Well, Ladies and gentlemen I hope you agree that we have been given an enormous treat this evening by not only the orchestra of The Royal College of Music but all three remarkable singers from Australia.

It makes all of us hugely proud of the immense talent that Australia has in music, opera singing and so many other things besides and I just wanted to take this opportunity, more than anything else,  to thank Kiandra Howarth, Taryn Fiebeg and Samuel Sakker for giving us such a very, very special evening. 

I must say, having heard my old cello playing, after such a long interval was again such a treat. But I have never, ever in all my life seen a person play the cello and sing so divinely at the same time. It's not fair really!

It was the most astonishing performance and I can't thank you enough.

I wanted to pay a special thanks to the conductor Michael Rosewell and all the members of the Royal College of Music Chamber Orchestra. 

I thought it would be rather fun if we could persuade the Royal College of Music Chamber Orchestra to come and play, and that it might be good for them anyway to have a night out! They never stop moonlighting everywhere as far as I can make out. But, as you can imagine, I am very proud to be President of The College and perhaps you will understand why now that you have heard just how brilliant they are.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I can't thank all of you enough for the support you give to Opera Australia and the fact that so many of you are here this evening is a remarkable testimony, I think, to the importance of Opera music in Australia and I am sure that Quantas is thrilled by the number of you who have used their services to come over here especially for this!

This is the third time I have helped to arrange a special event in order to help Opera Australia and I promise you nothing could give me greater joy than to do this because, I am one of those people who so admires talent amongst young people. Just to see that development and to be able to encourage the talent and the potential to develop is hugely rewarding as I am sure all of you would  agree

We live in a strange age where sometime s the theory is that technology will replace everything, when in fact I always think it so important just to remember occasionally how valuable and important live music is, anything live really. 

You could listen to hours and hours of music, as I do, to CDs and recordings but there is nothing, nothing that ever can replace live music and the human voice. It is totally and utterly different, 

So I hear a lot of people saying it's all too expensive, Opera is dreadfully expensive, and orchestras are dreadfully expensive. But that is not the point really, the point is that there are so many young people with immense talent all around the world, not only here and Australia but elsewhere, but all those people who want to develop their God given talents and that's really what it is all about, I think. 

The pleasure they give, the excitement the spiritual satisfaction from the whole thing is truly remarkable. That is why it matters; they help to keep us sane, and to survive. And of course, what's been so special this evening I think is to see the collaboration between Opera Australia and the Royal College of Music. 

There is of course a long standing and close relationship, because the Royal College of Music's admission book reveals the first Australian student enrolled in the early 1880s. And another young Australian, Joan Sutherland, as she was then, enrolled in the Opera School of the Royal College of Music under the great teacher Clive Carey nearly seventy years later. 

And I remember being thrilled by seeing Dame Joan on the stage in Covent Garden so there does seem to be something incredibly special about young Australian Opera singers. At the moment it is worth remembering, and you probably know this already, four of the ten artists in the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House are from Australia. This really is a remarkable statistic given that the remaining six artists come from six separate countries. 

Indeed I am told that it was a young Australian singer who saved the day in the recent production of L'Elisir d'Amore at Covent Garden. When the lead soprano was forced to withdraw due to illness, Kiandra, who we have been lucky enough to listen to tonight, took on the major role of Adine to great acclaim.

Which I suspect is the night all young aspiring artists are longing for.

But it really is something very special, and we are lucky to hear her this evening. So ladies and gentlemen, tonight's concert is I think a fitting testament to a great legacy and continuing tradition of outstanding Australian Opera talent. However, sustaining this tradition requires more than stellar performances. To give these young singers the chance to have careers in opera and the broadest audience possible the opportunity to enjoy them, companies and programmes all around the world require the kind of support represented in this room this evening.

Again I just wanted to say that your support and continuing enthusiasm makes the whole difference. 
I know how difficult it is, I know that you are asked to support so many different things in so many different areas, but the fact that you do provide support that you do for Opera Australia and to develop this talent is hugely appreciated.

Thank you.