Wil Jones saw Teddy Tahu Rhodes as part of his Year 12 theatre studies at Gippsland Grammar.

On Sunday, the 24-year-old will perform alongside Teddy Tahu Rhodes in Gippsland Opera Company’s Opera By The Lakes.

Teddy Tahu Rhodes is a New Zealand bass-baritone opera singer who has quickly established an international career on both the opera stage and the concert platform, winning numerous awards, including an ARIA award, two Helpmann Awards, the Limelight Award, a Green Room Award, and a MO Award (Operatic Performer of the Year).

“It was a bit daunting when I saw the line-up,” Mr Jones said.

“I remember watching Teddy Tahu Rhodes when I was in Year 12 doing theatre studies; we had to watch a production, and Teddy Tahu Rhodes was in that, so it is slightly daunting, but I am trying not to get in my head about it.”

The Sale local baritone will also perform alongside some of the country’s most accomplished opera singers, including Kate Amos, Shanul Sharma and Sally-Anne Russell, when Opera By The Lakes returns to Gippsland on Sunday, March 19.

Kate Amos is quickly establishing herself as one of Australia’s most artistically versatile and sought-after young sopranos.

Shanul Sharma began as a heavy metal vocalist releasing three studio albums before making his debut with Opera Australia as Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola.

Sally-Anne Russell is dubbed one of Australia’s finest mezzo-sopranos, with more than 60 operatic roles in her repertoire.

Mr Jones has come a long way since joining the Gippsland Grammar Choir and taking private singing lessons with his choir instructor Jenny Candy, going on to study at the Victorian College Of The Arts and now performing in Opera By The Lakes at Nyerimilang Heritage Park.

“Jenny Candy really is the one who got me started,” Mr Jones said.

“She introduced me to musical theatre repertoire, songs from Westside Story, My Fair Lady, things like that, and that’s when I fell in love with it.”

Auditioning for Gippsland Grammar’s production of Grease in Year 10 cemented Mr Jones’ desire to pursue a career in musical theatre, completing his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music Theatre at the end of 2022.

“I performed in Thoroughly Modern Milly in 2016 with the Bairnsdale Production Line Theatre Company, which was the best experience, doing that show,” Mr Jones said.

“It sort of reaffirmed my love for it [theatre] before I left for Melbourne to start uni.

“People like Tony Porter at the Bairnsdale Production Line were fantastic at giving me a space to explore theatre and gain confidence in my ability to do it.

“As someone who felt really green and had a lot of catching up to do, it was fantastic to have a really safe environment to do that in, so yeah, the Bairnsdale Production Line and Tony Porter, in particular, really helped me with that transition from going to school to pursuing theatre as a career.”

Mr Jones first worked with Gippsland Opera Company founders Andrea and Keith Ford in 2017, returning to the region for the concert during his first year at Victorian College Of The Arts.

“At that point, there were advertisements everywhere for Opera By The Lakes, which I thought was done by huge professionals, which of course it is, so when I was asked to audition for it last year, I was sort of taken aback but really grateful for the opportunity,” he said.

“I sent in a video, crossing my fingers, and then Andrea got back to me and said they would like to have me there, which is just fantastic.”

Opera By The Lakes, one of the most popular events on the Gippsland Opera Company calendar, is known for showcasing world-class singers and musicians in a spectacular setting with breathtaking views.

“I would describe Opera By The Lakes as the coming together of the community to witness what Australia and Victorian music theatre has to offer,” Mr Jones said.

“I think a lot of people from regional towns maybe don’t get to come up and see these types of performances.

“It is a real credit to Andrea and Keith Ford, to be honest, that people like Teddy and people like Kate Amos all come down and are able to share their great talent with people who otherwise may not get to see them.

“It really should be treasured that Andrea and Keith bring these people down and expose the regional area to these performances.”

To book your ticket for Opera By The Lakes at Nyerimilang Heritage Park (near Metung) this Sunday (March 19), call the Gippsland Opera Company box office on 0409 771 526.