WHEN a 29-year-old Janet Kenny arrived at Glyndebourne Opera House in Sussex, England in the 1960s, she wanted to audition to be part of the chorus.

But she found she had turned up to audition on the wrong day.

Instead the talented mezzo-soprano was hired as a soloist, beginning a lengthy career performing across Britain alongside some of the singers she had long idolised.

Born in New Zealand in 1936, Janet, 82, was a banker's daughter and the expectation was that she would grow up and take on what her family described as a "serious profession".

She went to boarding school where her aunt, a talented poet, worked and from there she was supposed to go to training school to begin life as a teacher.

But a scholarship to art school helped her love for art blossom.

It was where Janet met a handsome young fellow, her future husband, Nelson Kenny.

It was their shared passion for music that inspired Janet to pursue her dream of being an operatic singer.

She performed alongside Opera greats Ugo Benelli and George Shirley.

Janet sang in performances of Carmen, Cenerentola, Hansel and Gretel, the Barber of Seville and many more.

While she was living out her dream, Janet found that life as a performer came with unexpected challenges.

She was expected to remain thin and Janet was told in her 30s "whatever you do, my dear, don't put on weight".

"Being the overachiever that I am, I immediately stopped eating," Janet said. "That didn't go too well."

In addition, she was constantly on the road, travelling to very cold places and eventually the combination of factors took their toll.

Janet found herself in the middle of a health crisis.

She and Nelson decided it was time to return closer to home and so they decided to move to Australia in 1970.

Nelson was an executive with a very conservative company and the Vietnam War was raging when the two moved back to the southern hemisphere. Janet found herself debating the lottery system that would see men randomly conscripted into the war with people who were fervently in support of the conflict.

"I became so appalled by those people," she said.

The young operatic singer and free-spirit joined the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and was at the first meeting to form the Nuclear Disarmament Party.

Then she was tasked with recruiting Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett into the party in 1984, which she promptly did.

"We needed a popular candidate," she said.

Later, as a result of her fight against the nuclear industry, she helped edit Beyond Chernobyl: Women Respond alongside Corin Fairburn Bass.

"No one thought about the sheer horror that cloud caused," Janet said.

The book was published by Environbook in 1993.

 After completing the book, Janet turned her hand to poetry. The literary roots of her aunt had long inspired her, with Janet first writing poems during her childhood in New Zealand, but never taking it very seriously.

Later in life, inspired by her love of music, Janet dedicated herself to creating poetry again, much of which she said was born from the well of her experience and her passion for opera.

"I think it's the same thing in a way," she said.

"Sound and rhythm matters a great deal."

Now living in Point Vernon, Janet has had two books of poetry published, This Way to the Exit and Whistling in the Dark.

She has also been published in numerous journals and anthologies.

When asked which part of her life had been the best, she said it was too tough to pick.

"It was all pretty incredible," she said with a glint in her eyes and a smile on her face.

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