Church music inspired Australian opera star

Dominica Matthews

Whether she is on stage as one of Opera Australia's principal artists or singing with the congregation at her local church at Castle Hill, Dominica Matthews experiences the same joyful emotions.

- Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney

'I love to sing,' she says simply but admits as a trained opera singer and mezzo soprano when she joins in the singing at Castle Hills' St Bernadette's Catholic Church during Mass, she has to remind herself to "tone it down" a bit.

'II go into full voice the little kids are hilarious. They climb out of their seats, stand in front of me and stare at me in disbelief,' she says and breaks into her distinctive rich infectious laugh.

A pupil at St Bernadette's primary and later a student and member of the choir at Gilroy Catholic College, Dominica says church music was not only her early training ground but remains a profound source of inspiration.

For Dominica now regarded as one of the nation's leading mezzo sopranos faith and music are intricately linked. 

'They are one and the same,' she insists. 'Church music is uplifting and joyous and absolutely enhances prayer whether this is the beautiful sacred music from a previous century or a youth choir singing along with drums and guitars. They were all written and inspired by God.'

With an outstanding voice and intensely musical, Dominica firmly believes both are gifts from God and insists it is her 'absolute duty' to work as hard as she can to make the most of this blessing.

'Thy will be done is something I strongly believe in. I live by that, and know I must use these gifts not only because I want to but because I have to,' she says.

Certainly Dominica is no stranger to hard work. For the past six weeks she has been juggling evening performances at the Opera House in Verdi favourite, La Traviata with rehearsals during the day for Benjamin Britten's comic lampoon of English village life, Albert Herring which premiered on 16 August.

This week Dominica is set to once again delight audiences at the Sydney Opera House playing the irrepressible 19th Century courtesan Flora Bervoix in La Traviata with performances tomorrow night and again on Thursday, 29 August. Then on 30 August, just 24 hours later, she will be back on stage. But instead of playing the corseted temptress Flora in the Verdi opera, she will be Mrs Pike, the imminently sensible morally upstanding housekeeper of Benjamin Britten's comedy of errors.

Photo: Dominica as Flora leads the chorus in a scene from La Traviata

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