News from around the world - James Ioelu
Posted on 15 April 2016
In 2015, there have been many ‘aha’ moments around what it takes to succeed in this profession that I couldn’t possibly recount them all in one newsletter (maybe I should start a column!). I started the year with an auditions tour in America and the UK. Auditions were nothing like I imagined; the universal audition experience seems to be that singers in general face quite a bit of rejection, and I was no exception to that rule. I felt better when a friend mentioned that if you succeed in one out of twenty auditions then you are on the right track. As a singer, the process will either make or break you. You have to believe with every ounce of your being that you’ve got what it takes, independent of the audition results. I learned that the opera world is full of opinions (even contradictory ones) but that the most important thing is to consult wisely and trust you own judgement and professional instincts.
In late December, I got the call from Sheri Greenawald, director of the prestigious Merola Opera programme to offer me a place, and the title role for Don Pasquale, one of three operas they planned to produce over the American summer. The Merola experience was amazing, the team (and their donors) are so generous and committed to building the next generation of singers. I particularly enjoyed working with the team for Don Pasquale, including Warren Jones and Nic Muni as there is nothing more enjoyable than getting to play the fool in a comic opera! Another highlight was working with the great American Bass-Baritone, James Morris – I was scheduled for two lessons but when two more slots opened up to work with him, I jumped at the opportunity. The summer at Merola has really taught me to own my performance, to trust my instincts and to believe in my instrument.
After a short trip home to New Zealand, where I performed a fundraising concert hosted by the James Wallace Trust, I set out for the National Opera Studio in London for a 9 month residency. This last recital at the Rannoch House will always be special for me as it was the last concert my grandmother was to attend before she passed away soon after I arrived in London. I have now been at NOS for 3 months and I feel I am really beginning to hone in, and refine various aspects of my voice. I am especially grateful for the scholarship from the Auckland branch of the Victoria League which allows me to reside at Victoria House for the duration of my residency. At NOS, I have been fortunate to work with amazing coaches such as Della Jones, David Gowland and Steven Maughan to name a few. Another perk of being in London is that I am a short train ride away from Dame Kiri’s home. I have been a number of times to work with Dame Kiri, and always to good effect – I come away feel reinvigorated, enthused, and reassured of the direction that my voice is heading (up, it seems!). I am in awe of Dame Kiri’s commitment to young singers – despite a busy schedule she manages to find the time to offer support in any way she can.
Life in London around the world cup was an experience and a half, never have I felt so much pride in being a New Zealander as during those final weeks. The next couple of months are exciting. I am literally on my way to Leeds (I am writing this update on the train) for a week of singing at Opera North. I’m looking forward to catching up with Phillip Rhodes who will be there as well. We have an English song recital as well as my own recital in the next couple of weeks but the thing I am most excited about is seeing my family as they come to visit for Christmas.
Finally, I would like to finish by wishing all of the supporters of the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation a blessed Christmas – hopefully you all manage to get some rest, spend time with family and have a chance to contemplate the important things in life! I thank you once again for your support – there is no way I could be where I am without the support of the foundation, and I am well aware that the foundation relies on the support of many generous individuals and groups.