Zoe Drummond is on a lunchtime break from rehearsals for her first ever Opera Australia production – The Eighth Wonder, the story of how the Sydney Opera House was built – when she answers her phone.
The 24-year-old soprano is bubbling with excitement about a recent purple patch of success that will soon see her travel to New York City.
Not only has the one-time Bendigo woman scored a principal role in The Eight Wonder, she has also been crowned the winner of this year’s Lady Fairfax NYC scholarship, a $43,000 prize that will see her learn from some of the United States’ biggest opera names.
Ms Drummond said she is already looking forward to watching shows at the famed Metropolitan Opera and may even audition in front of some of its highly-esteemed staff.
The award comes after years of practice, work that begun as a cast member of Girton Grammar musical productions and shows put on by the Bendigo Theatre Company.
A passion for the golden age of musical theatre, an era that took in Broadway classics like My Fair Lady, saw her determined to forge a career in music. It was this desire that took her from Bendigo to the Victorian College of the Arts secondary school in Melbourne.
She was in year 10 at the time.
The move was tough, but she credits that experience – and her subsequent move interstate – with giving her the fortitude to succeed in a competitive industry.
“It’s about doing things that aren't in your comfort zone,” she said. “Every time I moved city, it was a really big, scary experience, but it really paid off.”
The singer said opera was alive and well among young people, who were often shocked to find they enjoyed watching the classical art form.
“Even if people haven't been exposed to opera before, what I've found is, when they are, they really appreciate it,” she said.
Asked why she loved the genre so much, Ms Drummond said: “It’s such an intense artform. I love the actual studying process of preparing a role, and all the work that goes on behind the scenes: translating the role, learning the notes, the drama and the story line.
“And then it gets even more exciting on stage, with the amazing costumes.”
That excitement will play out on the steps of the opera house when the outdoor production opens next Friday.
The chance to sing at the harbour-side hall was a privilege for any aspiring Australian diva, Ms Drummond said.
“I've performed inside the Opera House with choirs before, and now this, so it is really, really exciting.”