I remember first going to see the Herald Sun Aria finals as an audience member when I was a teenager, and being absolutely amazed by the talent and presence of the performers. At that time, I could never have imagined being up on that stage myself!


I came to the world of opera slightly late, despite having been surrounded by music from a very young age. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with myself when I left school, and decided to pursue a double degree in the subjects that I enjoyed: Music and French. This course provided me with beautiful performance experiences and musical discoveries, and by the time I had finished my Bachelors degrees, I knew that this was the pathway that I was supposed to be on. My Honours year in 2020 was severely disrupted by Covid lockdowns, and for everyone in the arts industry, it was hard to stay motivated in pursuit of performance. To get back into practice and to gain further performance experience, I started competing in Eisteddfods and competitions around Melbourne. As anyone who has competed in this way can attest, it takes a lot of resilience and belief in yourself to sign up to be judged against your peers. I have to acknowledge the people around me: my family, friends, and mentors, for supporting me and encouraging me to persist through disappointment and setbacks, of which there were many.


I decided in 2023 to sign up for the Herald Sun Aria, seeking an environment in which to gain experience onstage, as well as valuable critique and feedback from the judging panel. I was shocked and thrilled to be selected as a finalist, and spent the months leading up to the final honing and polishing my technique and my artistry on the pieces I would perform. Having the opportunity to work with the Melbourne Opera Orchestra in the final, and perform in such a prestigious venue as the Melbourne Recital Centre were just part of what made the experience so special. The other competitors were so talented, and generous in sharing wisdom from their previous experiences, and it was an absolute joy to share the stage with them on the day of the final. Performing is always a challenge, never more than in competitions with so many variables and such high stakes, so I was absolutely overwhelmed with honour to be named as the winner of the Medownick First Prize for the 99th Herald Sun Aria. To receive this award was so validating and was the culmination of many years of work. Even more special, was the fact that I got to share this moment with so many of my family and friends, and those who had supported me along my journey, even my very first singing teacher, who was also a previous Herald Sun Aria winner (Jocelyn Hickey, 2004)!


I am so grateful to Royal South Street for their support of emerging artists in Australia, and for the generosity of the sponsors, without whom, the competition would not be possible. Through Melbourne Opera, I also have the opportunity to travel to Germany in the middle of this year, and participate in summer programs, masterclasses and performances.


When I am not performing, I teach singing at Kingswood College and the Australian Boys Choir. I had the great pleasure of taking one of the choirs I direct from Kingswood College to Ballarat last year to compete in the High School Choral section of the Royal South Street Eisteddfod, and they were very excited to be awarded second place! Teaching young musicians brings me great joy, and sharing my love of music through performing and teaching feels like exactly what I am meant to do.


You can listen to a recording of Rachael’s HSA winning performance here; Wednesday Night at the Opera | 3MBS

V’adoro, pupille – Handel at 00:30:30

Adieu, notre petite table – Massenet at 01:19:03

Photo Credit; Laura Pemberton & Smantha Meuleman

Photo Credit: David Ng

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