Waikato students take leading roles in opera

14 February 2018

Lofi Lolohea, Emmanuel Fuimaono, Faamanu Fuimaono and Taylor Wallbank

Festival Opera's season of Madame Butterfly opens at the Napier Municipal Theatre this week, and four Waikato students will take the lead alongside international opera stars.

Festival Opera exists to showcase the home grown talent of New Zealand, and through youth initiative Project Prima Volta, it aims to show young people their potential. Project Prima Volta (‘first time’ in Italian) will run alongside the opera production, giving young singers a chance to explore their talents in an empowering environment, experience the highs and lows of performance, and ignite a spark of creativity.

Emmanuel Fuimaono, who completed his first year studying music at the University of Waikato in 2017, will take on the role of Goro in Madame Butterfly. Other leading singers, Taylor Wallbank, Lofi Lolohea and Faamanu Fuimaono will also begin their studies at the University of Waikato this year.

"These young singers already have significant stage experience under their belt and now with the opportunity to sharpen their focus solely on music, their development will be rapid and stunning,” says Anna Pierard, Festival Opera Director. “If Emmanuel’s progress since joining Waikato is any indicator, this new intake of young Project Prima Volta singers will be in wonderful hands at the University."

The young singers are excited and honoured to be part of the opera, learning from the top names in the industry.

"There's no rank system with this opera,” says Emmanuel. “Not only Pene Pati, but the other international artists, Toni Marie Palmertree, Gary Griffiths, Rebecca Afonwy-Jones are all really approachable. They look out for us and give quick tips in between breaks, which I think is one of the most beautiful things about these singers! I want to do what they do – make a career and share it with the world.”

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