach Scholarship for a Young Jazz Musician in 2001 to honour Rick’s deep love and lifelong service to music. It is presented each year to a Year 12 Immanuel student who has displayed excellence, leadership and commitment to music and intends to pursue musical studies following their time at Immanuel. This year’s winner, Jarvis Miller, hopes to study at the Queensland Conservatorium in 2016.

Rick, who sadly passed away in 2005, was considered by his peers to be the greatest exponent of the jazz guitar in Australia. His book “Cleftomania – a disease that strikes all musicians” is a testament to his life as a musician.