Understanding and unravelling Opera

14 July 2010

Staging an opera is a huge operation. Operas are usually bigger than stage plays, concerts and ballets. They are multi-dimensional, and for students provide a wonderful opportunity to learn the skills and complexities of staging a production.

NBR New Zealand Opera and Waikato University’s Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarship Programme have entered a partnership that will give Hillary Scholars the opportunity to go ‘inside’ an opera and to work in the variety of specialist areas within it.

These may include students from music, dance, graphic design, screen and media, theatre and Maori creative and performing arts.

Aidan Lang, General Director at NBR NZ Opera, says the students will have the opportunity to ‘shadow’ company members. “At first we thought about just having singers involved, but we have our own emerging artist programmes and we saw the potential to involve a wider range of students. What better way to learn than by being involved at rehearsals? Students will see how all the separate facets are drawn together to appear seamless.”

Lang says students will see how performers overcome difficulties, how they get that balance between singing and acting, how directors get the best from the cast, how the sets are designed and created and how technology is used in production to create special effects. “It’s the best learning environment by far.”

There are four students who’ll be involved in the first instance. They’re Kararaina Walker who’s completing a Bachelor of Music with honours and this year will be directing the School of Music Opera. “I would like to shadow the directors, observe the various production roles and be privy to detailed problem solving."

Flautist Taryn Viggiano is a third year music student who would like to learn more about arts administration, while Theatre Studies student Scot Hall is keen to attend dress rehearsals and learn the finer theatrical requirements for staging opera.

Dellie Dellow is also a Theatre Studies student with interest in performance and venue management. For her, the time spent with the opera company will allow her to observe production and stage management as well as operations front of house.

David Griffiths, composer, singer and senior lecturer with the University’s Music Programme, says the opportunity opens up significant possibilities for students in various disciplines to be immersed at the coal face of opera production.

“We’re very grateful to Aidan and NBR New Zealand Opera for making this venture available to our Sir Edmund Hillary Scholars and look forward to a growing partnership that will further the development and advancement of the arts culture in our country and beyond.”

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