Eat Your Heart Out opera at Nukuhau Pā

After a successful season in Wellington, New Zealand School of Music – Te Kōkῑ students went on to perform opera on the Marae at Nukuhau Pā in Taupo.

Opera on the marae

Presented as ‘gorging on one of the world’s most luscious art forms’, Eat Your Heart Out: A Feast of Operatic Scenes featured some of New Zealand’s up-and-coming singers performing works from composers such as Verdi, Mozart, Handel and Gluck.

The opportunity to perform at Nukuhau Pā stemmed from a collaboration that followed a successful performance by New Zealand School of Music (NZSM) students in 2016 at Pūkawa Marae.

To bring the Eat Your Heart Out cast and crew to Taupo, sponsorship was provided by iwi agency Te Pae o Waimihia, a Trust of Tūwharetoa, along with Ngāti Tūwharetoa Genesis Energy Committee and Māori trust administration and support organisation He Akina Incorporated.

NZSM’s Head of Voice, Dr Margaret Medlyn, says performing Eat your Heart Out to the kuia and kaumatua of Ngāti Tuwhāretoa was rewarding for everyone.

“Many of the students had not been on a marae before, so that in itself was a new experience, as was singing to an audience for whom opera was relatively unknown,” says Margaret. “Through the communication of emotion, an experience was shared—the students performed from the heart and won over the audience.”

Student Emma Cronshaw says it was humbling to see how much the audience enjoyed the performance. “It felt electric. We got such a range of genuine responses from the audience both during and after the show.”

Nukuhau Marae organiser Kata Rangataua-Rameka says for Tūwharetoa, the evening was an unforgettable experience. “The relationship between NZSM and Ngāti Tūwharetoa is beneficial to both in what can be described as a cultural exchange, strengthened even more by the endorsement and support of Ngāti Tūwharetoa Paramount Chief Sir Tumu Te Heuheu and leading Kuia Dame Georgina Te Heuheu,” she says. “And a special thanks to Dominic Bowden, Chair of our Nukuhau Marae and the Marae Trustees for their support of this event.”

Another member of the Marae organising committee, Dave Potaka, says the relationship is also strengthened by the bonds formed by the organisers and performers with whanau of Tūwharetoa.

“Looking to the future we hope that these relationships and events continue,” he says. “They enrich and expose the audience to an inspiring cultural experience, especially for Tūwharetoa rangatahi, who will hopefully be motivated to seek higher education at university, whether it be in music or other educational interests.”

Emma says she would love to return to the Marae. “It’s been amazing to have had the opportunity to perform in such a beautiful and welcoming location. I hope that this trip will become a tradition for the School and the Marae.”

“A heartfelt thanks to everyone involved,” says Margaret. “We hope to have many more evenings as special as this one.”