Back­stage drama brought to life

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

Imag­ine wait­ing back­stage be­fore per­form­ing in a masterclass with opera le­gend Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

The nerves, the egos and the for­got­ten lines of opera’s green rooms are be­ing brought to life in a new cham­ber opera com­posed by mezzo so­prano Claire Sc­holes.

The Kiri Masterclass, a run­ner-up for the Opera Fac­tory’s 2012 Com­po­si­tional Con­test, premieres at the Opera Fac­tory tonight.

It is a short, con­tem­po­rary opera of­fer­ing a rare glimpse into the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of eight univer­sity singers as they pre­pare for a masterclass with the worl­drenowned diva.

For Ms Sc­holes, imag­in­ing the back­stage drama wasn’t dif­fi­cult as she was able to draw on her own ex­pe­ri­ences of work­ing with Dame Kiri.

The Pon­sonby com­poser cre­ated the opera within a three-month pe­riod specif­i­cally for the Opera Fac­tory’s com­pe­ti­tion.

‘‘I had been in a sort of frus­tra­tion about op­eras be­ing so dif­fi­cult to sus­pend one’s be­lief, so I thought if I was go­ing to write some­thing it would have to be real and be­liev­able.’’

All of the per­form­ers hail from the Univer­sity of Auck­land’s voice class.

Each singer em­bod­ies a dif­fer­ent per­son­al­ity typ­i­cal of those who wait in the wings of opera theatres across New Zealand.

‘‘There’s the in­tensely driven and am­bi­tious ones, the ones who have a lot of tal­ent but have been pushed into it so they are nei­ther here nor there about it and some who are in­cred­i­bly lazy but charm­ing and get away with mur­der.’’

Ms Sc­holes iden­ti­fies more with the mezzo lead – a young singer who is thrust from a small town into the bright lights of Auck­land city.

As a young per­former a masterclass with a le­gend such as Dame Kiri brings with it slight ap­pre­hen­sion, she says.

‘‘You sort of get all worked up and then you just get on with it.

‘‘Some­times peo­ple tak­ing master­classes are quite ‘about’ putting on a show about them­selves – it’s their show and it’s not about the stu­dents – but Dame Kiri is very per­son­able and there’s a gen­uine de­sire to help.’’

It is the first full opera Ms Sc­holes has com­posed and, due to the short time frame, one which she had to cre­ate with­out col­lab­o­rat­ing with a li­bret­tist, the writer of an opera’s text.

Opera is the ul­ti­mate com­bi­na­tion of art forms, she says.

‘‘It’s mu­sic that has to carry a story and when it’s with or­ches­tral ac­com­pa­ni­ment there’s this vast ar­ray of colours drawn on.

‘‘It’s a re­ally ex­cit­ing the­atri­cal ex­pe­ri­ence.’’

The Kiri Masterclass is show­ing in a dou­ble bill of­fer­ing with The Old Maid and the Thief at the Opera Fac­tory, 7 Eden St, Newmarket un­til Satur­day.

Go to or phone 361 1000 for tick­ets.


Rare glimpse: Mezzo so­prano Claire Sc­holes is of­fer­ing au­di­ences a fly-on-the-wall look at what it’s like in the green room of a masterclass with opera le­gend Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

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