Conservatorium students hit the big stage

14 October 2011

Sophie Spargo (left) wrote her first opera at the age of 10.
Sophie Spargo (left) wrote her first opera at the age of 10.

Composition students from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music (SCM) will showcase their new works at the Sydney Opera House this weekend after a fellow student decided to share her performance grant.

Sophie Spargo, who is studying her honours in composition, won a $3000 grant from the Foundation for Young Australians to support a performance of her music at the Opera House, but decided to share the opportunity with other SCM composition students.

"I was given a grant to perform some of my original music, and then I thought well, why not? I'll open it up to other students so we can all perform at the Opera House," Spargo says.

"I thought it would be a really interesting concert to have 15 new works being performed. There are a variety of different pieces in different styles, from string quartets to electronic music and chamber ensembles."

The result is 'New Works by Young Composers', presented by the Australian Youth Opera, which will celebrate contrasting musical styles with different ensembles, instrumental combinations and new works.

At the age of 25, Spargo is already a seasoned composer and performer. As a 10-year-old, she trumped Mozart to become the youngest person in history to have written a full-scale opera, including musical score and libretto.

By the age of 14, she had completed 'The White Cat', a full-scale two-hour opera and ballet with an orchestrated musical score and libretto, based on a 1699 French fairytale. She directed the world premiere performance of her opera at the Arts Centre in Melbourne in 2003, which had three sell-out performances.

Spargo began studying at SCM this year, when she received a University of Sydney scholarship to complete her Honours in composition. She completed her Bachelor of Music (Composition) at the University of Tasmania.

In 2005, Spargo founded the Australian Youth Opera to provide more opportunities for young musicians to perform.

"I was putting on my own operas and using singers and instrumentalists all under the age of 30, and I saw how difficult it was for young performers to break into the industry," Spargo says.

"I started the Australian Youth Opera as a not-for-profit organisation that could help young performers to gain roles and experience before they're ready to move into the realm of professional opera.

"This is related to our concert at the Opera House, which will provide a rare opportunity to see rising young singers and composers, many of whom have not yet had the chance to perform in such a high-profile location."

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