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Opera singers win coveted places

8 June 2008

Opera singers win coveted places as Emerging Artists

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Dame Malvina Major, Daniel O'Connor, Claire Barton, Anna Argyle, John Harvey


Three aspiring New Zealand singers have been selected by The NBR New Zealand Opera as 2008-2009 PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artists. They are Anna Argyle (soprano from Christchurch), Claire Barton (mezzo soprano from Dunedin), and Daniel O’Connor (baritone from Wellington).

The PwC Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artists take significant steps towards a professional career in opera when they embark on a year-long internship with The NBR New Zealand Opera.

General Director Aidan Lang says The NBR New Zealand Opera is committed to fostering the growth of opera in New Zealand by nurturing the country’s promising young singers – the opera professionals of tomorrow. “The development of new talent is the lifeblood of opera,” he says, “and one of the key roles of our Company is to identify that local talent and give these young singers a head-start in the competitive world of professional music.”

With support from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Dame Malvina Major Foundation the internship complements academic achievement by exposing each of the interns to a learning environment that places emphasis on practical experience within the professional opera world. This includes vocal tuition with Dame Malvina Major and coaching sessions with other industry professionals. In addition, Emerging Artists are given small supporting and/or understudy roles and are part of the Company’s chorus. A variety of concert engagements are also a feature of the Artists’ internship.

“Our young performers deserve to have their potential recognised and nurtured, just as those in the sporting and business worlds do,” says Dame Malvina Major. “It is essential to continue to foster our grass-roots cultural talent and this can only happen with the ongoing support of organisations such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, my Foundation and the opera company.”

John Harvey, PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Human Capital Leader for New Zealand, says Anna, Claire and Daniel have demonstrated leadership and excellence in their chosen field. “As a firm these attributes are extremely important to us and our clients. We’re firmly focused on recognising talented people and we're very proud to be supporting New Zealand’s next generation of opera singers.”

Anna, Claire and Daniel follow in the steps of a now long list of young Kiwi singers who are former Emerging Artists. Many have gone on to attain places at prestigious music colleges overseas to further their studies and are now starting to achieve success on opera stages and concert platforms around the world, including New Zealand.

“These young singers get their first real taste of life as a professional performer through this internship,” says Dame Malvina. “The experience gained is something they take with them and it continues to influence them, wherever they are in the world. It’s important for our young talent to experience working in a professional opera environment and in New Zealand we are lucky enough to be able to offer this opportunity. It also allows them to form working relationships with other young artists, which will stand them in good stead for the future.”

Artist Biographies

Anna Argyle

Twenty-two year old soprano Anna Argyle is currently studying for a Bachelor of Music (Honours) in Performance at the University of Canterbury. She has trained with Dame Malvina Major since 2003, has attended masterclasses with Paul Farrington, Vinson Cole, Gary Relyea and Elizabeth Connell, and in 2007 and 2008 was a member of the New Zealand Opera School. In 2007 she was awarded the Dame Malvina Major Foundation Scholarship for study at the University of Canterbury. Recent performance experience includes soloist with the Christchurch Symphony’s Last Night of the Proms, chorus member for Southern Opera’s production of Carmen, and soloist in the New Zealand premiere of Hannah’s Song by Katherine Dienes with the Washington Women’s Chorus and the Cecilian Singers.

Claire Barton

Twenty-six year old mezzo soprano Claire Barton is currently studying for a Master of Music in Performance Voice with Isabel Cunningham and Prof. Terence Dennis at the University of Otago. She made her operatic debut in 2006 with the Dunedin Opera Company, singing the role of Mrs Slender in Salieri’s Falstaff. Over the years Claire has won numerous prizes, awards and competitions. In 2007 she won the NZ Opera Society Scholarship at the New Zealand Singing School, was a finalist in the Lexus Song Quest, won the Sealord Aria Contest, the Wellington Regional Aria, and the Otago Daily Times Aria. Later in the year she placed second in the New Zealand Aria Contest (formerly known as the Lockwood Aria). Earlier this year she was selected to attend the New Zealand Opera School.

Daniel O'Connor

Twenty-three year old baritone Daniel O'Connor started singing at Wellington High School under Rosie Salas. He has been in a number of choirs, including community, youth, and the Victoria Voices. He started performance music in 2005, and is now in his honours year at Victoria University, studying under Emily Mair. He has performed in a number of smaller scale operas with Victoria University’s Opera Victoria including a principal role in the 2007 production of John Gaye's Polly.


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