Eight of the country’s best and brightest opera singers have been selected for a new National Graduate Opera Program that will run next year as part of a collaboration between the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne and Victorian Opera.

The new National Graduate Opera Program that will train artists for the world stage will see participants undertake an intensive, two-year course that covers all aspects of opera. Graduates will receive a Master of Music (Opera Performance) degree from the University of Melbourne.

Premier and Minister for the Arts Ted Baillieu said the program, which is supported by the Victorian Coalition Government as part of its $24 million commitment to the VCA, is world-leading.

“This is a ground-breaking partnership between a professional opera company and an elite arts training institution that offers an unparalleled opportunity for our brightest young talent,” Mr Baillieu said.

“Not only will it provide the participants with rigorous training but it also offers important professional pathways and on-the-job experience.

“I congratulate this first intake of students who represent the cream of Australia’s emerging operatic talent.”

Victorian Opera’s Music Director, Richard Gill, said the competition for the program was very strong. “We had 45 candidates audition and the eight selected were chosen because of their huge vocal potential, voices of operatic calibre and strong levels of musicianship.” Director of the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, Professor Gary McPherson, said the developing artists selected for the program represented an exciting mix of performers and voice types, with four men and four women, including one bass, three tenors, two sopranos and two mezzo-sopranos.

Professor McPherson said the program offered a pioneering approach to training the next generation of elite opera talent.

“The partnership between the Conservatorium and Victorian Opera provides developing artists with a unique opportunity to become established members of a professional company and develop the blend of skills, knowledge and competencies needed to succeed internationally.”

Mr Gill said the program will give emerging artists excellent classroom training, coupled with experience working alongside practising professionals.

“While most opera companies have a young artist program, the idea of interweaving a university degree with practical work is new in Australia,” he said.

The program will include rigorous training in operatic singing, including studies in vocal coaching, Italian language, ensemble singing, role development and stage craft, English, French, German and Russian diction, and opportunities to work as a practising singer within Victorian Opera.

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