Meet the team: Rosalind Hemmings

Meet the team: Rosalind Hemmings

Rosalind Hemmings is New Zealand Opera’s Development Manager, having joined the company in mid-2019. The role encompasses events, sponsorship and benefaction and keeps her extremely busy – even now as she works from home during Alert Level 4.

“Working from home isn’t easy, but we keep each other going whether it’s a phone call, video meeting or friendly email,” Rosalind says.  “It sounds a little cliché, but I think these circumstances have brought us closer as a team.”

“I’m at home in central Auckland where at the time of writing, it’s been exactly one year since my partner and I brought our first home. We got engaged over New Year and its times like these you take a step back and look at where you are at. I’m so humbled that as I stare down turning 30, I have a job I love, a beautiful home and the loveliest of cats – Samuel L Catson (Sammy).”

For someone like Rosalind who views opera as the pinnacle art form, working with NZO is a dream come true.

“Having enjoyed theatre and ballet for years, opera felt like the next a stone to turn over, I wanted to learn all about what went into creating a production. Opera also has such a depth of history and tradition that I think it appeals to anyone like me who is fascinated in the classical world. Moving to New Zealand Opera felt like a natural career progression for me. Once I arrived it was fantastic to see many familiar faces in the arts practitioners and crew, as well as our supporters, which led me to understand how very interconnected the arts sector is in New Zealand.”

Her time is focused on events, sponsorship and benefaction. She looks after all aspects of putting on events such as opening night functions and supporters’ events. “Working on events has always been a passion of mine, I thrive on putting together the finer details, from creating an invitation list to selecting a menu and decorating a space.”

The Opera Centre set up for the 2020 season reveal

The sponsorship part of her role is about engaging with partners, whether it is getting a group along to a performance, helping them create an advert for our programmes, or writing content for our newsletters.

“Keeping an eye on our agreements is also important,” Rosalind says. “I love building relationships with corporates that see value in arts sponsorship.”

Working alongside Philanthropy & Grants Manager Rebecca Galloway, Rosalind also spends time connecting with supporters. She says that building relationships with people who are also passionate about the arts is an incredible part of the job.

“Having a great conversation with a supporter always brings me back to ‘this is why we do what we do’, and I’ve quickly realised that everyone has a story to tell! Those moments are so precious, a spark of joy or sadness shared with another person is so important for human connection.”

Rosalind’s first role in the arts was at Auckland Theatre Company, working in the box office team before moving into the development team as they fundraised for the new ASB Waterfront Theatre.

“I think it’s fair to say I was thrown into the deep end, but they had an amazing team working on that project and I was able to gain experience across all areas of Development including sponsorship, benefaction, events and funding. Opening the theatre has to be one of my career highlights.”

She credits her mum for teaching her to get into the workforce while she was at high school to learn skills and get experience for whatever was to come in the future.

“That landed me in hospitality and customer service which served me well through my high-school and university days. Hospitality teaches you how to interact with people, understand their needs and gives you such a buzz when you have a customer leave happy. I worked in bars, restaurants, delicatessens, at a range of different events and I even had a brief stint with the camera crew of Police 10/7. Loving the work that you do, the people you work with and being proud of what you produce is so important.”

Now, close to a year into her role with NZO, Rosalind says she still in awe of what it takes to put together a production, and of the tremendous talent we have here in New Zealand and abroad.

“I’m inspired by the creative people around me especially the performers who put many gruelling hours into training their voice. I always have a sense of pride on Opening Night when everything comes together, and it is extremely satisfying to see everyone’s hard work finally eventuate,” she says.

A special interval performance at The Barber of Seville opening night

The Barber of Seville was her first main-scale opera with the company. “I was blown away when I first saw that performance which was so full of life and colour – I knew I was instantly addicted. Another highlight would have to be Eight Songs for a Mad King which was thrilling and completely articulated our new strategic direction. I can’t wait for our Christchurch audience to see it later in the year!”

Being new to the Company, the whole idea of reimaging opera is a tantalizing proposition. If opera is to thrive and remain relevant, we must adapt whilst finding a careful balance in respecting and appreciating many centuries of tradition. It’s a giant thousand-piece puzzle, and we have so many talented and dedicated people carefully fitting each piece together.  

“I truly do believe that opera is for everyone, even if they don’t know it yet! I think New Zealanders like to try new things, so we need to open that door for them. Finding new audiences is therefore a natural progression and I look forward to help shaping the future of opera in Aotearoa.”

THREE good things

Do you have any tips on how to stay positive during this time?

I think keep it simple and do the things you love. Have a laugh, drink wine, get outside and explore your neighbourhood – but maybe not in the order! Baking is my speciality, but it has been a challenge with an uncooperative temperature gauge on our oven. Like many people I’m also becoming more familiar with my garden which gives me a great sense of accomplishment. My partner and I recently had ‘Greek night’ where we brought some ingredients from an online speciality store and made a feast accompanied by a Greek wine called Retsina. Also – do not underestimate the power of making a batch of pikelets when you are at a loss of what to do.

Can you share a recipe or book/movie/netflix/other activity recommendation?

Not too long ago I finished A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, which was charming read with some great characters and interesting insights into 1920s Russia during Bolshevik rule.

Recipe

I can’t really call myself a baker or cook without sharing a recipe – there’s a Lebanese shop down the road which makes a very tasty baba ganoush. I’d like to say I’ve been relatively successful in replicating their recipe and its super easy to make. You can also add chickpeas to make a hummus/baba ganoush hybrid.

Baba Ganoush

Ingredients
1 eggplant
2 cloves of garlic minced (or more depending on how garlicy you feel that day)
2 tablespoons of tahini (can be left out if you don’t have it, or add chickpeas as mentioned above)
Chopped parsley
Generous squeeze of lemon juice
Olive oil
¼ cup of finely diced onion
¼ cup of finely diced tomato
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Cut the eggplant in half and roast in the oven at 180 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until soft.
  2. Remove from the oven to cool, scoop out the filling and add to a food processor or blender along with the garlic, tahini, parsley, lemon juice (and extra chickpeas if you want to experiment.)
  3. Blend until smooth and add a little oil to help the consistency, I’ve also found that adding a bit of water works fine as well.
  4. Important: only add the diced tomato and onion until after blending, the consistency doesn’t work if you blend it all together. The brilliance of this receipt is the nice chunky morsels of onion and tomato, so mix these in once complete.
  5. Taste your mixture and season if required.
  6. To serve you can drizzle over you favourite infused oil (we love Al Brown’s Fennel and Lemon Olive Oil it is AMAZING,) with a sprinkle of paprika. Serve with some nice bread or on a cheese board – you’ll be surprised how quickly it disappears!