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Willowmavin opera enthusiast awarded with Queen’s Birthday honour

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By Jackson Russell

Willowmavin resident Valma Allaway has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia as part of this year’s Queen’s Birthday honours.

The OAM recognises Ms Allaway’s service to performing arts administration through her contribution to the Opera Society of Victoria, a voluntary organisation to promote the love of opera and provide financial support for young opera singers.

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Ms Allaway has been involved with the Opera Society of Victoria for more than 30 years, served as the society’s president since 2012 and was previously a committee member for a number of years.

She said she was stunned by the honour that she nearly declined the nomination, thinking she did not deserve it.

“My initial thing was to say no and I thought in a way it reflects on what I do with the opera and all the other people who are involved, it reflects on them,” Ms Allaway said.

“I’ve read the thing three times to make sure it’s true.

“I couldn’t do a lot of what I’ve done if I hadn’t had a good committee.

“You can’t do the whole lot, you’ve got to have good people with you and I’m lucky I’ve got good people.”

Ms Allaway has been a subscriber since the 1960s after being introduced as a child to Dame Nellie Melba by her mother on the ABC.

“Mum insisted on having it on, we wanted to listen to something else of course being young kids, but this was the life of Melba and I thought, ‘that’s for me’,” she said.

Ms Allaway said once she started taking an interest in opera, she realised the beauty of the voice and the music.

“These people who get up and play a guitar with about three chords and mutter or screech some sort of a song, it makes you want to put your fingers in your ears,” she laughed.

The Opera Society of Victoria offers scholarships to young singers through the Melba Opera Trust, Australia’s premier scholarship program for promising young opera singers and repetiteurs.

While the scholarship helps develop artists, it also provides business training, mentoring and performance experience.

“With the help of our members, we now have a scholarship going with them which we’re quite proud of,” Ms Allaway said.

“We try to employ them, we have lunches and we employ a young singer and a young repetiteur.

“One girl was to make her debut in the opera this year and we helped her out.

“When I say we help them, it’s not a huge amount of money, but it’s the fact we take an interest in them and the money we are able to give them, they’re very appreciative of because most of them haven’t got any backing.”

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