Waikato opera programme takes young New Zealand talent to the world stage

Next week, six young singers from across New Zealand will take the stage at the Sydney Opera House for auditions as part of their university degree.

07 Jun 2023

The opportunity to take the stage internationally is part of the new, world-class opera programme at Te Pae Kōkako – The Aotearoa New Zealand Opera Studio (TANZOS), established by the University of Waikato.

TANZOS is the first programme of its kind in New Zealand. It will bring the world’s most respected opera practitioners to Waikato to provide international-level training for the nation’s most promising talent. The intensive, dedicated programme for aspiring singers that combines academic, professional and in-situ industry training is the long-held vision and dream of legendary New Zealand opera singer Dame Malvina Major.

“It has been a long-term vision to see a programme in New Zealand that will train and support the international careers of talented opera singers. I’m excited to see my vision becoming a reality,” says Dame Malvina.

From left: Alfred Fonoti-Fuimaono, Katherine Winitana (Ngaariki Kaiputahi, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa), Emmanuel Fonoti-Fuimaono, Yufan Cecilia Zhang, Taylor Wallbank (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Heretaunga), Rhiannon Cooper. Photo credit: Charles Brooks

Te Pae Kōkako is headed by leading Kiwi soprano Madeleine Pierard (the inaugural Dame Malvina Major Chair in Opera), who says New Zealand has always punched above its weight when producing world-class opera singers.

“We have so many talented singers in New Zealand. Until now, the only way to make the necessary connections within the industry and receive this level of training has been to attend conservatoire overseas, usually at the cost of over $100,000,” says Madeleine.

“This programme brings the best of the best to Aotearoa and provides opportunities for our young students to take part in international auditions overseas.”

In June 2023, the programme will see six young singers from across New Zealand take the stage at the Sydney Opera House as part of a partnership with Opera Australia, the first of their international opera auditions as part of their degree. Among the students is an ex-Probation Officer for the Department of Corrections, an ex-national rugby league rep and a student that credits his survival to discovering his love for opera singing. All six have diverse backgrounds, and singing opera has brought them together.

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor, Professor Neil Quigley, says the University is proud to provide a high-quality programme and prepare students from across New Zealand to hold their own on the global stage.

“The world of classical music and opera is competitive. By providing world-class education and helping create strong international connections with opera companies and young artist programmes, students of TANZOS are prepared to perform on the world stage.”

TANZOS has a maximum of six places available to aspiring opera singers, each selected through auditions and supported by a significant grant to enable the specialised nature of the programme and to make sure that no matter what students’ circumstances are, if they’ve got what it takes, TANZOS will help them to get there.

Learn more about the programme and this year’s talent here.

Related news