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Simon O'Neill Launches 2021 School

One of New Zealand’s most successful opera singers, Simon O’Neill, performed on Thursday 11 February at the launch of the 30th national Singing School New Zealand - Wānanga Toi Waiata.


Simon O’Neill is one of New Zealand’s most successful operatic tenors and performs with opera companies in Britain and Europe. He is particularly known for his roles in Wagner’s operas. Simon is a past student, and now a Patron, of Singing School New Zealand and, as he’s currently in New Zealand because of the Covid-19 pandemic, he agreed to perform at the launch.


“A conversation with Simon at his successful ‘Wagner meets Jazz’ show prompted this trip to Hawke’s Bay to showcase his talent and his connection with the School and its unique curriculum,” says Helen Walker, Chairman of the NZ Singing School Trust.



The launch was held for invited guests at the Blyth Performing Arts Centre in Havelock North. Simon was accompanied by the Singing School’s Artistic Director, Mark W. Dorrell who is an accomplished pianist and musical director.


Simon sang a range of songs, including a powerful Wagnerian aria from the opera Parsifal, a romantic song by Schumann, the Irish ballad 'Danny Boy', and a Mario Lanza song ‘Be My Love’. He finished the short concert with the popular ‘Nessun Dorma’. The invited audience thanked him with a standing ovation.


Simon O’Neill praised the Blyth auditorium as one of the best concert halls in New Zealand. He also praised the young singers who entertained the guests during the reception - Ella Ruddle, Oliver Price Walker, Olivia McLeod, Sophie Gilbertson and Jess Burke. Olivia McLeod and Sophie Gilbertson opened the reception and surprised the guests with a song from the balcony.


“It takes courage to sing when everyone is talking and don’t expect it. Those are the performance skills that are useful wherever these young singers work – whether it’s as a fulltime musician or in a business. It’s teaching those performance skills that’s a strength of the Singing School,” Simon O’Neill said.


Singing School NZ 2021 is unique in Australasia as it is the only singing school that offers teaching in both musical theatre and classical styles, plus the crossover mix that is so essential to modern performers.


The 2021 school will be the 30th school and will be again based at the Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) in Napier. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic the school has been delayed from its usual summer scheduling to run from 3 – 10 July and registrations are currently open.


“This special evening was a way of thanking our valued supporters and to introduce some new people to the vision of the Singing School. Not all our students go on to have as successful a singing career as Simon, but many are enjoying performing in local concerts and shows and having confidence in their talent,” says Helen Walker.

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