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Canterbury singer wins place at 2008 Opera School

10 December 2007

Media Release for immediate use from Friends of Opera in Canterbury

Canterbury singer wins coveted place at 2008 NZ Opera School

Christchurch singer, Virginia Nicholls, has won a coveted place at the 2008 NZ Opera School with the award of the inaugural Friends of Opera in Canterbury Scholarship.

Twenty-two aspiring singers from around New Zealand will attend the annual NZ Opera School from 3-14 January in Wanganui. Now in its 14th year, the residential school, which is held at Wanganui Collegiate, fosters the growth of opera in New Zealand by nurturing the talents of our promising young singers who are the opera professionals of tomorrow.

NZ Opera School Director Donald Trott says the NZ Opera School is the only residential opera school in New Zealand offering an intensive programme for burgeoning opera talent, so places are highly sought after. "The School provides a unique learning opportunity not readily available elsewhere in New Zealand and can make a significant difference to the young singers’ development and future aspirations.”

The Friends of Opera in Canterbury was adjudicated by Isabel Cunningham, Senior Teaching fellow in Vocal Studies, Music Department, University of Otago, after auditions on 9 December. Iola Shelley was the piano accompanist.The Scholarship was awarded by Friends of Opera in Canterbury, for Canterbury singers who have not previously been to the NZ Opera School, and was organised by Julian Anderson. Friends of Opera in Canterbury coordinator Barbara Cottrell said the $1250 Scholarship provided an opportunity for a singer to develop their stagecraft as well as their opera voice.

“The original suggestion for a scholarship had come from singers who had taken part in our small opera concerts during the year, and it is an excellent way to promote and foster local talent. We know our supporters really enjoy seeing how singers develop and they watch with pride as they gain confidence in their roles and stagecraft. It gives students total immersion in theatre preparation and it's a wonderful opportunity for Virginia,” Barbara Cottrell said.

Virginal Nicholls, 28, of Strowan, has been a chorus member of Southern Opera, Canterbury Opera, National Youth Choir, Cantores and St Barnabas Parish Choir. “I have always loved opera and would like to expand my involvement in opera and gain more experience in that area,” Virginia said.

In addition to the intensive vocal, language, movement and acting training the students undergo during the NZ Opera School, the students provide a range of events for the public to observe the progression of the creative process as part of Energy Direct NZ Wanganui Opera Week. Activities involving the students include two evening masterclasses with acclaimed British vocal coach and technical advisor to the Young Artists at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Paul Farrington; recitals at local cafes and restaurants around Wanganui; a lunchtime concert at the Sarjeant Art Galley; and a chapel service dedicated “To Music” in the Wanganui Collegiate Chapel. The School culminates in a public concert on Saturday 12 January at the Royal Wanganui Opera House, where the students showcase the music studied over the duration of the School.

Over the ten days of the NZ Opera School the students work closely with leading opera professionals. In 2008, British vocal consultant and expert Professor Paul Farrington is joined by highly respected New Zealand opera singers/coaches, soprano Margaret Medlyn, baritone Barry Mora and for the first time, tenor Richard Greager. Other coaches include Italian vocal coach Luca Manghi, movement and acting coach Sara Brodie, and vocal coaches/repetiteurs/pianist team: Bruce Greenfield, Claire Caldwell, Iola Shelley, Dr Greg Neil, Francis Cowan and David Kelly.

Over the years a “who’s who” of young New Zealand opera singers including Simon O’Neill, Carmel Carroll, Benjamin Fafita Makisi, Madeleine Pierard, Zan McKendree-Wright, Kristen Darragh, Wade Kernot and Phillip Rhodes, have attended the NZ Opera School.

Adjudicator Isabel Cunningham said scholarships and competitions helped support young singers and kept interest in opera, especially larger and high profile events such as the Lexus Song Quest, and competitions such as the Rotorua Concerto Lockwood Aria Competition and other competitions held in Dunedin, Auckland and other centres.

“There is a lot of interest in classical singing, and many favour opera as one of the higher expressions of classical singing. There has been a lot of exposure of opera to a wider audience through DVDs and that has given people a lot more contact with the genre.”



Thursday 3 January to Monday 14 January 2008
Wanganui Collegiate School, Wanganui

International Voice Consultant Prof. Paul Farrington
Voice Coach Margaret Medlyn (International/NZ Soprano)
Voice Coach/German Language Coach Barry Mora (International/NZ Baritone)
Languages Coach Richard Greager (International/NZ Tenor)
Italian Language Coach Luca Manghi
Movement/Presentation Coach Sara Brodie
Vocal Coaches/Repetiteurs/Pianist Team Bruce Greenfield, Claire Caldwell,
Iola Shelley, Dr Greg Neil, Francis Cowan,
David Kelly
Director, NZ Opera School Donald Trott
Assistant Director, NZ Opera School Ian Campbell
Chair, NZ Opera School Trust Bryan Wyness

Students attending 2008 NZ Opera School:
Hadleigh Adams, Wellington, Bass Baritone Alexandra Ioan, Auckland, Soprano
Anna Argle, Christchurch, Soprano Georgia Jamieson Emms, Wellington, Soprano
Claire Barton, Dunedin, Mezzo Soprano Matthew Landreth, Dunedin, Baritone
Angela Bjerga, Te Awamutu, Soprano Frances Moore, Wellington, Soprano
Megan Corby, Wellington, Soprano Daniel Morrison, Northland, Bass Baritone
June Dams, Hamilton, Mezzo Soprano Virginia Nicholls, Christchurch, Soprano
Joseph Gardner, Auckland, Tenor Barbara Paterson, Wellington, Soprano
Barbara Graham, Wellington, Soprano Rachelle Pike, Christchurch, Mezzo Soprano/Contralto
Michael Gray, Dunedin, Baritone Michael Rumping, Te Awamutu, Tenor
Derek Hill, Auckland, Tenor Lynley Snelling, Wellington, Soprano
Julia Hill, Hamilton, Soprano Penelope Watson, Auckland, Mezzo Soprano/Contralto

Issued by The NZ Opera School Trust
5 November 2007

NZ Opera School attracts rising stars
NZ Opera School Director, Donald Trott, says the coaches at the Opera School are very carefully chosen as they often have a profound impact on the young singers’ careers. “The opera practitioners we select to coach the students all have international careers and reputations,” he says, “and as a group they provide the students with a unique learning opportunity not readily available elsewhere in New Zealand. The students learn a vast amount from working closely and intensely with these experts and the experience can make a significant difference to their development and future aspirations. As the only residential opera school in New Zealand offering an intensive programme for burgeoning opera talent, we are providing a vital cog in the wheel of these young singers’ careers,” he says.
Simon O’Neill, who has gone on to establish a fine international career, attended the NZ Opera School twice, initially in 1995, the School’s debut year, and again in 1996. “The Opera School played a large part in introducing me to the professional level required for an operatic career,” he says. “Development of vocal technique, operatic style, acting and fitness were all very important. And one person from the 1995/96 Schools has been at the forefront in developing my international operatic career, Frances Wilson. As one of the principal coaches of the School at the time, Ms Wilson installed in me the complete dedication and work needed for an international career.”
Over the years a “who’s who” of young New Zealand opera singers including Simon O’Neill, Carmel Carroll, Benjamin Fafita Makisi, Madeleine Pierard, Zan McKendree-Wright, Kristen Darragh, Wade Kernot and Phillip Rhodes, have attended the School, so places have become highly sought after. Most of the selected students, who come from all over New Zealand, are completing tertiary music studies with intentions of pursuing professional opera careers.
The NZ Opera School receives major support from Creative New Zealand, the New Zealand Community Trust, ASB Community Trust, The New Zealand Community Trust and a number of private individuals. The NBR New Zealand Opera PricewaterhouseCoopers Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artists attend the School each year.


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