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.