Tawa woman opera’s new first lady


‘‘I was re­ally touched by the music. It re­ally does get you right in the heart.’’

For­mer Tawa Col­lege so­prano Amelia Berry oozes am­bi­tion and pas­sion on and off the stage.

It’s fit­ting, then, that the 27-year old has re­turned from New York to play the First Lady in the New Zealand Opera’s mag­i­cal fairy­tale, The Magic Flute.

The show fin­ished a run in Welling­ton last week and has now moved to Auck­land.

Berry taps the sparkly fake fin­ger­nails she is wear­ing to get into cos­tume for the role.

Dur­ing the dress re­hearsal, on stage in the first act, she dis­plays the tal­ent that direc­tor Sara Brodie no­ticed when she di­rected the stu­dent while she was study­ing music at Vic­to­ria Univer­sity.

Wear­ing a floor-length wig that drapes over the floor and a sparkling blue dress, the win­ner of the 2015 AMP Schol­ar­ship loves dress­ing up and be­ing some­one else.

As First Lady, she is one of three other worldly women in the singspiel, which in­cludes singing and spo­ken di­a­logue.

Ever since she sang in the school choir at Tawa Col­lege, Berry felt her call­ing was to per­form and to sing.

She es­ti­mates she has spent about $200,000 get­ting to where she is.

‘‘Be­ing a singer is ex­pen­sive. I don’t think peo­ple re­alise how much it costs to be­come a trained singer,’’ she says.

The vi­va­cious brunette dis- cov­ered opera watch­ing her Tu­ran­dot, at 19.

‘‘For a clas­si­cally in­clined voice, there are only cer­tain things you can do. I didn’t want to be in a pro­fes­sional choir.

‘‘I got to univer­sity and my teacher pushed me in that di­rec­tion, and I found I was re­ally touched by the music.

‘‘It re­ally does get you right in the heart. I was inspired by that and I love per­form­ing.’’

She spent three years at the pres­ti­gious Man­hat­tan School of Music, af­ter she grad­u­ated with a first-class hon­ours de­gree in music per­for­mance from Vic­to­ria Univer­sity.

Berry made her de­but with New Zealand Opera three years ago, but didn’t star in Welling­ton un­til late 2014, when she per­formed the prin­ci­pal part of Zer­lina in Don Giovanni.

She muses that act­ing is equally as im­por­tant as the singing in an opera.

‘‘If you hear a beau­ti­ful voice but there’s no pas­sion be­hind it, you go away feel­ing flat. Whereas, you go to a per­for­mance and you see some­one spilling their guts quite first late, opera, out, then that’s what moves you.’’

In New York since Jan­uary, Berry has been work­ing on new arias for com­pe­ti­tions and au­di­tions. She also nan­nies and works at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Opera Gift Shop, which has the dou­ble ad­van­tage of al­low­ing her to see ev­ery opera per­formed in one of the world’s great­est opera houses.

‘‘Opera is re­ally quite a self­di­rected ca­reer. I do a lot of prac­tice at home, and trans­lat­ing and mem­o­ris­ing. Even when I’m not do­ing it as my main fo­cus, I’ve got some­thing go­ing on.’’

New York, she says, is the clas­si­cal music hub in the United States. It’s where opera and music com­pa­nies go to re­cruit, and is over­flow­ing with opera singers.

With a goal on an in­ter­na­tional ca­reer, Berry has her sights set on some big roles.

‘‘I re­ally like roles where there is char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment, but there is lots of lay­ers to un­cover. I re­ally love sink­ing my teeth into a role and find­ing dif­fer­ent el­e­ments to draw on.’’

Amelia Berry, right, in one of her early opera pro­duc­tions, The Mar­riage of Fi­garo, in 2010.

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