New course for budding opera stars

5 September 2016

Dame Malvina

Dame Malvina Major, right, preparing students for a career in opera.

Singers keen to have an international career in opera will be able to refine their vocal skills and learn techniques for career survival in a new course being offered by the University of Waikato’s Conservatorium of Music.

Led by Dame Malvina Major, the Postgraduate Certificate in Opera Studies is the first and only one of its kind in the New Zealand university system. It involves a 12-week intensive programme, designed to engage students who are interested in developing a career on the international opera circuit, to prepare them for competitions and auditions, emerging artists’ programmes and performance.

“We’ve brought together a group of high-calibre musicians and teachers to lead the course and who’ll work with the students on language, acting and stage craft and recitative – all the essential elements needed to be an opera singer,” says Dame Malvina.

Some of those visiting teachers are Stuart Maunder, head of Opera New Zealand, tenor Simon O’Neill, mezzo sopranos Helen Medlyn and Isabel Cunningham, sopranos Catrin Johnsson and Anna Pierard, musical director Jose Aparicio and vocal health and psychologist Michael Blake.

“The calibre of tutors is extremely high,” Dame Malvina says. “And then we’ve got people on our permanent staff at the Conservatorium who are specialists in their own right, including our new head of voice, Stephanie Acraman who will be teaching movement and acting.”

The students are required to perform for the public; oratorio excerpts after six weeks, and at the end of the programme they’ll stage part of an opera.

“Last year we trialled the programme, and finished with The Marriage of Figaro,” says Dame Malvina. “But unlike a full opera, as well as performing excerpts, we also demonstrated how an opera is put together. It gave the audience a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes and the difficulties that are sometimes faced by budding opera singers.”

The next intake for the Dame Malvina Major Postgraduate Certificate in Opera Studies is in A Semester 2017, running March to June.  “Our first course last year was a success and we received good feedback from the students who studied with us. Their responses have enabled us to refine the programme even more. I’m really pleased with what we’re able to offer voice students,” Dame Malvina says.

Find out more about studying a Postgraduate Certificate in Music specialising in opera studies.