Internationally acclaimed “heroic tenor” to receive Honorary Doctorate

Simon O'Neill, the opera singer dubbed "THE Wagnerian tenor of his generation", will receive an honorary doctorate at Victoria University of Wellington's graduation ceremony in December.

Simon O'Neill performing at the BBC Proms
Heroic tenor Simon O'Neill performing in 'Die Walkϋre' at the BBC Proms.

Today’s announcement falls between his performances in Helsinki with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra in his signature role—Siegmund in Wagner’s Die Walkϋre—and in Rome where he will perform in Beethoven’s only opera Fidelio at the Accademia Nazionale di Sante Cecilia.

Victoria University Chancellor Sir Neville Jordan says the honorary doctorate recognises Mr O’Neill’s remarkable success on the world stage.

“Mr O’Neill has achieved international success at the highest level. His performances have been met with widespread critical acclaim as he demonstrates exceptional talent, skill and fortitude. It is fitting that the University recognises his accomplishments with an honorary doctorate.”

Since graduating from Victoria with a Bachelor of Music with Honours in 1995, Mr O’Neill has established himself as a one of the world’s best “heldentenors”—or heroic tenors—with a powerful and dramatic voice suited to demanding operatic roles such as Wagner’s Siegfried and Verdi’s Otello.

Mr O’Neill is a principal artist with the Metropolitan Opera and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. He is highly sought after across Europe and the United States, and has performed on some of the most distinguished stages, including Milan’s Teatro alla Scala and at Bayreuth in Germany, and under many esteemed conductors.

Mr O’Neill has also received a number of accolades including being a Fulbright Scholar in 1998, a grand finalist in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions in 2002, and New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate in 2005.

“Despite his demanding international schedule, Mr O’Neill continues to have close links with Victoria,” says Sir Neville.

“He is an Adjunct Research Fellow at Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music and regularly holds masterclasses with classical performance students. The University is proud to count him as a distinguished member of its alumni community, and as a member of staff, a role in which he coaches, mentors and inspires the next generation of musicians.”

Mr O’Neill completed his Master of Music at the Manhattan School of Music and studied at New York’s Juilliard Opera Center.