Alastair Jackson International Opera Award

The Australian International Opera Award (AIOA) has today announced the transition of their coveted award to Melba Opera Trust.

The award, first formed in 1983, offers the opportunity of a lifetime for a singer of outstanding quality and promise to complete their operatic studies at one of the world’s leading institutions: The Royal College of Music (RCM) Opera Studio, London.

Winners receive a full-tuition scholarship, plus travel and living expenses, to complete the two year post graduate Artist Diploma in Opera through the RCM Opera Studio. The value of the scholarship is $80,000 AUD per annum, making the award the most valuable and coveted opera scholarship in Australia.

The AIOA is a voluntary not-for-profit organisation. To ensure the longevity and success of this important award the AIOA Board recognised the need to transition to a new management and governance structure. Melba Opera Trust is a likeminded not-for-profit organisation that delivers Australia’s leading operatic development program and has enjoyed a long association with AIOA through its alumni and industry activity. Melba Opera Trust will be responsible for managing the award from April 2023.

Chairman of AIOA, William Cowan AM:

For nearly 40 years we’ve encouraged and supported young Australian singers who aspire to perform on the world stage. Melba Opera Trust’s philosophy and its long experience in supporting young artist development through scholarship programs makes it especially well-qualified to take on stewardship of the award. The new arrangement with Melba Opera Trust ensures that young Australian and New Zealand singers can benefit from study at a world class institution such as the Royal College of Music, in perpetuity.

Just as Melba Opera Trust will support the award with an enduring governance structure, so too has its financial future been secured through the visionary philanthropy of Dr Alastair Jackson AM. Under the new arrangement Dr Jackson has pledged annual funding for the award together with an extraordinary $3 million bequest which will endow the award in perpetuity.

In his honour, the award will be renamed the Alastair Jackson International Opera Award.

Dr Jackson, a retired medical practitioner and a Director of AIOA, was inspired to make his gift to preserve the valuable pathway the award provides:

I’ve seen many young singers show great promise but then seem to go adrift after just a few years. It’s clear they need expert guidance, as well as vocal tuition and masterclasses, but they also need performing experience. For this reason, the AIOA partnership with London’s Royal College of Music has been a great success. The Royal College looks at every facet of a young singer’s career. They’re experts at it. And they have the most extraordinary networks of great artists who are so generous and enthusiastic in encouraging emerging talent.

Dr Jackson also shares a long history with Melba Opera Trust, serving on the Board of its predecessor, the Melba Conservatorium of Music, for 17 years.

The award has a distinguished history and has launched the careers of some of Australia’s leading opera singers including soprano Lisa Gasteen AO, the inaugural winner. Many Melba alumni have also been beneficiaries, including Siobhan Stagg, Panayiota Kalatzis, Matthew Reardon, Nathan Lay, Fleuranne Brockway and Jeremy Kleeman.

Melba Opera Trust Chair Kate Shelmerdine:

This award recognises that for aspiring Australian and New Zealand opera singers, overseas study and performance experience is vital in their career trajectory. It is an important, complementary extension to the work we are undertaking through the Melba Program, and we’re delighted to be able to perpetuate this opportunity for Australian artists. In doing so, we look forward to working closely with the AIOA Board and the existing community of donors who have so loyally supported the award to date.

The next recipient of the Alastair Jackson International Opera Award will be announced in March 2023.

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