Australian Opera Singers

Australian Singers on the World Stage

These singers exuding star power have conquered the world’s stages. But they all started in Australia.


Joan Sutherland

Joan Sutherland was born in Sydney and was one of the most known and loved singers of the 20th century. Known as ‘la Stupenda’ and famed for her interpretations of bel canto repertoire of Puccini, Verdi and Donizetti, Sutherland was the first Australian ever to win a Grammy Award – the 1961 Best Classical Performance – Vocal Soloist award.


Stuart Skelton

Described often as a “lover of fast cars, cigars and cocktails”, Sydney-born Stuart Skelton is hailed as one of the greatest heldentenors – meaning heroic tenor partial to a bit of Wagner – of our time. Skelton is in demand as a soloist across the world’s most prestigious stages, from singing the role of Tristan at The Met in New York to starring in The Last Night of the Proms in London, and has sung Wagner's The Ring Cycle – a 15-hour epic regarded as the pinnacle of opera – with the Metropolitan Opera, Seattle Opera, Paris Opera and Opera Australia.


Danielle De Niese

Dubbed “opera’s coolest soprano” by The New York Times, Melbourne-born soprano Danielle De Niese is in demand in opera houses all over the world, performing regularly at the Met in New York, Royal Opera in Covent Garden and Glyndebourne Festival Opera in Sussex. She won an Emmy when she was just 16, and she became the youngest person ever to be admitted to the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program of the Metropolitan Opera a couple of years later. 


Nellie Melba

Nellie Melba – born Helen Porter Mitchell, but named professionally after her home city – was one of the most famous singers of the Victorian era, and she’s gone down in history as the first Australian to break through and achieve international recognition as a classical musician. She performed all over the world, and now features on the front of the Australian $100 note.


Catherine Carby

Carby is one of Australia’s leading mezzo-sopranos, with a richly soaring voice described by The Guardian as ‘ravishing’ and The Independent as ‘world-class’. She has sung major opera roles across the globe, from London and Lisbon to Sydney with opera companies including the Royal Opera House, English National Opera and Opera Australia, and has performed with all the major Australian orchestras.


Peter Dawson

Adelaide-born Peter Dawson was a bass-baritone, and one of the most popular singers of his lifetime. The gramophone was in vogue at his peak, so many people discovered his operatic prowess through recordings. In 1984, he was chosen by the Guinness Book of Recorded Sound as one of the top ten singers of all time, alongside Elvis Presley and Enrico Caruso.


Nicole Car

Melbourne-born opera singer Nicole Car has performed with all the big opera houses – Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House, Vienna State Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Opéra national de Paris, and more – alongside making a name for herself at home at Opera Australia. When Car made her Met Opera debut, in the role of Mimì (La bohème) in September 2018, The New York Times praised for her for "fine-grained tone and nuanced acting.”


Yvonne Kenny

Sydney-born Soprano Yvonne Kenny, known for her Handel, Mozart and bel canto roles, has made numerous recordings and performed all over the world, including at Vienna State Opera, La Scala in Milan and Opera De Paris. She is Professor of Voice at London’s Guildhall School of Music & Drama and teaches at the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme of the ROH Covent Garden. Kenny was made a Member of the Order of Australia for Services to Music in 1989.


Joan Carden

Joan Carden’s reputation is as Joan Sutherland’s successor. ‘The People’s Diva’, she was a Principal Soprano with Opera Australia for 32 years, and she’s been a regular at the Met, Glyndebourne and the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Carden performed the national anthem at Australia’s Bicentenary celebrations in January 1988.


Peter Coleman-Wright

Australian baritone Peter Coleman-Wright hails from Geelong, and has carved out a career at the great opera houses of the UK, including Glyndebourne, English National Opera and Royal Opera in Covent Garden, as well as the top stages in Europe and beyond. Coleman-Wright was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the 2015 Queen's Birthday Honours.


Photos: Nic Walker / Allan Warren / Stuart Skelton

Stuart Skelton and Catherine Carby star in Mahler's Song of the Earth, directed by Richard Tognetti, touring to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra. Click here for tickets.