Opera graduates take on the world stage

Kiandra Howarth is enjoying an enviable career singing on the world's greatest opera stages.

From Covent Garden in London to The Metropolitan Opera in New York — Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University graduates are being beckoned by some of the world’s most famous stages.

For soprano Kiandra Howarth and baritone Samuel Johnson, both were selected from hundreds of applicants worldwide to join the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme to receive tailored coaching and performance opportunities with The Royal Opera in London.

Similarly, young tenor Kang Wang now calls New York home as he takes part in the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program at the Metropolitan Opera, known as the venue for the world’s greatest voices.

For Kiandra, her passion for opera was ignited at a very young age.

“I think I was nine or ten, I can’t quite remember, but it was in QPAC’s Lyric Theatre where I saw a production of Tosca by Opera Queensland and I remember turning to my mum and saying that’s what I want to do!”

The Bachelor of Music graduate completed her studies in 2010 before taking a young artist position with Opera Queensland.

“From there I then moved to the young artists program at Opera Australia and then I went overseas to Salzburg for a year as a prize I won from the Australian Singing Competition, so I was really lucky in a sense to have those stepping stones.”

Samuel says the once in a lifetime opportunity to live and work in London placed him right in the heart of the opera world as he commenced his international career.

“The Royal Opera House is practically Mecca for the opera world, and for opera lovers we all make the journey at some point in our lives.

“This attracts all the world’s greatest singers and greatest artists within the realm of opera and I’ve been able to work with these fantastic people, the best coaches in the world, the best conductors, the best singers, the best directors. It’s been unbelievable.”

The ideal foundation

Tenor Kang Wang who is currently training at The Met
Tenor Kang Wang who is currently training at The Met

For Kang — who initially studied IT in Darwin before later pursuing his singing career — he credits his training at Queensland Conservatorium, particularly with Joseph Ward OBE, as giving him the ideal start.

“The training at the Con basically set up the foundation for me because before I came there I was very amateurish, but the training was great for me; it set up a great foundation for me.”

Baritone Samuel Johnson who has received expert coaching at The Royal Opera House
Baritone Samuel Johnson who has received expert coaching at The Royal Opera House

Samuel agrees, citing technique as a vital component of his training.

“It’s really incredible, the solid technique I learned has really helped me in my short professional career thus far, and for me I think this is the best place to go in Australia personally.”

Head of Opera Nicholas Cleobury says these skills don’t just happen, they must be learned.

“Opera has to be sung well but it isn’t just that, we need to give them good languages and wonderful stage presence,” he explains.

“I think we have a jewel in the crown here at the Con with Anna Sweeny who is a colleague of many years from back in the UK and so among the special things we give is that ability to move well on the stage.”

After completing two seasons at The Royal Opera House, Kiandra now has her sights set firmly on the future.

“After being fortunate enough to perform at Covent Garden, I think the next steps for me are to perform at La Scala in Milan, and the Met as well that’s always been a dream of mine, so hopefully in ten years’ time it will be amazing to be there.”

Learn more about studying opera at Queensland Conservatorium.