Philanthropically-funded role enables Music to grow

01 Feb 2023

Thanks to a philanthropically-funded position, international opera singer Madeleine Pierard has been able to set plans in motion to help grow music, particularly opera, at the University of Waikato.


Professor Pierard is the inaugural Dame Malvina Major Chair in Opera, a role established as part of plans for growth in Music at the University, and to train singers and develop support as they begin their careers. It has been funded by Hamilton’s Sir William and Judi, Lady Gallagher, to honour the career and contributions of opera singer and Senior Fellow in Music, Dame Malvina Major.

A New Zealand-born and raised soprano, Professor Pierard returned home from London in 2021 with her family after performing extensively overseas. She says the Chair in Opera role allows her to contribute to the voice programme and share her current industry knowledge with the University’s up-and-coming performers, while also maintaining her own performing career.

“It is an honour to be the inaugural Dame Malvina Major Chair in Opera. New Zealand has an incredible wealth of talented young singers and having been supported so well in New Zealand myself I am thrilled to share my performing and industry knowledge with them.”

Her first major project was leading the development of Te Pae Kōkako - The Aotearoa New Zealand Opera Studio (TANZOS), launched in 2022, which will provide training from national and international tutors to students within the immersive Master of Music programme in Advanced Opera Studies. In its inaugural year in 2023, six promising young opera singers start on the programme, which Professor Pierard will lead, and will receive intensive coaching and have regular performance opportunities.

“The most unique aspect of this programme is that we are providing industry connections for our singers with international companies and artists without them facing the crippling financial strain of studying at an overseas conservatoire. This is a first for any programme of its kind in New Zealand to combine academic rigour with immersive industry training.”

TANZOS fulfils the long-held vision of Dame Malvina Major, who has long wanted to see New Zealand’s brightest young opera stars trained in-country, without having to face the large costs and family separations caused by having further training overseas before joining the industry.

Professor Pierard says this progress wouldn’t be possible without the support of the Gallaghers and Chair in Opera role.

“I am incredibly grateful to have the support of the Gallaghers in not only funding the Chair in Opera role, but in their commitment to opera and the wider arts community.

“A philanthropically-funded role like this is the pinnacle. It gives you the freedom to continue to pursue your own artistic endeavours, while also sharing that experience and the knowledge you have gained with promising students, who will then go on to share their own skills in the future with the generation behind them.

“It creates a really lovely cycle of giving back and paying it forward, which is ultimately what philanthropy should inspire and I am most grateful to the Gallaghers for helping us achieve this vision.”

Sir William and Lady Judi Gallagher say they are pleased with Professor Pierard’s appointment. “It is clear that Madeleine’s talent and passion for opera and performing make her a fitting choice for a role named after Dame Malvina Major, who has also been a passionate supporter of the University and music. We are proud to lend our support to the Chair in Opera and look forward to seeing the music programme further grow and develop to help burgeoning singers realise their ambitions.”

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