A star is born

The Opera Foundation for Young Australians — 2018 Lady Fairfax New York Scholarship Finals. Photography by David Otott.

Griffith opera student Xenia Puskarz Thomas has won a national scholarship that will allow her to study in New York with mentors at the Metropolitan Opera and Juilliard.

Xenia received the prestigious Lady Fairfax New York Scholarship at a gala ceremony in Sydney last week. The judging panel, which included singers Anke Höppner and Peter Coleman-Wright and conductor Nicholas Braithwaite, praised the young mezzo-soprano for her “outstanding performance”.

“Xenia posses a beautiful voice of magnificent potential,” they said.

“She inspired the audience with her energetic stage presence and fearless desire to engage with the characters she portrayed at the deepest emotional levels.”

The scholarship includesa return international airfare to New York, a living allowance, support for further study and a recording session back in Australia.

Xenia said winning the scholarship was “a dream come true”.

“This changes what I go on to do after graduation in a big way,” she said.

“I now have the opportunity to spend three months in New York and work with some of the world’s most renowned voice coaches and musicians.

“I’m young, and my voice has a long way to develop, but I’m getting there.”

The scholarship has capped off an extraordinary few months for the young singer, who is completing a Bachelor of Music (Honours) at the Queensland Conservatorium.

Xenia won this year’s Brisbane Club Music Award, received the 2018 Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University Postgraduate Prize and the Tinkler Encouragement Award at the 2018 IFAC Handa Australian Singing Competition.

She has also garnered rave reviews for her performances in Ravel’s L’Enfant et Les Sortilèges andPaul Dean’s acclaimed new Australian opera, Dry River Run.

The Queensland Conservatorium is one of the only institutions in Australia that offers students the chance to perform in a fully-staged opera production each year, and Xenia credits her time at the ‘Con’ for helping to shape her as a world-class singer.

“We are so lucky to put on these big productions with a full orchestra, international directors and beautiful sets and costumes – each role I’ve been given has helped me grow as an artist,” she said.

“It was so exciting to originate a role in Paul’s opera – it was a wonderful experience to have the world premiere of Dry River Run here at the Queensland Conservatorium.

“My teacher, Margaret Schindler, has given me wonderful technique and instilled a really strong foundation that will last a lifetime. ”