Australia

Opera star who fled war in Lebanon set to make Australian debut

0:00

Lebanese-Canadian soprano Joyce el-Khoury has been compared to one of the most influential opera singers of the 20th century.

Joyce El-Khoury's voice has taken her around the world, and now to Australia.

The soprano will make her Australian debut at the Sydney Opera house on New Year's Eve.

"For me to sing at the Sydney Opera House is a dream come true," El-Khoury told SBS News.

She will perform the role of Mimi in famous opera, La Boheme. 

Joyce el-Khoury
Joyce el-Khoury will make her Australian debut on 31 December.
Supplied

Born in Beirut, her parents chose to flee Lebanon when she was six years old. She says her career wouldn't have been possible if her parents had stayed. 

"Had my parents not moved us to Canada, my life would be completely different,". 

They left Lebanon to escape war and for better opportunities. 

"I do remember some things happening where we would hear a sound coming over and it was just an airplane, but everybody was so afraid that immediately they would hide under a table."

El-Khoury grew up with a dream of becoming a doctor, and worked for years in a children's hospital. But her parents recognised that she had a talent, and encouraged her to pursue singing professionally. 

After years of study, she was mentored by some of the biggest names in classical music and now performs in some of the biggest operas around the world. 

Big name comparisons

Her voice has been compared to legendary Greek-American soprano Maria Callas, one of the most famous opera singers of the 20th century.

"As an opera fan I love love love to listen to [Maria Callas], but as a professional, I have to be mindful not to listen to... too much.

"I actively try to distance myself from that so that I don't have any unconscious mimicking or copying, you know."

El-Khoury travels around the world, but it's performing in her native Lebanon where she feels the deepest connection. 

"A real feeling of belonging and even though I grew up Canadian, and I'm very much Canadian, I am also very proud to be Lebanese."

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch