Photo: Judith Gawol

On Thursday 7th July 2016 Valda Wilson gave a beautiful performance at our supporters Soiree at Fairwater.  Valda was the Foundation’s winner of the 2008 Rockend National Opera Studio London Scholarship & Robert & Betty Salzer Award.  She will be performing the lead of Theodora in Pinchgut Opera’s production of Handel’s Theodora in November and December of this year in Sydney.  Here is an update from Valda:

“I won my award while working for Opera Australia’s Schools Company, singing The Barber of Seville.  This was exactly the big break that I needed at the time: The scholarship provided extremely generous funds for tuition and living in London, studying for one year at the prestigious National Opera Studio, and then sufficient money to cover an extra year living in the UK after that.  This afforded me the opportunity to audition in many places – including Dresden, Germany, where I eventually ended up working full-time at the Semperoper.

This career takes time, patience, hard work and a good attitude.  There will be difficult moments – no matter how glowing the Facebook feeds of your overseas friends seem to be.  Starting out at the NOS, I was stunned how far along some of my colleagues were.  Initially it was intimidating, but I learnt a valuable lesson:  Yes, DO constantly reevaluate yourself and your studies and your work – Are you spending enough time on bel canto exercises? Are your jaw and tongue released?  Keeping an eye on that habit where your right arm rises like a phantom limb during a long and difficult phrase?  etc – however the second you start to compare your journey too much with that of the person beside you, you do yourself a disservice.  Mentally more than anything else.

The Rockend Scholarship provided me first of all with fantastic tuition, with top coaches (several of whom I still work with when I visit the UK), and also crucially introduced me to important people in the business.  It’s all about the connections – well, excellent singing and stagecraft first of all, then connections. Because of this OFA Scholarship and its ties (at that stage) to the Tait Memorial Trust, I became acquainted with Isla Baring… who had me sing at a concert for the Trust… at which Richard Bonynge was present… who then asked me to sing for Dame Joan Sutherland’s memorial service in Westminster Abbey with Antonio Pappano and the Royal Opera House Orchestra, and later to sing the title role in Rodelinda with him in Sydney.  Connections!  Of course this was a huge opportunity for me and has led to numerous other engagements, concerts, and working relationships.

I’ve found my niche in the German system and have spent six very happy years there, four in Dresden as part of their Junges Ensemble and as a regular guest, and most recently two years as the principal soprano soloist for the Oldenburg State Theatre.  The highly varied nature of the work there suits me well (this past season, I sang six major new roles, in a total of 65 performances… at one point in June I sang five nights in a row – four different roles!), as does the rich and varied chamber music scene, and the large number of festivals (I have now sung at the Salzburg Festival, Verbier Festival, London Handel Festival and Musiktage Mondsee).

My words of advice for first-time competitors…  I’ve already mentioned one big thing above:  Make your own journey and compare yourself only with yourself.  Be aware that this career will almost certainly mean you spend a lot of time away from ‘home’ and loved ones, and make sure you are honest with yourself that this is something you want and that you can deal with it.

I would also say that this job is about creating beauty and expressing joy.  Try to remember that when you step out there for your audition (I know this is hard!).  Your job is to express joy and beauty and eventually you WILL be rewarded for that.”