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.