5 Jan 2016

Dame Kiri heads for the classroom

11:35 am on 5 January 2016
Kiri te Kanawa a guest at the Wanganui Opera School

Kiri te Kanawa Photo: Supplied

Summer school, it's not all bad.

Especially for opera students under the tutelage of renowned international singers.

That's what's happening in Whanganui for the next ten days, as aspiring opera singers from throughout the country take part in workshops hosted by some of the best in the business, including soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and tenor Simon O'Neill.

They say practice makes perfect and Simon O'Neill is testament to that, having recently raised the roof with his performance as Cavaradossi in Puccini's grand opera, Tosca.

O'Neill studied under Placido Domingo and the late Luciano Pavarotti.

He said having a successful opera career was similar to being a professional sports person - an accomplishment he didn't know he could achieve when growing up in Ashburton.

"That's what I dreamed of when I was here in 1994 at the Whanganui Opera School.

"It was the first school back then. I dreamt of that, of singing at the opera house at Covent Garden, and 20 years later I'm doing that," he said.

The singer said he would be keeping a close eye, and ear, on the emerging talent at the opera summer school.

"It does happen - often you'll hear a voice and you'll think there's some special in that.

"There are many parts to a voice that could grab your attention. It could be a gorgeous tone, a gorgeous beauty of the sound.

"It could be a resonance about the sound that make the voice quite powerful and grabs your attention."

For the first time, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa will be teaching at the school.

Dame Kiri has been on the international stage since 1968 and is a stalwart of the opera scene.

Napier woman Kayla Collingwood, who is 23-years old, will this year begin her masters degree in music.

She was part of the chorus in Tosca, and with opera careers so competitive, she said networking is a big part of the summer school.

"There's a quote that I read, 'a career in opera is 30 percent talent and 70 percent tenacity, and the further along the path I get the more I realise how true that is."

Katherine McIndoe has just completed her honours degree in music, and was looking forward to the summer school.

She said while singing was obviously important, so was getting an audience to believe in the character being played.

"So much of it is telling the story of the opera. It's about the music but is also about the text and about making a real moment for an audience, making a real moment that they can find exciting.

"That's what's really exciting to me, a connection with the audience while telling a story on stage".

Miss McIndoe said the success of New Zealand singers internationally was inspiring.

About 20 students are taking part in the summer school.

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