Backstage drama brought to life
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 iticket.co.nz 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.