The Singing Cricket now has something to really sing about.
Perth tenor Richard Symons, 21, who performed the only singing role in WA Ballet's recent ballet Pinocchio, has been awarded one of three $20,000 Sir Robert William Askin Operatic Scholarships.
"It's amazing," says Symons of his winning the scholarship, which is awarded every two years to young opera singers who show outstanding ability and promise in their field.
Symons, who graduated from WAAPA last year and is a WA Opera emerging artist , has certainly shown outstanding ability and promise - not least by overcoming his fear of heights.
"It was so much fun playing The Singing Cricket," he says. "But I'm terrified of heights, and to come down on that swing over the stage was one of the most terrifying things I've ever done in my life."
Not that Symons, who also sang at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting opening ceremony in Perth last year, wouldn't do it again.
"I'm so thankful to Perth for always throwing up opportunities like this to me and to other singers," he says.
Judges Stephen Mould, Patrick Togher and Brian Castles-Onion said: "We felt Richard Symons to be a young tenor of great promise - who we feel will benefit from having his potential recognised and encouraged at this stage of his development."
Symons will use the money, which is paid in four instalments of $5000 over two years, to study in New York, London and Florence.
The Sir Robert William Askin Operatic Scholarship is open to male opera singers aged between 18 and 29 and is awarded every two years to applicants who show outstanding ability and promise in their field. The other two 2012 winners were 24-year-old Sydney-born baritone, Morgan Pearce and Queensland bass Luke Stoker, 29.
Surprisingly, Symons doesn't come from a musical family and "sort of fell into" opera.
"I'd been singing in St George's Cathedral Choir since I was eight and was with St Paul's Cathedral Choir in London for a while," he says.
"Then my voice broke. But I kept doing music through school and thought 'I love it. I may as well do it as a career'."
Symons was subsequently urged to study opera at WAAPA. He says he hasn't looked back since. "I absolutely love opera as an art form, it's fantastic," he says.
Not that he doesn't enjoy all forms of music. "Nova FM is always blaring out of my car speakers," he laughs. "And anytime I get a chance to do jazz or musical theatre, I do."
Symons says that contrary to popular belief, more and more young people are taking up classical singing."Which is good and bad," he says. "There's so much competition now, which is scary. But it also makes you work that much harder and you get a better product."
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