Young opera singers vow to wow us

Tuesday May 30, 2017 Written by Published in Local

They are young, good-looking and they are setting their sights on being big names in the glorious world of opera.


And this Friday and Saturday night, mezzo soprano Keani Pora, baritone Samson Setu and tenor Manase Latu are promising to wow us at their recital for the eighth BCI Opera in Rarotonga.

The trio are studying at the University of Auckland where they are developing their voices and learning about the operatic art form. That can be singing scales and arias, researching phrases from arias line by line, or listening to different voice types.

They also need to read about various operas, watch them and learn about the characters.

Part of their undergraduate degree involves taking two education papers on a whole range of subjects.

Latu says a lot of voice students study languages such as Italian. He doesn’t, but says he picks up words – Italian, German and French, through learning the arias from operas.

Setu and Pora are learning the International Phonetic Alphabet or IPA.

Pora says: “Each symbol has a specific sound so if you can understand IPA you should be able to speak any language.

Setu says: “The system applicable to any language we need to sing.”

Manase has been singing since he was young at church and family meetings.

“Music has always been around in my life.”

And he has a surprise admission.

When he first was exposed to classical music in a choir he “hated it”.

“I came back after the first rehearsal and said I never want to do this again. It was Ave Maria, it was different and not the Schubert one.

“I said this is not for me, but I decided to stick with it and here I am.”

As a young tenor what are his favourite arias?

“There are so many,” he says. “One of my favourites I don’t sing because it is too big for me at the minute. It is Una Fortiva from Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore.

“It’s just a beautiful aria, just beautiful. I love listening to (Luciano) Pavarotti and (Lawrence) Brownlee and Juan Diego Florez singing it.

“It’s just awesome.”

He has other favourites including Mes Amis (also known the Graveyard Song) from Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann and the Pavarotti classic Nessun Dorma from Turandot.

“That’s out of my voice type, it’s for much bigger and heavier voices but I love listening to it.”

Setu is a bass baritone who lists among his favourites Madamina, Leporello’s catalogue aria from Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

“Leporello talks about the catalogue of ladies Don Giovanni has been through - 1003 in Spain alone.”

Puccini’s Tosca also inspires him when Scarpia sings his aria, but he will not attempt it. “It is a bit out of my range.”

And protecting young voices is part of the training. They are not allowed to sing pieces that were written for fully developed voices.

Setu says: “Sometimes people see a talent and tend to rush them into arias they are not ready for. They shouldn’t be singing them as it can damage them without the right technique.

“We have great teachers at the University of Auckland.”

Keani calls herself a new soprano. “I spent most of my singing journey as a mezzo – with my lower range - so it’s new territory for me.

“I would love to sing the Queen of the Night from Mozart’s The Magic Flute one day. Or Dido’s lament from Dido and Aeneas. Or The Dolls Aria, from The Tales of Hoffman. That’s crazy as well.

“It takes time for your voice to mature and my voice is growing and it will get a little bit bigger.”

All three up-and-coming opera stars are patient and play the waiting game.

Latu is 21, Setu 23 and Pora … well a gentleman doesn’t ask.

None of them expect to hit their straps in opera until their 30s or 40s.

But from the enthusiasm the singers have for their calling we can expect their recitals to bring joy to opera lovers’ hearts and, possibly, a few tears to their eyes.

Tickets for the recitals are on sale now at The Islander Hotel, or call 51219 to make a booking.


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