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Top Young Talents Take Opera to the Nation

Top Young Talents Take Opera to the Nation

Opera talents
Phillip Rhodes, left, and Andrew Conley.  Photo: Dean
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Two of New Zealand’s most promising opera talents – Phillip Rhodes, left, and Andrew Conley - prepare to perform for audiences around the country in The NBR New Zealand Opera’s 14-centre National Tour of Don Pasquale. Photo: Dean Treml


2 August 2006


Audiences around the country will have the opportunity to hear two of New Zealand’s most promising young singers when they perform in The NBR New Zealand Opera’s 14-centre National Tour of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale this winter.

Among the 30 cast and crew members of Don Pasquale are rising stars Andrew Conley and Phillip Rhodes - both former PricewaterhouseCoopers Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artists who will be sharing the role of Dr Malatesta.

Both baritones are enjoying a strong start to their opera careers. Andrew Conley returns home to New Zealand from London, where he has recently completed post-graduate opera studies at the Royal College of Music and the Benjamin Britten International Opera School. Prior to heading to London, Andrew was the winner of the North Shore Aria and Evening Post Aria competitions, and was an Emerging Artist in 2001 and 2002. Phillip Rhodes, an Emerging Artist in 2004, is building his career in New Zealand: he recently performed the role of Monostatos in The NBR New Zealand Opera’s The Magic Flute in Wellington and Auckland, and last year won the prestigious Lockwood Aria Competition. He has also performed roles with Hawke’s Bay Opera and Wanganui Opera, and regularly performs on the concert platform. In 2003 he also had the privilege of singing a waiata on behalf of world renowned opera tenor, Jose Carreras, to mark his New Zealand tour.

Conley and Rhodes agree that being selected as PricewaterhouseCoopers Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artists has been integral to their professional development in opera. The year-long internship offers young opera singers the opportunity to develop a range of skills in a professional opera environment.

Conley says, “The internship was a fantastic stepping stone for me; it bridged the path between studying and performing, an enabled me to meet key people in the opera industry.”

Don Pasquale will mark the third time Andrew has toured with The NBR New Zealand Opera – he performed in Barber of Seville in 2003 and Cosi fan Tutti in 2004 – and it is the first time for Rhodes.

Conley says: “It is important that everyone gets to see opera, not just audiences in the main centres. And with the tour of Don Pasquale going to five new centres - 14 centres in total from Kerikeri to Invercargill - it’s also an opportunity for all of us on the tour to see parts of the country that we might never normally get to!”

Donizetti’s opera tells the story of grumpy Don Pasquale, who wants to spoil his nephew Ernesto’s romance with the beautiful Norina, and cut him off from his inheritance. What follows is a fast-paced romantic romp riddled with scheming plots. The character of Dr Malatesta instigates the twists of Don Pasquale’s story, indulging in trickery in the name of a good cause.

“He’s a bit of a wheeler-dealer,” says Conley of the character. “He enjoys sitting back and watching the situation unfold.”

The NBR New Zealand Opera’s return to nationwide touring in 2003 – the first by a professional New Zealand opera company in over 25 years – saw over 17,500 people across 13 centres enjoy opera in their own backyard.

“The great thing about New Zealanders is that they are consistently willing to try new things; to embrace new and different experiences,” says Conley. “Don Pasquale is an international standard of opera – but is still accessible to people who have never seen one before. It’s a funny, romantic story that everyone can enjoy.”


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