Award-winning soprano and Waikato alumna is branching out into the world

7 March 2023

Felicity Tomkins onstage at the Lexus Song Quest 2022. Photo credit: Hagen Hopkins

With one of her recent achievements on home soil having been the runner up at the prestigious Lexus song contest, which was held in Wellington this past July, Felicity Tomkins has now returned to the United States, continuing her studies at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Felicity credits the University of Waikato for helping her to build a solid foundation to take her career offshore.

“My time at Waikato helped to prepare me for the next step in my career in working with many fabulous teachers, learning new skills, building my confidence and the independence that I needed.”

Over six years’ she completed her Master of Music (First Class Honours), Bachelor of Music (First Class Honours), Bachelor of Music (Vocal Performance) and a Bachelor of Science (Biochemistry).   Felicity was also a Sir Edmund Hillary Scholar and Arts Medal winner.

“I really enjoyed my time at Waikato. It gave me the opportunity to specialise, and the environment to work hard to achieve it.  It was a supportive community - I knew everyone and they looked out for me.”

Felicity says that studying both Music and Science was a juggle at times. “Despite the long hours, completing a conjoint degree was significant in giving me the chance to focus on both of my passions, and I didn’t have to choose one over the other. Any music department like Waikato is naturally a tight-knit community, and the biochemistry networks gave me contrast in developing a larger world view.”

In her later years of study, Felicity was selected for the New Zealand Opera Studio Artist Programme with the support of Dame Malvina Major.  She also attended the summer New Zealand Opera School several times. These programmes helped her to gain further experience before heading overseas to the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM).

Felicity is the first New Zealand singer to attend CCM, and is in her second year of the Artist Diploma in Opera Vocal Performance, studying under the tutelage of internationally acclaimed tenor Stuart Skelton.  Just one of the many highlights so far has been a five-week programme in Munich at the Bayerische Staatsoper, where she had the opportunity to immerse herself in German culture and language.  “CCM is simply fantastic - we had our first opera production for the University year this past November, Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites, where I had a role debut as Madame Lidoine, which was such a rewarding experience.”

Felicity says that she has noticed that overseas artists have the advantage of having more access to a different structure of resources, roles and performance experience. “Whilst we eventually all do have to make the exciting step in going overseas for our careers, hopefully the launch of Te Pae Kōkako - The Aotearoa New Zealand Opera Studio (TANZOS) will help to further enhance the preparatory years prior to leaving New Zealand,” she says.

TANZOS is an immersive Master of Music programme that the University of Waikato has recently launched, which will provide opera singers with international-level training and experience, from both national and visiting international tutors, as well as industry residencies in New Zealand and abroad. It is the only one of its kind in Aotearoa and Felicity is excited about this opportunity for future students.

“Being able to create a new structure for the talented singers and teachers in New Zealand will create a great collaborative hub.  TANZOS has the potential to become the premier New Zealand place to be for aspiring opera singers.”

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