Pandemic Brings Opera Stars to Local Stage

RICHARD BETTS details post-Covid activities in the classical realm and finds that things are warming up nicely.

Simon O’Neill

Covid has devastated the arts – as it has other industries – but it’s been possible to take one sliver of comfort from the temporary return to this country of many top musicians who are usually based overseas.

NZ Opera is first out of the gate in Auckland with a 31 July concert featuring Simon O’Neill and a strong supporting cast of Natasha Wilson, Edward Laurenson and Kristin Darragh. There’s a second performance in Christchurch on 9 August. The shows are fundraisers for the national opera company’s Voice Your Support campaign.

Hot on NZO’s heels is Auckland Opera Studio (AOS), which hosts a gala concert in Auckland Town Hall’s concert chamber on Sunday 2 August.

Under the guidance – and occasional cajoling – of the inspirational Frances Wilson, AOS has been a talent incubator for many of New Zealand’s top voices. Singers to have benefitted from Wilson’s support include O’Neill, Anna Leese, Madeleine Pierard and 2018 Lexus Song Quest winner Joel Amosa.

Auckland Town Hall Concert Chamber

Amosa won’t be singing at the August concert but Benson Wilson will. Wilson, a baritone, took the top prize at the 2016 Lexus Song Quest, and he’ll be joined on stage by the 2012 winner Amitai Pati who, when he’s not performing classical music on the world stage, keeps himself busy with popera supergroup Sol3 Mio.

Also present are the busy Natasha Wilson (again), who this time last year was singing the role of Zerlina for Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra’s production of Don Giovanni; soprano Eliza Boom, runner-up to Amosa at the 2018 Lexus; and tenor Manase Latu, another 2018 Lexus finalist who, Covid permitting, will soon head to New York to join the Metropolitan Opera’s young artist programme.

NZTrio pianist Somi Kim will tickle ivories.









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