Boheme at Welsh National Opera, with Shengzhi Ren, photography by Kirsten McTernan
Eliza Boom was a 2017 Dame Malvina Major Scholar with New Zealand Opera. Since then, she’s continued honing her craft overseas, returning home regularly and being placed runner up in the 2018 Lexus Song Quest. Most recently, she’s been training at the National Opera Studio in London, with an exciting new job on the horizon. We caught up with Eliza about being home during lockdown and what she’s been up to and what’s coming up next. But first, a video:
Tell us about where you are in lockdown. Where did you come from to be there? Who are you with?
I’m currently back in my hometown of Whangarei with my family – a happy bubble of 7 plus the dog, cats, chickens and ducks! These past few weeks I have been feeling incredibly blessed to be in such a beautiful part of the world with the people that are so precious to me. I was in London in mid-March as the global situation was worsening and due to fly back to NZ for a concert in late March, but as soon as the work I had before Easter was cancelled, I rebooked my flight for the next day. I still had to go into 2 weeks of self isolation at home, but have since been released from the isolation of my room to the big wide world of our property! I am so glad I made the decision to get home while I could and weather the storm – however long it may be – here in New Zealand.
What are you doing with this time in one place – learning roles, personal projects?
I have to admit I’ve found it difficult to remain motivated to work when my next five months are most likely going to be entirely void of performances. I always work better when I have a good amount of work on and deadlines to aim for; when I’m given too much time, I seem to be extremely talented at whiling it away. But, I am viewing this an opportunity to break away from that tendency and get myself into a good rhythm of study. So, I am learning a whole stack of new arias, working on my conversational German, and doing some proper work on my colorutura, which fills many hours! I also have repertoire I need to prepare for the coming 2020/21 season, which requires hours of translations and background research. As of this week, the National Opera Studio (where I was training in London) is starting online coaching, and it’s wonderful to have some musical and tehnical input at this time.
Outside of singing, I have been doing a lot of baking and cooking, much to my family’s delight! Plus engaging in one of my favourite hobbies – putting organizational systems into place in my parent’s house. 😉
What have you been up in recent months career-wise – performances, any other highlights?
I’ve been in London at the National Opera Studio since September, training alongside 11 singers and 4 répétiteurs, including fellow Kiwis Benson Wilson, Fredi Jones and Bradley Wood! The course at the Studio involves various performances and auditions, but primarily alot of coaching. It was wonderful to have this time to work technically, make strides musically, and explore a lot of new repertoire. And of course, it’s always inspiring to work alongside such talented artists who have become fast friends. I was meant to be there until the end of June, but of course plans have had to change. Through the National Opera Studio, I have performed in opera scenes with Opera North and Welsh National Opera, and performed several lunchtime concerts, all of which add to one’s exposure and experience.
In September I was thrilled to receive second place at the Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge Bel Canto Award in Sydney – you can watch me singing some Bellini if you fancy!
I was also meant to be attending the Solti Accademia in June as part of my prize, but sadly that has been cancelled. My most recent news is that I have been accepted into the Bayerische Staatsoper Opera Studio in Munich, which will begin (all things going well) in September this year. I’m ridiculously excited to become part of such a glorious opera house, and honoured to have been chosen from such a large pool of singers.
You’ve been busy singing internationally, which makes us so proud. Do you think there’s anything special about Kiwi singers and what they add to the mix when performing around the world?
One thing I always appreciate when I work with another Kiwi overseas is their “make the best of it” attitude; positivity (or lack of it) can make or break a performance experience. I think we punch above our weight globally because we tend to work hard, are committed to being good colleagues, have a good technical base combined with practical experience, and we’re not afraid to take risks and push ourselves out of our comfort zone.
What does being part of the New Zealand opera community mean to you, and what does it mean to sing at home in New Zealand?
I’m very fortunate, I’ve been able to return home regularly to perform since moving overseas in 2017. Every time means getting to visit this special country of course, and it’s always exciting to be able to sing for audiences that have known you for many years, though it is definitely mixed with nerves at meeting expectations that are inevitably placed upon you! Being such a small country and an even smaller industry, people are so supportive and everyone wants you to do well; when meeting overseas, Kiwis are immediately bonded, even if they haven’t met before. That’s not something that you see in every country!
Is there something you do to stay focused and relaxed that may be useful for others at a time like this?
I’ve tried to embrace the slower pace life has taken on, and limit the time I spend on social media and watching TV – my usual downtime go-tos. Instead I’ve been exploring forms of creativity that are new me (or just rusty), not for the sake of creative output, but purely because I want to; I’ve sat in the sun and done nothing but think, I’ve been getting out and exercising, and I listen to a lot of music! Jazz, classical, folk, you name it. All these things have helped me unwind and remind myself that the world is still vibrant and there is a whole lot of goodness to be found. It’s incredibly calming and peaceful – something we all need during this time of hugely stressful uncertainty. I would definitely encourage others to think about what might fill that space for themselves.