BRONWYN Douglass only discovered her opera voice four years ago but is already making waves in the world of classical music.
The 23-year-old mezzo-soprano recently won two regional eisteddfod operatic arias and will this month compete in six categories in the Australian National Eisteddfod in Canberra.
A former Shoalhaven Anglican School student and the daughter of Rob and Andrea Douglass of Milton, Bronwyn hopes to take out the prestigious $15,000 National Operatic Aria competition on September 15.
She has also entered the German Art Song, Sacred Song, French Mèlodie, English Art Song and the Intermediate Championship sections of the national event.
After completing her Bachelor of Music, majoring in Classical Voice Performance, at the Australian National University in June this year, Bronwyn went on to win the $7,000 Operatic Aria Championship as well as the Open Oratorio and the Open German Lieder categories at the Cowra Eisteddfod.
Last month, she also took out the Operatic Aria Championship and the Open German Lieder category at the Shoalhaven Eisteddfod.
She told the Times she is “passionate about classical music” and one day hopes to travel to Europe to gain more experience on the stage.
“Opera isn’t a big part of Australia culture, so you need to go to Europe to gain experience,” she said.
“In Italy, going to the opera is just like going to the cinema here – everyone does it.”
Bronwyn said growing up she loved to sing, but didn’t discover her opera voice until she was working in Canberra after completing year 12 at Canberra Girls Grammar.
“I took a year off before going to uni to study science and starting singing at the ANU School of Music.
“I decided to audition for the music degree and got in,” she said.
While completing her three year degree, Bronwyn had an opportunity to sing with the Hall Village Brass Band and attained a scholarship at the Wesley Uniting Church Music Centre.
She performed in two ANU School of Music operas – Dido and Aeneas and Grimm and the Blue Crown Owl - and sung at concerts hosted by the Finnish, Austrian, Hungarian and Italian Embassies in Canberra.
Bronwyn admits classical music and opera is not everyone’s cup of tea and told the Times it “is an acquired taste”.
“The more you listen to opera, the more you love it,” she said.
“I enjoy classical music because it takes you to another time.
“It’s very passionate and emotional and, compared to music nowadays, the stories are simplistic.
“I enjoy the old fashion part of it.”
Planning to study her Masters in Opera at the Queensland Conservatorium next year, Bronwyn said in the meantime she is trying to gain as much experience as she can by entering eisteddfods and competitions around the country.
She practices about two hours a day and up to five or six hours a day before big performances.
“I’m always singing around the house and practising my scales – I can’t help myself,” she said.
After completing her Masters, Bronwyn hopes to travel overseas with her husband of five months Gavin Cookman, and work at the London Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
“My ultimate dream job would be to sing at the Metropolitan in New York or the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden,” she said.
“But that would be about 12 to 17 years away, once my voice is fully mature.”
Bronwyn said she would love to sing with Opera Australia, but said most of its performers have had years of overseas experience.
Singing Opera is not easy, she explained, and involves learning a lot of languages and styles.
“I sing in English, of course, German, French, Italian, Spanish and some Latin,” she said.
“You’ve got practice a lot and get it right because often the audiences can speak the language.”
Bronwyn’s mother and grandmother were both singers with “big voices” and she said they have passed on the skill.
“Judges have described my voice quality as unique, with a very smooth tone,” she said.
“People have told me my voice is like velvet.”
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.