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Madama Butterfly To Showcase Otago Graduates

11 June 2002

Madama Butterfly To Showcase Otago Graduates' Talent

The University of Otago is to stage a major production of Madama Butterfly featuring an all-star cast that consists overwhelmingly of graduates who are internationally recognised opera performers. The production, set for August 2003, has just received a welcome $50,000 grant from Community Trust of Otago.

Vice Chancellor Dr Graeme Fogelberg made the announcement at today's meeting of University Council.

"An integral part of the University's mission is to foster the creation and presentation of fine works of art, literature and music for the benefit of the communities we serve. I am very excited by this opportunity to showcase the considerable talent of our distinguished graduates and also the staff and students of our internationally respected Music Department," says Dr Fogelberg. "The generosity of the Community Trust of Otago has helped make this production a reality."

Puccini's tragic tale of the enchanting 'delicate butterfly' Cio-Cio San and her doomed devotion to a faithless US Naval Officer will be brought to life by a "highly talented cast of Otago graduates from a range of disciplines including not only Music, but also French, German, Law, Commerce and English", says the project's Artistic Director and Senior Lecturer in Voice, Judy Bellingham.

The alumni include professional singers Patrick Power, Roger Wilson, Brendon Mercer, Brandon Pou, and Lin Bih-Yuh. The Conductor Tecwyn Evans, also a graduate, currently holds the prestigious position of Chorus Master at Glyndebourne opera in the UK, says Miss Bellingham. The director will be Elric Hooper, recently retired after 20 years as artistic director of Christchurch's Court Theatre.

"Not only are some of Otago's most talented alumni returning home to share their love of opera with the public, but the production will also help hone the skills of a new generation of singers and musicians studying at the University. They will have the valuable opportunity to understudy main roles, take up smaller vocal roles, and instrumental students will learn valuable accompanying skills and as members of the orchestra," says Miss Bellingham.

The casting of Lin Bih-Yuh as Suzuki, and the "very talented" soprano Dr Yi-Lin Hsue of Tunghai University in Taiwan as Cio-Cio San, is a "particular coup that will add a degree of realism that is often lacking in other stagings of the production", says Miss Bellingham.

The opera, to be staged at the Regent Theatre in August 2003, marks 100 years since Puccini wrote his much loved piece, and is the first time it has been put on in Dunedin in 20 years.

Biographical notes on Performers:

Yi-Lin Hsue - Madama Butterfly

A native of the Republic of China, Dr. Hsue began her musical studies at an early age with studies in piano, voice and dramatic arts. After receiving her first diploma at the World College of Journalism in Taipei, she went to the United States to study vocal performance at the University of Michigan. After receiving her Bachelor's and Master's Degree from the University of Michigan, she earned her doctorate at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Dr. Hsue has played leading roles in numerous operas, including "Le Nozze di Figaro," "Cosi Fan Tutte," "Madama Butterfly," "Sunday Excursion," "La Boheme," "La Traviata," "L'enfant et les sortileges," "Der Fliegender Holander," "The Village Singer," "Apothecary," and the Chinese classical operas, "West Chamber Story" and "Wen Tien-hsiang." Languages in which she sings include German, Italian, French, English, Spanish, Russian, Portugese, Latin, Japanese and Chinese.

Tours have taken her to the United States, Canada, Italy, Holland, Belgium, France, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, South Africa, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia.

Patrick Power - Pinkerton

Patrick Power graduated from the University of Otago in the 1970s having studied singing with Honor McKellar. Patrick Power has sung for most of the major opera companies and festivals in Europe and North America in nearly all the lyric tenor repertoire. He is now Vocal tutor at the Eastern Institute of Technology in Taradale, and part-time vocal tutor at the Victoria University of Wellington. He still maintains an active performing career in Australasia. His most recent performances were in the New Zealand Festival of the Arts held in Wellington in March. Here he had three engagements, the Italian tenor in the opera "Der Rosenkavalier", a concert to celebrate the life of Douglas Lilburn, and a recital of New Zealand music.

Lin Bih-Yuh - Suzuki

(Marie) Bih-Yuh Lin, mezzo-soprano, graduated Bachelor of Arts at the Fu-Hsin-Kang College, Taipei and received her Master of Music degree at the University of Otago, where she studied with Judy Bellingham. She is a DMA student at the University of Minnesota, the United States and studies with Clifton Ware. In addition to performing several recitals, concerts, and opera ensembles, she has sung a leading role in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas and mezzo-soprano oratorio roles in Haydn's Teresa Mass and Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle. In 2000, she appeared as Mother Marie in Dialogues of the Carmelites with the University of Minnesota Opera Theatre. She is also active in concerts, church music performances, and choir conducting in the Twin Cities.

Roger Wilson - Sharpless

Roger graduated from the University of Otago with M.A.(Hons) in German (1967) and in French (1968) and lectured in the German Department in 1969 before embarking on doctoral studies at the University of Zürich with a Swiss National Scholarship. Having changed over to music, he studied singing at the Nordwestdeutsche Musikakademie Detmold and at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Cologne and began his professional career with numerous concert performances in Germany, Switzerland and France.

Since 1978 Roger Wilson has been based in Wellington and is long established as one of New Zealand's most experienced resident singers. He has been engaged as a soloist by all the country's opera companies and holds the record of most principal rôles (17) with the Wellington City Opera. He has sung alongside colleagues such as Sir Donald McIntyre, Dame Kiri te Kanawa and Peter Schreier as well as all New Zealand's finest singers.

He is also a part-time tutor at Massey University and the Victoria University Academy, teaches privately and is an occasional music journalist and broadcaster.

Brendon Mercer - Goro

Brendon Mercer was born in Oamaru and graduated from the University of Otago with a BA in Psychology and a BCom in Management in 1994. He returned to University to study singing with Judy Bellingham and gained a Diploma for Graduates in 1998. He then won a place on the Post-Graduate Opera Performance course at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music from where he graduated in 1999. He returned to New Zealand having become one of the Dame Malvina Major Young Artists in 2000. Since then, Brendon has been forging for himself a career as a free-lance tenor. He has sung with all the major opera companies in New Zealand and the major Choral Societies.

Brandon Pou - Yamadori

Brandon Pou was educated in Invercargill, and completed his MMus from the University of Otago in 2000, studying with Judy Bellingham. Brandon in only a few years has performed in a variety of art forms, including opera, operetta, musicals, a rock band, and a few plays. From contemporary opera such as Gillian Whiteheads "Outrageous Fortune", to Mozart's "Marriage Of Figaro", through "Les Miserables" to "Jesus Christ Superstar". Brandon sang the National Anthems at the All Black vs Scotland games in 2000. --

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