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Italy Beckons Maori Opera Singer

Italy Beckons Maori Opera Singer

A Rotorua grandmother and opera singer, Timua Te Puhi Kai Ariki Brennan, embarks on a two-week singing tour to Italy in late April taking a taste of Maori to the opera loving Italians. Canti Maori (Maori Songs) - a programme of Maori and non-Maori works - will be performed in a series of public and private concert engagements by Ms Brennan and three other Maori artists - Horomona Horo, Sarah-Jayne Te Awhina Edwards and Shane Te Otinga Edwards. The group will perform at several reputable Italian music festivals as well as some exclusive opera events in prestigious venues in Rome, Tuscany and Sicily. The tour is organised and managed by Patricia Hurley from Patricia's Opera Tours (POT), and has received funding from Te Waka Toi Creative New Zealand.

Canti Maori is a presentation of Maori culture and protocols through song, incantations and traditional Maori instruments, played by Horomona Horo. Poi and Haka action songs feature, along with musical works by New Zealand composers Gillian Whitehead and Hori Brennan. The second half of programme includes well-known Italian opera arias performed by Ms Brennan. The tour is designed to showcase Maori culture alongside kiwi opera talent.

"My passion for singing and loyalty to New Zealand composers, both Maori and non-Maori, gives me a great sense of pride in being able to showcase our creative product to another culture," says Timua. "But Canti Maori does more than this, as the programme is a melding of two established musical traditions - Maori and Italian - of which I appreciate both."

Patricia Hurley from Patricia's Opera Tours is accustomed to arranging opera and cultural tours to Italy for New Zealanders several times each year. However, through her strong network of contacts, Canti Maori will now take a slice of New Zealand and Maori culture to Italy.

"Canti Maori brings together centuries old artistic traditions from the Maori, Italian and operatic cultures. There's an affinity between Maori and the Italians, which dates back to the Second World War and the Maori Battalions. But more recently, there has been a heightened awareness of New Zealand in Italy through the presence of our artworks at the Venice Biennale, our high-profile film successes and the America's Cup. So there has been much interest in Canti Maori and what it represents artistically, culturally and in fostering good relations."

After singing locally for many years in Rotorua, Timua was “discovered” in a singing competition and was encouraged to seek professional voice training. As a mother of four and a grandmother, Timua made some life-changing decisions to develop her talent and pursue a singing career relatively late in life. She has recently completed a Master of Music in Vocal Performance with First Class Honours at Waikato University. A finalist in the Lockwood Aria competition in Rotorua in 2002, Timua won the 2003 Lockwood Aria Regional Prize. She is a regular performer at Opera in the Pa, Rotorua and recently performed a solo concert at St Andrews on the Terrace, Wellington.

The inspiration and invitation for Canti Maori, followed Timua's attendance last year at a week-long Italian School for Singers in Tuscany, run by POT in conjunction with their annual northern Italy tour. The School offers four up and coming New Zealand singers an opportunity to immerse themselves in Italian culture, language and opera under the tuition of distinguished Welsh conductor, Wyn Davies. Over the week the singers spend the day studying Italian language and vocal technique, and get to experience opera and Italian life first- hand alongside the tour participants.

The Canti Maori tour party leaves New Zealand for Italy on April 20, 2004.


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