E kui mā, e koro mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Nau mai, haere mai ra ki Te Whare Kawana ki Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all, and welcome to Government House Wellington.
I specifically acknowledge: Her Worship Celia Wade-Brown, Mayor of Wellington; George Troup, Chairman of the Dame Malvina Major Foundation Wellington Committee; Sam Williamson, President of Friends of the Opera Wellington; and a special New Zealand taonga, Dame Malvina Major - tēnā koutou katoa.
It is a great pleasure for Janine and me to welcome you all to Government House for what I think is a special event. Thank you all for coming.
A few months ago I was at Waikato University to look at what was happening in the science and innovation arena there. I became aware of a beautiful voice in song, somewhere else in the same building.
Later, it all became clear when I bumped into Dame Malvina. She, as you know, is fostering young operatic talent through her work in Waikato University’s Music Programme. I mentioned that Janine and I were very much looking forward to today, because I hadn’t been able to attend the last concert.
This afternoon’s event follows the theme of fostering young talent, and we are delighted that Government House can provide a stage for their performance.
People like Dame Malvina, and events like this one, showcase New Zealand talent, and confirms that we aspire to and achieve excellence in arts and culture as much as in sport, science and commerce.
Given our small population, it is extraordinary how many New Zealand singers have top-class international careers. And we can boast of having a world-class national opera company.
A sign of that liveliness is that New Zealand Opera is performing more opera to more New Zealanders than at any other time in its history – including, for the first time, a second opera to Christchurch audiences.
Opera is gaining popularity because it is more accessible and more available, still mysterious and yet less intimidating. Audiences are discovering that the story-lines ring true for any age, and the quality of the music and voices are agelessly beautiful.
It’s great to know that more and more young people are drawn to opera. Getting young people along can have its pitfalls. I understand that a school student attending The Magic Flute dress rehearsal in Wellington offered to date the lonely Papageno [pahpahgeyno] which, while a wonderful example of audience enthrallment, might have posed some challenges for the plot!
This afternoon I am looking forward to hearing one of the star attractions of The Magic Flute – the Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus. They will be singing in a good cause.
New Zealand Opera could not achieve what it does without the help of its Friends - dedicated opera lovers who fundraise, galvanise support and promote the company’s activities. It is people like them, behind the scenes, who enable great things to happen on stage.
The Friends are particularly keen to introduce young people to opera, knowing that they are the future for opera, perhaps performers and certainly the audiences. Our being here today is very much a demonstration of our support to that notion – and we welcome younger Friends who have joined us here this afternoon.
Seven young members of the cast of The Magic Flute have been associated with New Zealand Opera’s Emerging Artist and Young Artist programmes, which The Dame Malvina Major Foundation also supports. Today’s concert also features artists who were formerly in the programmes - Matt Landreth, in the Chorus, and Catherine Norton on piano.
This year we are celebrating the Dame Malvina Major Foundation reaching its 25-year milestone. I extend Janine’s and my congratulations to Dame Malvina and everyone associated with the Foundation. Having Friends and one of our most loved and celebrated opera singers involved makes a world of difference. Young operatic talent needs developmental opportunities to follow.
On this occasion, and in her presence I want to quote what Dame Malvina said recently, because I think it captures neatly why the Foundation and the Friends are important in fostering opera and young New Zealand:
“To have been good enough to become an opera singer has been indeed a great pleasure; to know that your music can reach so many people, make them well, and bring them hope and pleasure.”
Janine and my thanks to the Wellington committee of the Dame Malvina Major Foundation and the Wellington Friends of the Opera for what you do to ensure the success of our opera and the encouragement of our young artists. Please enjoy this session, and take the opportunity to contribute to their excellent cause.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa - I now invite Mr George Troup, Chairman of the Dame Malvina Major Foundation Wellington Committee, to speak.