Solo show ex­plores poet’s life

Upper Hutt Leader - - OUT & ABOUT - ELEANOR WEN­MAN

An opera singer who at one time never had an inkling she could sing will be tak­ing cen­tre stage in a one-woman show.

So­prano Joanne Roughton-Arnold will be per­form­ing the opera Iris Dream­ing solo at the Adam Cham­ber Mu­sic Fes­ti­val in Nel­son over Wai­tangi week­end.

‘‘It feels amaz­ing to bring it home,’’ the Up­per Hutt ex­pat said.

Based on the life of writer Robin Hyde, born Iris Wilkin­son, the opera charts the poet’s life from her time in war-torn China to Lon­don on the brink of World War 11. The Nel­son per­for­mance will be the New Zealand pre­miere.

Grow­ing up in Up­per Hutt, Roughton-Arnold spent much of her time as a child and teen learn­ing to play the vi­o­lin.

‘‘I thought it was go­ing to be my life,’’ she said, ‘‘I played many, many con­certs with the string orches­tra.’’

She was so sure her fu­ture was with the in­stru­ment she de­cided to move to Ox­ford to study with a world-renowned vi­o­lin­ist. It was early 1995 and to raise the money for a one-way fare to the UK, she started busk­ing.

Once the money was raised she headed to Trin­ity Col­lege in Lon­don for post-grad­u­ate vi­o­lin stud­ies. Her switch to singing came when her then-flat­mate sug­gested she try it.

‘‘I’d said ‘I wish I could sing’ and I tried it out. I never imag­ined it was any­thing real but I fell head over heels in love with [singing],’’ RoughtonArnold said. ’’I had no inkling I had a voice.’’

She took up vo­cal stud­ies at the Birm­ing­ham Con­ser­va­toire and be­gan per­form­ing on stage and in choirs. Dur­ing one per­for­mance, in be­tween songs, a crew mem­ber sug­gested she com­mis­sion her own opera.

With that in mind, she ap­proached Dame Gil­lian White­head to com­pose an opera.

A trio of Kiwi mu­si­cians will ac­com­pany her at her Nel­son per­for­mance and Sara Brodie will be direct­ing the per­for­mance. While RoughtonArnold will be singing solo, the per­for­mance was the re­sult of team­work.

‘‘It’s a col­lab­o­ra­tive thing with the mu­si­cians there - we work as a team.’’

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