A history of the Rockdale Opera Company has won the Ron Rathbone prize

Success: Leonie Bell has won the 2016 Ron Rathbone Local History Prize. Picture: John Veage

Success: Leonie Bell has won the 2016 Ron Rathbone Local History Prize. Picture: John Veage

Engadine resident Leonie Bell has won the 2016 Ron Rathbone Local History Prize for her piece on the Rockdale Opera Company.

Entrants in the prize, which has run since 2006, were asked to submit a piece of research on Rockdale’s history, buildings, organisations, people, parks, natural features or events.

The prize is named after former mayor, councillor and historian Ron Rathbone, OAM.

The $5000 top prize this year went to Ms Bell who spent more than a year researching the local opera company from its beginning in the 1940s to its present day performances.

It was a topic close to her heart having joined the company herself at just 16.

‘’Opera was something I already loved so it was a natural choice,’’ she said.

Her first foray on stage was in the chorus for the Rockdale Opera’s production of Gondoliers in 1975.

She returned in the 1980s to again sing in the chorus before moving overseas and performing with the English National Opera.

She returned to Australia in 2000 to again perform at Rockdale, this time in lead roles.

Ms Bell said she was amazed with some of the things she learnt about the company.

‘’I realised just how many people have worked with the company over the years,’’ she said.

‘’People like Simone Young.

‘’I thought it was inspirational that people had spent so many years with the company.’’

She said she was amazed by the win.

‘’I was absolutely thrilled,’’ she said.

‘’There was some stiff competition by some of the other entrants so it’s amazing.’’

The winner of the 2016 Junior Local History Prize was Jessica Vrckovski in the primary school category and Cindy Purvis in the high school category.

Ron Rathbone Local History Prize submissions can be read at www.rockdale.nsw.gov.au/RonRathbonePrize.

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