For nearly two decades people who want to make their names in classical opera in New Zealand have headed to a special place to learn from the best. The New Zealand Opera School in Whanganui is turning young Kiwis into opera stars and changing the public's ideas of the genre at the same time.
When most people think of opera they think of a large old man singing in a foreign language. But the students from the New Zealand Opera School have other ideas.
New Zealand’s top young opera hopefulls put on an impromptu performance at the local markets. Locals flocked to the performance, hearing the voices wafting through the open air.
Bianca Andrew, who led today’s opera flash mob, says the students’ performances are a chance to change perceptions.
“We wanted to show the public what opera is about – having fun and telling a story – and show opera is really accessible,” she says.
The director of the school is confident about the future .
“Opera is here forever,” says Jonathan Alver. “Some of the tunes are some of the most famous in the world. So there’s no way those melodies are ever going to disappear. So we have to make it sexy, vibrant and energetic.”
And that’s what the school wants to achieve as the students have two weeks of intensive training with top tutors. It’s a chance to express their passion for a style of music that’s been around for more than 400 years.
“I’ve always sung and I think there’s nothing like being on stage, the thrill of it, and to learn more and improve my technique and become a better performer,” says opera student Isabella Moore.
“Singing is something I feel I can’t live without,” says opera student Shannon Atkin. “It fills me up and fills my soul I just enjoy being our here, performing and seeing how much enjoyment people get out of it.”
And judging by responses today, people get plenty.