28 July 2011

The first of the year's major opera awards, the 2011 Lady Mary Fairfax New York Opera Scholarship, has been won by Clarissa Spata, who graduated from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in 2004 as a Bachelor in Music Performance with distinction in Voice. The aim of the award is to provide a talented and strongly motivated young Australian opera singer with an opportunity to study with internationally acclaimed vocal, language & movement coaches in New York.

Six finalists progressed from the heats to sing in a public recital in the Con's grand Verbrugghen Hall on Sunday 24 July 2011. Three were pupils of the Con's Chair of Vocal & Opera Studies, Maree Ryan: they included the eventual winner, Clarissa Spata, tenor and postgraduate Greenberg- Gurney-Jensen scholar, Lorenzo Rositano, and soprano, Amy Corkery. A fourth finalist was also a Sydney Con student, soprano Alison Manifold, who is a pupil of Anke Hoeppner. Two other finalists, Kiandra Howarth and Barbara Zavros, came from interstate.

Clarissa follows in the footsteps of many other Con Opera students in carrying off this award. Last year's winner was Simone Easthope, who used the $43,000 award to study In New York and has now won a place in the Graduate Diploma program at the Juilliard School. Nathalie Aroyan took the prize in 2008, so Maree Ryan's students have claimed victory in this prestigious competition in three of the past four years.

Clarissa, whose love of opera is in keeping with her Italian heritage, is described by her teacher as "a beautiful girl with an engaging stage personality." Achieving the funding to study in New York is a dream come true for her: she started the postgraduate course at The Con but had to leave and get a job as she could not afford to complete the course. She is currently on tour with the Oz Opera Schools company.

Maree Ryan pays tribute to the Opera Foundation for giving outstanding students opportunities they would not otherwise have: "They not only make it financially possible: they already have a network of established contacts to help the scholarship winners to make the most of the experience."

The Pro-Dean and Chair of Conducting and Opera Production, Professor Imre Palló, comments: "I'm delighted that another of our young opera students is going to have this chance to develop her gifts. It's a tribute to all the hard work of the faculty that our students go on winning these awards and of course, it encourages the next generation!"

Contact: Mick Le Moignan

Phone: 02 9351 1385

Email: 42585213582d322a5e4251044a5b03024f2359164048281343430b21