Louise Fenbury was heading for a career behind a desk at a law firm. Instead she has become a rising star in German opera circles in a remarkable case of being in the right place at the right time.
After trading in her law degree to study classical music at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Ms Fenbury performed in Sydney and eventually moved to Germany, a country with rich musical traditions and more than 80 opera houses.
“I had two suitcases and nothing else,” she said.
“I had no job, I had nowhere to live, I had no plans, nothing in my diary.”
Four years, and several minor roles later, she was at home in her pyjamas when she received a phone call that would catapult her into the operatic big league.
A midsummer night’s dream come true
The lead performer in the Staatstheater’s performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream had pulled out a week before opening night and they needed someone who already knew the part of Hermia and could get to the German city of Mainz straight away.
Ms Fenbury had studied the role a decade earlier as a student at WAAPA and Mainz was a 40-minute train ride from her home.
“I jumped in the shower, caught the train there, did a short audition on stage and they said ‘yes’,” she said.
“I was fitted for my costume and then straight into the rehearsal room with the music in one hand, being pushed around the stage by the stage manager.
“It was all of this information all at once but it was a dream come true, I couldn’t believe my luck.”
Back in Perth this week, Ms Fenbury said she had finally found the time to process her whirlwind success.
Mentor never doubted success
She also visited her childhood singing teacher and mentor, Ian Westrip, who had convinced her to give up her legal studies to pursue singing.
His former student’s success has come as no surprise to him.
“It was clear when I was teaching Louise in her teenage years that she had a lot of talent and it was right to encourage her to go as far as she could,” Mr Westrip said.
“It was always going to be a conflict, of course, because it’s a huge choice but if you have the passion, you have to do it.”
With her A Midsummer Night’s Dream performances behind her, Ms Fenbury says she is looking forward to some time off to rest her voice.
Onwards and upwards
However, she says there’s more work in the pipeline when she returns to Germany in the new year.
“Getting the lucky break is the hardest thing because they need to take a chance on you,” she said.
“I was an unknown quantity, now I am known and I can be cast, they will consider me for other roles.”
She said years of hard work, taking risks and being knocked back have all paid off.
“Don’t be scared to follow your dreams,” she said.
“Life’s too short to do anything else.”