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Rising kiwi opera stars to perform



thumbnail 3 MF-Opera1-355JULIA WADE

For the last six years Matakana’s countryside has had the good fortune to be host to the sounds of music with young sopranos, tenors and baritones raising their voices in harmony to the delight of hundreds who flock to see them.

Brought to the district by charitable organisation the Auckland Opera Studio Foundation (AOS), the annual BYO ‘Matakana Opera Picnic’ showcases some of New Zealand’s brightest operatic stars as well as the up-and-coming, and attracts over 700 local spectators every year.

Held on the scenic grounds of residents Robin and Simon Barclay, the 2021 event on February 27 will feature eight Kiwi singers, five of whom have international careers, with the other three talents set to follow in their footsteps. Due to Covid, Kiwis had to fly home after their contracts from Europe, UK and USA were cancelled says AOS chair and Mangawhai holiday-local for 17 years, Lynda Walter.

“The Auckland Opera Studio is dedicated to helping young talented Kiwi singers to reach their goals in the international world of opera… which is no easy task especially with Covid in the world. However, with many of our stars returning home we, the audience, do become the beneficiaries of their talent,“ she says.

“We are delighted and honoured to again be invited to this spectacular property to deliver yet another wonderful concert, it will be a mixture of beautiful well-known opera arias mixed with popular songs.”

thumbnail 3 MF-Opera3-735Thanks to the nurturance, guidance and coaching by AOS, and in particular the highly respected Frances Wilson (ONZM), many students of the studio who often come from a range of backgrounds, find themselves stepping onto the operatic world stage, including Pene and Amitai Pati, from world renowned Samoan trio Sol3 Mio, ‘we’re so lucky to have such young talented people’.

However, with borders closing due to the ongoing Covid pandemic, many of the artists have lost their current and future income Walters says.

“Besides the financial side, it also hard, as being a singer, you want to sing, you need to practice and keep up your voice, you need an audience. The studio’s mantra is to help our young performers to keep performing, to find them as much work as possible.”

With movies and TV shows often depicting the art as long-winded, complicated and graced by the presence of the glittering rich and elite, the stigma of opera

being ‘high-brow’ and pompous has lingered, and possibly deterred many from attending opera concerts.

However, in modern times opera ‘has nothing to do with snobbery’ and many theatres offer their audience subtitles and summaries of the storylines to make the shows more people-friendly. Walter says beautiful music can be enjoyed by everyone and the Opera Picnic aims to dispel the myths and misconceptions that the word ‘opera’ conjures up in some people’s minds.

thumbnail 3 MF-Opera2-113“There isn’t many ‘happy-ever-afters’ in opera, it is high-drama… personally I love some artistic nourishment, even though I can’t sing a note I’ve had a deep appreciation of music from a young age, the beautiful voices bring tears to your eyes,” Walter says. “If people can keep an open mind, the music has an ability to transport the listener to another world.”


“With many of our stars returning home we, the audience, do become the beneficiaries of their talent.”


Last year’s Matakana Opera Picnic attracted over 700 people and host, Auckland Opera Studio’s Chair, Lynda Walter, says numbers look similar for the February 27 event: “It’s a beautiful setting with artists singing across the lake. We have a great line-up… this year will be a fabulous picnic concert.” PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Performing at the 2020 opera picnic, tenor and guitarist, Ipu Laga’aia, is ‘on the verge of pursuing a career internationally’. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Returning again to Matakana, second-year Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist Natasha Wilson. Unfortunately, the young singer’s contract is suspended until September 2021 due to Covid, but she will be kept busy in New Zealand with

leading operatic roles including ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ with NZ Opera, and ‘Don Giovanni’ with Wellington Opera. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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