This year marked a new era for our Artist Development programme, with the first intake of the Dame Malvina Major Foundation Studio Artist Programme with New Zealand Opera. Our 2020 DMMF Studio Artists were Anna Simmons, Harry Grigg and Felicity Tomkins.
The new programme builds on two decades of our partnership supporting the development of young opera talent with the Dame Malvina Major Foundation, offering a more robust schedule of coaching and professional development including vocal and dramatic training encompassing languages, movement, interpretation, stagecraft, and mentoring by in-house and external experts.
The programme culminated in two performances of opera scenes …it is animal to invited guests, giving the DMMF Studio Artists the opportunity to bring together what they had learned in a performance setting.
“…it is animal has been one of the highlights of the year, which combined all our in-depth musical lessons, coachings and acting sessions into a practical learning experience,” Felicity said.
Like many projects in 2020, the DMMF Studio Artist programme was impacted by Covid-19, and was reshaped to include coaching and teaching sessions via Zoom.
“Over lockdown we had a Q&A with kiwi singer Bianca Andrew. A great piece of advice I took from this was to let the work you do speak for itself,” said Harry. “Essentially, do what you do to the best of your abilities and avoid any extraneous things that may get in the way.”
In the middle of the year the DMMF Studio Artists returned to The Opera Centre for three days every week for sessions with in-house and external experts.
“We worked with a wide variety of people – accompanists, coaches, language tutors, singing teachers, directors, performance psychologists – and I thoroughly enjoyed absorbing so many ideas and opinions,” Anna said.
“One of the very practical pieces of guidance that has stuck with me has been our breathing and acting work, which gave me new insight into the importance of being fully aware of our breathing,” said Felicity. “Being in the present moment, and listening to your subconscious, i.e. how your body wants to move, subsequently allows for a special connectivity with ourselves and our audience.”
What’s next for these talented young singers? Anna and her husband Angus (a 2019 DMMF Emerging Artist) have left for Germany to pursue their singing careers, Harry has arrived in London to begin his Masters of Performance at the Royal College of Music, and Felicity is covering Elle in The Human Voice as well as finishing her studies at Waikato University.
“This rewarding experience would not be possible without the generous and continuing support of Dame Malvina Major and her foundation, to whom I will always be extremely grateful,” said Felicity.
Thank you to the Dame Malvina Major Foundation and everyone who has been part of making the DMMF Studio Artist Programme possible. We look forward to introducing our 2021 Studio Artists in the near future.