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Gondolas in Venice

Katherine McIndoes, Oliver Sewell, Kieran Rayner, Eliza Boom with aestro Wyn Davies seated at Piano. Credit: New Zealand Embassy, Rome


Patricia Hurley has been organising her Masterclasses for New Zealand opera singers in a beautiful 18th century Villa in Tuscany since 2002. Over 60 of New Zealand’s top young opera singers have attended this unique course, often visiting the places of Verdi and Puccini and iconic opera theatres. They have performed in Concerts in many stunning locations.

Because learning Italian is so necessary for opera singers and because there are few learning opportunities in New Zealand, Patricia, after being manager of the Wellington opera company, decided to seek opportunities in Italy for singers to be introduced to Italian language and culture, the opera icons of Italy and to perform on Italian stages.

This year performers were tenor Oliver Sewell from New York having completed a Masters at the Manhattan School of Music, Kieran Rayner, baritone, studying at the Royal College of Music in London, Katherine McIndoe and Eliza Boom, both sopranos and Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artists with New Zealand Opera.

Each day the Artists had lessons with foremost language teacher, Giancarla Bindi, from nearby Siena and individual coaching with Maestro Wyn Davies preparing for a Concert in the Grand Salone of the Villa attended by over 80 expatriates and Italians.

This was followed by another performance in the small and beautiful traditional Teatro Francesco Torti in Bevagna, Umbria, attended by a very enthusiastic audience.

A third Concert took place in Rome at the New Zealand Embassy Residence, hosted by H.E. Patrick Rata, New Zealand Ambassador to Italy, where his guests enjoyed the very high quality of our performance.

All Concerts were triumphs with solos and duets from Handel to the Bel Canto repertoire of Rossini and Bellini to Puccini. The final “Pokarekare Ana” was an emotional experience not only for expatriate New Zealanders in the audiences but for Italians too!

Katherine McIndoe describes the Italy experience:

My ultimate impression of the trip was of the extraordinary way in which Italian opera is tied to its country, people, landscape, and culture. I was struck by this when we visited Bevagna, and performed in the beautiful Teatro Francesco Torti. Oliver was onstage singing ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ from Donzetti’s L’elisir d’amore, and I was standing backstage waiting to go on after him, to sing Adina’s aria from the same opera. As I was listening to Ollie singing, I looked out the window onto the cobbled square behind the theatre, where night was falling and people were sitting around talking and eating at tables in the street. I felt that this scene could have been unfolding in exactly the same way in that square when Donizetti was writing the opera, and that this could well be the lovesick Nemorino’s small town. The incredible thing about visiting Italy is that we can, to a certain extent, explore the country the way that the great operatic composers experienced it: the buildings still stand, music is still heard in the opera houses, and a love and appreciation for the finer things in life (music, art, food, family) still inform Italian culture. Visiting Italy and being immersed in its culture is not only a joy, but as singers, it is necessary in order to understand the music we sing, and to perform it in the spirit in which it was originally written and received.

The singers are very grateful for scholarships received from The Dame Malvina Major Foundation.

In 2007 Patricia was awarded the Italian honour of Cavaliere, Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy, for services to the promotion of culture between Italy and New Zealand.

Cav. Patricia Hurley