Thomas Strong, a 31-year-old tenor from New South Wales, has won the coveted Opera Foundation Australia Lady Fairfax New York Scholarship for 2014. The finals concert was held at the Eugene Goossens Hall of Sydney’s ABC studios where Strong sang Nessun Dorma from Puccini’s Turandot and Mamma, quel vino è generoso from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana for his award-winning performance. He is the 50th winner of the prestigious award.
Mezzo-soprano Margaret Plummer from Sydney won the 2014 Vienna State Opera Award and conductor Burhan Guner from Perth, was awarded the 2014 Berlin New Music Opera Award.
“We warmly congratulate Thomas Strong in winning the 2014 Lady Fairfax New York Scholarship in this important anniversary year. A singer with prodigious talent, he will greatly benefit from the exclusive access to prestigious international learning opportunities that this Scholarship offers,” says Anna Cleary, Chair of Opera Foundation Australia and Lady Fairfax’s daughter.
“Opera Foundation Australia’s purpose of helping young Australian artists reach their potential through unique learning opportunities in the best opera houses around the world is as relevant today as it was when my mother established the organisation in 1963. The New York Award was the first to be offered by the Foundation and I am so proud to help celebrate its 50th anniversary tonight.”
Valued at $43,000, the Lady Fairfax New York Scholarship provides the recipient with the opportunity to undertake intensive study in New York with teachers, vocal coaches, language coaches and repetiteurs. The award includes a return airfare to New York, support for study costs and a living allowance.
The adjudicators for all three categories were Anke Höppner, Emma Matthews and Malcolm Batty.
Over its 50 years, Opera Foundation Australia has achieved outstanding results and launched many glittering careers, providing more than 290 awards and scholarships to international opera centres in cities like London, Vienna, New York, Berlin and Cologne, at a cost of over $5 million. More than 190 recipients of these awards have obtained contracts with Opera Australia over the years.
Donald Shanks was the first winner of the New York Scholarship in 1964. Subsequent winners include Lisa Gasteen in 1982, Rachelle Durkin in 2000, Tobias Cole in 2002, Samuel Dundas in 2013 and David Parkin in 2009 who also won the Vienna State opera Award in 2014. Others who have winged their way to Vienna include Joshua Bloom in 2002 and Jessica Pratt in 2008.
Born in Albury, Strong, grew up on a farm in outback NSW. He completed his Bachelor of Performing Arts at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 2006 and a Masters of Music (opera) at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in 2013. Strong has performed with Melbourne Opera, Victorian Opera and West Australian Opera. This year he was a semi-finalist for the German-Australian Opera Grant, has won the Ronald Dowd Memorial Award and is one of the six finalists in the Herald Sun Aria.