Where are they now?
Posted on 19 December 2013
The Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation was launched in 2004. Over the past decade the Foundation has worked with and supported many young talented singers and with the help of corporates, sponsors and many individual donors made over 100 grants of various sizes. Dame Kiri has mentored many of these singers. In this and future editions of Aria we will catchup with some of the recipients and discover where they are on their musical journeys.
From Andri Björn Róbertsson
I studied at the Reykjavík Academy of Singing and Vocal Arts with Ólöf Kolbrún Harðardóttir 2005-2010 after having been singing since the age of five in choirs. It was there I met Dame Kiri Te Kanawa first, in a masterclass in 2008, after which she invited me to come to the Solti Te Kanawa Accademia di bel canto in 2009. After graduating in Iceland I moved to London where I was granted a place at the postgraduate course at the Royal Academy of Music. After that I went on the Academy‘s Opera Course for one year. During my time there I sang the following roles; Gremin in Eugene Onegin, Don Villotto in Haydn‘s La vera costanza and Arthur in The Lighthouse by Peter Maxwell Davies, as well as doing well in competitions, winning three different song prizes and RAM, as well as i.e. coming second in the Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards and winning the International Mozart Competition in London.I am now a trainee at the National Opera Studio in London where I am supported by the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation, for which I am very grateful. I will be singing main roles in two new operas in March in a project of Aldeburgh Music, Royal Opera House Covent Garden and Opera North. I will be finishing my programme at the National Opera Studio in June 2014.
From Lauryna Bendziunaite
During the past year I have been working in Sweden with the Swedish Royal Opera, repeating the role of Musetta which I had performed with them in 2011. I then toured this role with the Narrlandsoperan and Riksteatern. At home in Lithuania I have had concerts with the National State Symphony orchestra and the National Phiharmonic Symphony Orchestra with whom I have premiered “Miesto labirintas” a work written for me by the composer Loreta Narvilaite. 2014 promises to be an exciting year. In May I will sing The First Nymph in Rusalka at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. In June I will sing Musetta for the Stuttgart Opera where I will join the ensemble from September singing a variety of roles. All this work has grown out of what Dame Kiri taught me and the inspiration which she passed on to me. The support that I received from the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation bridged the gap between my studies and my work today and gave me a solid base from which to face the challenges of the profession.
From Phillip Rhodes
The world of Opera around the world is constantly changing and very few singers have ever really lived a comfortable lifestyle. The hustle to make a living is a constant challenge. The most enduring feature of the Foundation, is their vision and the type of continuing support they are willing to offer and the ability to adapt and evolve in order to offer genuine support. The Foundation, thanks to the many years of knowledge of Dame Kiri, is able to keep up with the needs of young singers and keep a watchful eye on not only the financial needs, but also the educational and developmental practices in order to move forward in establishing a greater understanding of what is needed in this day and age of opera. I have had the good fortune of being in work since graduating from the Cardiff Academy of Voice, being invited to sing in various festivals and concerts in the UK, Ireland, Italy, France, Jerusalem, Amsterdam, Australia and New Zealand.In 2014 I will sing Conte Di Luna for the Dorset Opera Festival’s production of Il Trovatore, and make my début for Opera North (Leeds) as Aeneas in Handel’s Dido and Aeneas. This body of work with Opera North has enabled a continued working relationship having covered roles I would hope to sing in the near future including one of my favourite dramatic characters, Iago (Otello), and also leading to being cast in their upcoming production of La Boheme to be directed by the Phillida Lloyd famed for directing the films ‘The Iron Lady’ and ‘Mamma Mia’.
From Jonathan Abernethy
The past year with Opera Australia has been such a full on experience with everything feeling like it’s happening at about twice the speed it should. Trying to give a brief account of the past 13months or so seems impossible, I’ll give it a go. The bar was set high with Lucia di Lammermoor with performances in both Sydney and Melbourne. This was both my professional debut for the company as well as in the role, it was also my first time being a soloist with a full orchestra. To say I hit the ground running is a slight understatement. Following Lucia I was covering one of the Jews in Salome and learning the role of Fenton to cover that role soon after. Just as I thought I was about to get a break and absorb the musical tsunami I’d just waded through I was learning the role of Remandado to cover the Spectacle that is Opera on the Harbour, which in 2012 saw Carmen take the stage. This was an incredible experience due to the scale of this event, as it was so different to the shows put on at the Sydney Opera House. After a short break it was time to dive into learning the Oz Opera version of Don Giovanni. This was a slightly compressed version to be sung in English. To date this was probably the biggest task I’d been given by the company and I think my stagecraft, characterisation and vocal abilities developed hugely on this tour. After a good break I’m now back in the mix starting off my second year with Opera Australia as Tamino in the Magic Flute. This is a very exciting and challenging role as the production is very intricate and detailed. So far rehearsals seem to be going very well and the colourful costumes and set add to some great music. Once the Flute opens I’ll be starting rehearsals for Eugene Onegin where I am to cover the role of the poet Lensky. From Russia to the Gold Coast, where I’ll be playing Tamino in a new production of The Magic Flute. This ‘Indiana Jones’ style show will be a great opportunity to try a few new ideas and approaches for Tamino. Fast forward to the end of the year and Dec 2014 will be my debut as Fenton the young lover in Falstaff. So by all accounts it’s a very exciting but extremely busy 12 months ahead of me, I’m looking forward to building on my past year and focus on really learning the roles to the best of my ability, so I have a good platform for the future. The Opera Australia Young Artist Program has been an incredible experience and I’m sure will continue to be so over the next year. It has really brought my skillset up to a much higher standard in such a short space of time. I’m very grateful to the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation for the ongoing support they have given me and the advice they have provided over the past few years.
From Claire Egan
Since receiving grants and support from the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation, I have completed my studies at the Cardiff International Academy of Voice and now base myself in London. This summer I have covered the role of Konstanze (Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail) for the Garsington Opera Festival - and had the pleasure of standing in to sing a final stage and orchestral rehearsal. I also performed the role in October for a fringe opera company in London. Other roles I have performed this year include Violetta (La Traviata) Queen of the Night and Pamina (The Magic Flute). Last year I covered the role of Violetta (La Traviata) at the Theatre an der Wien as part of the Vienna Festival. I then had to return home to New Zealand, and after a gruelling visa process, was finally granted the Exceptional Talent Visa through the British Arts Council, allowing me to return to the UK. Other highlights since completing my studies include being an English National Opera Opera Works Artist, touring Malaysia singing Violetta (La Traviata) for PJ Live Arts, winning the 28th Premio Lirico Internazionale Piero Boni competition in Mantua Italy, performing the role of Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) at the Soho Theatre in London, and performing the roles of Bretonne & Deux Adolescent on the main stage of the Wexford Opera Festival in Ireland.