It is with deep regret the Old Paradians’ Association advises that the acclaimed opera singer John Wegner AO - a final year student of Parade College in 1967 and an inductee into the Association’s Hall of Fame - died in Sydney overnight after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease.
John was two months short of his 70th birthday.
Born in West Germany, John was just a five year-old boy when he followed his mother across the globe in search of a new life in Australia. When his mother died soon afterwards, John was raised by his older brother in Melbourne.
Steadily adapting to his new environment, John successfully auditioned for the St. Patrick’s Cathedral choir - one of his earliest Melbourne musical experiences. Two years later in 1962 he was enrolled at Parade College where, for the next five years, he combined his academic and sporting pursuits. As a footballer and athlete of renown, John excelled in school sport and later represented the Old Paradians Athletics and Football Clubs. On his regular visits to the Association’s Luncheons at the RACV City Club, John often remarked that he learned to sing in belting out the College song in the winner’s circle after each on-field triumph.
Upon leaving Parade, John pursued his great passion for music, completing an Associate Diploma in Opera and Music Theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts. He performed with the Australian Opera as a Bass for eleven years from 1981, before moving to Europe to study the Helden Baritone repertoire at the Badisches Staatstheater, Karlsruhe where he made his European debut as Jochanaan in Salome.
John sang with the likes of Dame Joan Sutherland and performed in many famous theatres worldwide - from La Scala Milan to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and, closer to home, the Sydney Opera House.
A five-time Helpmann and Mo Award winner for “best male performer in an opera”, John was in 2016 awarded the OAM for distinguished service to the performing arts as a world renowned operatic bass-baritone, and as an ambassador for the cultural reputation of Australia.
John was inducted into the Old Paradians’ Association Hall of Fame in 2016. The induction was held at John’s home in the inner western Sydney suburb of Enmore and fellow Hall of Famer Capt. Prof. Kevin Rickard AM (1953) completed the presentation.
In accepting the award, John replied: “This honour is really overwhelming. The Old Paradians have been a guiding light for me from the time I was at Parade”.
“At Parade I was mainly interested in sport . . . but I had a voice . . . and it was recognised,” John said.
John Wegner AO is survived by his beloved wife of 40 years Mignon, to whom the Association extends its deepest sympathies. Mignon, on behalf of extended members of the Wegner family, has thanked the College community for its on-going support of John - a man who loved his school, was passionate about Parade and equally so the Old Paradians.