Update on singers supported by The Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation
Posted on 25 July 2017
I’m writing this update from beautiful Aix-en-Provence in France. I’m about to leave my little apartment and head down to the Theatre De Jeu Paume for the premier performance of a new production of Erismena, by Francesco Cavalli. Following the festival I head back to Australia and perform a Lieder recital for Opera Australia alongside Anna Dowsley and Siro Battaglin on piano. I’m really looking forward to performing some of my favourite music by Schubert, Schumann and Wolf with various surprise accompaniments along the way. After the recital I head down to Hobart to sing Remendado in Carmen with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, joining fellow kiwi Teddy Tahu Rhodes. Already a completely sold out concert in Hobart which will make for an exciting week of preparation followed by what will no doubt be a thrilling performance. My Carmen excitement is boosted by the fact that presently at the festival is an incredible tenor Michael Fabiano making his debut as Don Jose. Finally to end the year I’ll be making the move across to Switzerland to join the Zürich Opera International Opera Studio, starting in September and I’ll be arriving to various productions already underway for the upcoming season.
Last month I performed the title role in Guildhall’s production of Händel’s Radamisto. It was a wonderful opportunity to have a big role to get stuck into, and to sing such fantastic music. I was delighted to have Gillian and Deborah from the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation present on my opening night.
In May, I was one of four singers selected to sing in the Gold Medal, Guildhall’s most prestigious competition held in the Barbican Concert Hall. Although I wasn’t awarded the prize – I felt a huge sense of accomplishment just being a finalist, and enjoyed every moment!
By the time you read this I will have performed in Manon Lescaut with the Auckland Philharmonic and will soon return to my second home in London for another year. I have recently been announced as a Guildhall Artist Fellow for 2017/18. This position provides me with ongoing access to the School’s facilities and practice rooms, as well as lessons with my teacher and coaches. In return, I will join the Guildhall staff to tutor younger students in French lyric diction and recital programming - two subjects I am passionate about!
In October, I am a semi-finalist in the Neue Stimmen opera competition in Germany, and then a few weeks later, my pianist Dylan Perez and I are going to Paris to compete in the final rounds of the Concours International de Chant-Piano Nadia et Lili Boulanger.
Dame Kiri and her team at the Foundation have been with me every single step of the way since I moved to London three years ago. I am so grateful to them all for believing in my work and helping me on my journey.
The 2016/17 Season has been an extremely busy and rewarding one. As a Jette Parker Young Artist, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the Royal Opera House stage with artists including Renee Fleming, Angela Gheorghiu, Gerald Finley, Sir John Tomlinson, Sir Thomas Allen (the list goes on!) and to top it all off I am finishing my year playing Roderigo against Jonas Kaufmann’s Otello conducted by Tony Pappano. Talk about dreams coming true!
In a couple of months I will have lived in London for four years and I feel so lucky to have done so. It’s a simply incredible city and with so many Kiwis over here it feels like a home away from home. Just yesterday I ran into our very own Simon O’Neill at the dress rehearsal of Otello. With the home-team support and the wonderful Dame Kiri looking after us, what more could we ask for!
The Jette Parker Young Artist Programme has been absolutely amazing, I can’t believe I’m already halfway through it. How time flies! The seemingly limitless opportunities and experiences the programme provides will stay with me forever. My next year is, if possible, even more jam-packed than this past one and will involve eight Royal Opera productions. I feel more ready than ever to take on this challenge.
The 2017/18 season promises to be a great year. I am especially looking forward to taking on the role Don Jose in the JPYA production of La Tragedie de Carmen (Peter Brook’s reduction of Bizet’s Carmen). However, there is still Otello, the JPYAP Summer Performance and a much needed holiday in France with my family before we get there!
I am in the process of getting settled in the U.K and now feel more relaxed to explore some of the work possibilities armed with my new work visa. I have just concluded a season of La Boheme at lford Manor, a stately home near Bath in Somerset. It’s a tiny theatre seating only 93 patrons. Every performance is an intimate experience as the audience surrounds a courtyard, which is effectively the stage. I performed the role of Colline in this highly successful production – their first five star review opera!
I was fortunate to be invited to stay with Dame Kiri during my first few weeks in the U.K. – this was incredibly helpful as it gave me some head space to adjust and prepare for auditions and performances. I spent a lot of time with Dame Kiri getting valuable feedback – I would often be vocalizing or working on new rep, and to have Dame Kiri pop her head around the corner and offer some wisdom was invaluable. I was very lucky as not many people can say they have had that experience!
Recent performances included the Virginia Zeani Festival in Roumania, a concert and performance of selected scenes from La traviata, Manon Lescaut with the Auckland Philharmonia and then back to London for the Grimeborn Festival’s production of Samson et Delilah. I am grateful for the support of the Foundation and work of Deborah Sanders, who has steadily arranged auditions while I have been here.
PS: As Aria went to press it was announced that James has been awarded the 2017-18 Victoria League for Singing Scholarship (funded by the Victoria League and presented by the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation). The award includes 12 months accommodation at the League’sLondon base.
I have recently completed my third year of study in London under the tutelage of Yvonne Kenny, Dame Kiri, Clive Timms and so many world-renowned language, movement and drama coaches.
During this period I have been very fortunate to have had opportunities to perform a number of lead roles in professional operatic productions in the United Kingdom and at a number of private events.
As I reflect on my three years of study, I am amazed at how much I have developed as an artist. I feel very honoured and privileged to have been taught by so many incredible people. I also feel extremely grateful to those who have supported me. I am currently back in New Zealand preparing for the next stage of my musical studies and have exciting news to share.
Earlier this year I attended the 2017 New Zealand Opera School in Whanganui as one of the School’s inaugural postgraduate alumni. It was there that I was introduced to César Ulloa, currently Chair of Voice at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, who was visiting New Zealand as the 2017 Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation’s International Voice Faculty Tutor.
César and I worked very well together, and I felt I made a great deal of progress, so much so that I expressed my desire to study with him over the coming year. Donald Trott and Jonathan Alver were very supportive and following a meeting César suggested I make a late application to audition for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Following my live audition in San Francisco several weeks later, I was advised that not only had I been successful in securing a place at the School, but I had also been granted their only full-tuition scholarship. I commence my studies next month and am incredibly grateful to Donald, Jonathan, the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation and the New Zealand Opera School for opening this door.
It has been such a privilege to have the Foundation’s support over the last twelve months. This extremely busy year has brought many challenges, but also great rewards. The RCM International Opera School cast me in principal roles in all three of the 2016-17 operas.
Twice this year, Dame Kiri very kindly invited me to her home for intensive individual coaching. These sessions were inspiring, and really spurred me towards a new level of singing, both vocally and stylistically. I am so fortunate to benefit from her unique skill, wisdom, and experience.
In February, I had the honour of singing for the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace, on Queen Elizabeth’s 65th Jubilee and was one of 14 soloists from the RCM, singing Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music. It was a mind-blowing experience. Later I was delighted to win second prize in the RCM Brooks Van der Pump English Song Competition. In May, I played the Count in a two-day workshop of all the recitatives from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, with the legendary English baritone Sir Thomas Allen. Finally, last weekend I gave a solo afternoon recital in a concert room at the Royal Albert Hall, and the packed-out house delighted me with their extremely warm reception.
Later this month I travel to Germany for an intensive month at the highly prestigious Internationale Meistersinger Akademie in Neumarkt. This gives twelve emerging artists the opportunity to spend all of July working with top-level teachers and coaches, making professional recordings, performing with a superb orchestra, and singing for European and American agents and casting directors. I have also been offered places in two prestigious Young Artist programmes - the Samling Artist course in December and then in April I will sing Handel’s Theodora as a Britten Pears Young Artist with Sarah Connolly.
Alongside these highs, in all honesty this year has had its share of lows. For every success, there have been disappointments, frustrations, or heartbreaks. That is par for the course with this industry - we all have to overcome setbacks and keep our spirits high, come what may. This is where the support of the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation shines through. This year, the Foundation has supported me with fees and accommodation (The Victoria League Scholarship) , both of which have improved my life immeasurably. Additionally, Dame Kiri and Gillian Newson, on behalf of the Foundation family, have been there for me with advice and moral support. This is so nourishing for a young singer in a competitive world. It would have been very hard to manage this year’s heavy workload without the Foundation’s help.
Deborah Sanders (UK Foundation Trustee and Phillip’s manager) provided this update.
Phillip is currently appearing as Escamillo in Carmen at The Grange Festival – one of the UK’s many country house opera festivals. A small theatre (800 seats) adorns the manicured lawns of the stately home; the beautiful carefully landscaped gardens are bright with summer colour in an array of beautiful flowers too dazzling to describe, and there are places available for patrons to set up a picnic table or lay down a blanket and set out repast fit for a king.
Escamillo is a role debut for Phillip that suits him very well indeed. He has the high notes (not usually a problem in this role for a baritone) and he has the low notes as well—usually much more difficult for a baritone as they are typically the notes found in the bass or bass-baritone repertoire. Phillip cuts a very fine figure in The Grange Festival’s version of the toreador’s outfit known as The Suit of Lights, albeit scaled down from the costume we might find in a major opera company; he sings the role with his customary noble carriage, his usual intelligence and with the unique vocal colour that defines him.
Reviews have been extremely good, and you can read some that have been posted on Phillip’s page www.rayfieldallied.com/artists/phillip-rhodes – please click on the tab marked Reviews.
Phillip’s future is equally exciting and he has several new roles ahead of him: this autumn with Opera North for the roles of Alfio Cavalleria Rusticana and Silvio I Pagliacci in a double bill—not the usual coupling of roles, however Opera North feels they need a sound like Phillip’s to fit with the rest of their Pagliacci casting; immediately following Phillip brings another new role into his repertoire also at Opera North and that’s Renato Un Ballo in Maschera in a new production that will be conducted by the renowned Richard Farnes. These three roles keep Phillip busy into the UK spring of 2018. In the following season, 2018-19, he kicks off in the UK Autumn with a European tour of Tosca in the role of Scarpia with which he was so successful in New Zealand in 2015.
I’ve just finished my study at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia by performing Sarastro in “Die Zauberflöte”. This was a very emotional time for me, as I say goodbye to friends and teachers I’ve seen almost every day for the last four years and the city which has been my home. My next destination will be Houston, as I join the Young Artist Program at Houston Grand Opera, which I am quite excited about! I’ll be singing a few smaller roles during the year, as well as learning larger ones like Don Basilio in “Il barbiere di Siviglia”, covering none other than Eric Owens!!
In the meantime, I’ve spent the last few weeks in Virginia close to Washington DC, staging a relatively obscure Rossini opera called “La pietra del paragone”. I sing the role of Fabrizio as one of Wolf Trap Opera’s Filene Young Artists, and will also be performing the Sacristan in “Tosca” later in the season. This company is unique among Young Artist Programs, in that the operas are chosen once they know which young singers they would like to cast for the lead roles. This gives us a chance to learn and perform roles that are a good fit for our age in a professional setting, and Wolf Trap Opera is often a springboard to a major career.
I cannot express how grateful I am for the ongoing support from Dame Kiri which has enabled me to audition for these wonderful opportunities! Next year will surely bring many more exciting possibilities and I can’t wait to see what unfolds.
I have been freelancing in New York over the last year. It has been an incredibly rewarding and illuminating experience. My aim was to find a direction to head my career in. I focused on networking with agents, furthering my languages and solidifying my technique. After learning and fixing a lot over the last year I realised I really wanted to focus on polishing and refining my technique thus taking my voice and performing to the next level. To achieve this I am moving to Philadelphia to take up one of the resident artist positions at the Academy of Vocal Arts this September. The main reason for this is to work with the internationally renowned teacher Bill Schuman. Bill Schuman’s track record is second to none as a teacher – his students at AVA consistently win top prizes in all the major competitions. A few of his past students are Bryan Hymel, Michael Fabbiano and Angela Meade. AVA is one of foremost operatic finishing schools in the world – it only accepts about seven people a year. It puts on four operas a year and release its artist to work if the work does not clash with the productions at AVA.
Before leaving New York I took part in the Gerda Lissner Competition and I made the finals winning a Grant Award. I also sang Don Ramiro in ARE Opera‘s production of La Cenerentola which went extremely well. I am in New Zealand until the end of August for a few concerts and to obtain my new US visa. I am very much looking forward to my next chapter with Bill in Philadelphia.
JULIEN VAN MELLAERTS
The highlight of this year was being awarded first prize at the Kathleen Ferrier Awards at Wigmore Hall 2017. The whole process was a really amazing experience, to sing at Wigmore twice in one week was fantastic. I was thrilled that my pianist, Gamal Khamis, also won the Help Musicians UK Accompanists prize as well. Since then, many doors have opened. I will be returning to New Zealand later this year for several performances, then in 2018 I will perform Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn on live radio in Madrid followed by performances in recital and with orchestras around the UK, France and the Channel Islands.
We are currently preparing for our summer opera – a double bill of Chabrier’s Une éducation manquée and Poulenc’s Les mamelles de Tirésias. In the Chabrier I am playing the drunk old tutor, Maître Pausanias, and both the theatre director and the husband in the Poulenc. It’s a really amazing showcase to finish my 4 years at the RCM. Immediately after that I am back into performances of Rossini’s La Cenerentola. I am playing Dandini in this production with Diva Opera. In September Gamal and I will be competing in the 2017 Wigmore Hall/Kohn Foundation International Song Competition. We are one of 25 duos who have been selected to compete in the live round stages, which we are very excited about.
Finally I need to acknowledge Dame Kiri who has been so helpful this past year. Working with her on a one on one basis has been such a huge learning curve. A lot has changed since the start of the year and none of it could have happened without the support of Kiri and the Foundation – thank you all so much!