Mozart’s modern protégée

Did you know that the youngest person in history to have written a full-scale opera is not Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart but a student of the University of Sydney Conservatorium of Music?

Mozart

Sophie Spargo has already written 12 operas.

At just 10 years old, Sophie Spargo wrote a 30-minute opera which included a musical score and libretto. The great Mozart, who is Sophie’s favourite classical musician, composed his first opera when he was 11.

Unlike Mozart, who was born into a musical family, Sophie is the only musician in her household. She was five when she learned how to play the piano. At seven, she was busy exploring melodies and creating music. After finishing high school in Melbourne she relocated to the University of Tasmania to study for a Bachelor of Music in Composition. In July 2011 she received the Lenore Buckle Scholarship in Music from the University of Sydney and commenced her honours study in composition at the Conservatorium of Music.

Now aged 25, Sophie has written 12 operas, two of which have been performed live on stage. One is the famous full-scale two-hour opera and ballet, The White Cat, which she composed when she was 14. The opera had three sold-out performances at the Arts Centre in Melbourne in 2003.

In addition to her musical genius, Sophie’s generous spirit drives her to keep looking for ways to share her good fortune with others. In 2005 she founded the Australian Youth Opera, a non-profit organisation that offers performance opportunities to talented young Australian composers and performers, while raising money for youth charities.

Last year Sophie was awarded a grant from the Foundation for Young Australians to put on a performance of her music at the Sydney Opera House. Instead of solely showcasing her own works, she chose to share this honour with other composers from the Australian Youth Opera. Their concert, ‘New Works by Young Composers’, gave 80 talented instrumentalists and 15 composers the opportunity to perform on the big stage. This concert marked a special moment when one student’s generosity allowed new talent to be displayed and celebrated at a grand iconic venue.

Sophie, already a seasoned composer and performer with a bright future, is determined to continue ‘paying it forward’ within the University community and beyond. She is one of many students at the University of Sydney who have been supported by a scholarship to follow their dreams and inspire others in the process.

This story was first published in the Sydney Annual.