Artist Development

At New Zealand Opera, we consider it one of our key roles to identify talented New Zealand singers and provide them with support through the many stages of their operatic career. This may involve giving young singers exposure to a working opera environment, bringing young New Zealanders back to sing roles after a period of overseas study, or giving the opportunity for New Zealand based singers to continue to develop their skills.

Dame Malvina Major Scholars

Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artists

Up to four New Zealand based artists, either singers or répétiteurs will be selected for this internship. The singers may be given small roles and understudies, given the opportunity to sing in NZ Opera branded concerts and can be part of the NZ Opera chorus. Vocal, stagecraft and language coaching will be provided. Répétiteurs will have the opportunity to play for rehearsals and NZ Opera concerts, as well as coaching with visiting répétiteurs, coaches and conductors. The internship period ideally covers at least six months in total, focussing mainly on the mainstage production periods. Selection is by audition.

Meet our Emerging Artists

Natasha Wilson, Meet our Emerging Artists

Natasha Wilson


Natasha was born and raised in Auckland, and is of Maori and European heritage. She has a BMus(Hons) majoring in classical vocal performance from the University of Auckland. Natasha made her professional debut with New Zealand Opera, as a member of the company for their touring production of The Mikado and was involved in workshops of Tim Finn’s upcoming opera, Star Navigator, in the role of Purea. Natasha has also performed internationally with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra as the soprano soloist in their Spanish Baroque concert series. In 2017, Natasha was selected for the inaugural Dame Malvina Major Foundation Opera Studies programme and was a member of the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation’s mentoring programme. 

Meet our Emerging Artists

Samson Setu, Meet our Emerging Artists

Samson Setu


Samson Setu is a graduate of the University of Auckland, where he majored in classical singing, under the tutelage of Dr Te Oti Rakena. Samson is a proud Samoan, born and raised in South Auckland.  He was surrounded by music during his childhood, but it wasn’t until he was 17 years old that he first encountered opera. Rugby was Samson’s first love but in his final year of Dilworth School, singing began to overtake his dreams of playing professional rugby.

Samson won first place at the 2016 Ronald Dellow competition where he was also the recipient of the people’s choice award. The same year, Samson was a finalist at the prestigious New Zealand Aria competition and a winner at the annual South Auckland Performing Arts Competition and the National Finale.

Meet our Emerging Artists

Manase Latu, Meet our Emerging Artists

Manase Latu


New Zealand Born Tongan, Manase Latu is alumni of the University of Auckland graduating with a Bachelor of Music (Honors). He has been a recipient of the Iosefa Enari Memorial Scholarship, presented by Creative NZ to a person of Pacific heritage with the potential to succeed in the field of Opera. In 2017, Manase was invited to join the Singer Development Programme run by the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation. The Kiri Programme is available only to a select group of young singers who are considered to have exceptional potential, and provides both singing and non-singing skills to build a career as an opera singer. 

Dame Malvina Major Foundation Fellow

Dame Malvina Major Foundation Fellow

One singer will be chosen to undertake role(s) in main stage productions for NZ Opera. Typically this will be a young singer just becoming established or a returning past Emerging Artist. The Dame Malvina Major Foundation Fellow will receive music and language coaching and performance support as deemed necessary. The internship period covers at least six months, focussing mainly on the main stage production periods. Application is by invitation.

Meet our Fellow

Thomas Atkins, Meet our Fellow

Thomas Atkins


Thomas completed the Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and studied under Adrian Thompson. He is an alumnus of the New Zealand School of Music, Wellington, where he graduated with a BMus under the tutelage of Jenny Wollerman, and the New Zealand Opera School. He was a 2013/14 Emerging Artist with NZ Opera and in 2013 he was awarded the New Zealand Arts Foundation Patronage Award.

Thomas was a finalist in the Guildhall School of Music & Drama “Gold Medal” in 2015 and is the recipient of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama award, the Sheila Prior Prize, the Phoebe Patrick Award and the Vianden International Summer School Award, all from the 2012 IFAC Australian Singing Competition.

Concert engagements include Tippett’s A Child of Our Time, Mozart’s Requiem, Dubois’ Seven Last Words of Christ, Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G Minor, Handel’s Messiah and guest appearances at Nelson’s Opera in the Park.

Thomas is currently on the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden where his roles this season include 1st Armed Man Die Zauberflöte, Don José La Tragédie de Carmen (Wilton's Music Hall), Teacher Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and 2nd Brabant Noble Lohengrin.  

Freemasons Resident Artists (RA)

Freemasons NZ Opera Artists

Artists who are New Zealand permanent residents and are in the top echelon of domestic singers may be invited to be become a Freemasons NZ Opera Artist following the annual New Zealand Opera auditions. These artists will receive funding for a study plan from the Freemasons Foundation, may be suitable for roles and understudies, may be given opportunities to sing in NZ Opera branded concerts and can be part of the Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus.

Meet our Artists

Barbara Graham, Meet our Artists

Barbara Graham


Barbara Graham has been a NZO Freemasons Resident Artist since 2015, and was a 2007–8 NZO Emerging Artist. She studied with Emily Mair at Victoria University, then at the Schola Cantorum in Paris, France, with Nathalie Spinosi. In 2010 she won the Napier Aria, came 2nd in the Symphonies d’Automne in Macon, France, and 1st in the Festival de Musique et de Langue Françaises in Paris. Recent roles include Peep Bo in NZO’s The Mikado, 1st Genie in NZO’s The Magic Flute, Christine in Amici Productions’ Phantom of the Opera, Rosa Bud in Circa Theatre’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Sophie in Days Bay Opera’s Der Rosenkavalier. She is a soloist with the New Zealand Air Force Band, in 2017 touring France and Belgium as a vocalist for Anzac commemorations, and for the centenaries of the battles of Messines and Passchendaele.

Barbara holds a BSc in Marine Biology from Victoria University, and a Diploma in Publishing from Whitireia NZ.

Meet our Artists

Elizabeth Mandeno, Meet our Artists

Elizabeth Mandeno


Elizabeth Mandeno is a 2017 Freemasons NZ Opera Artist and was a 2013/2014 Freemasons Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist. She has a BMus (Hons)/BA from University of Auckland and an MA in Advanced Vocal Technique from the Wales International Academy of Voice.

Opera roles include Jane Kendall: This Other Eden by Anthony Ritchie (Opera Otago, world premiere); Papagena, Second Lady: The Magic Flute (schools adaptation); cover Zerlina: Don Giovanni; cover Musetta: La Bohème (New Zealand Opera); Galatea: Acis and Galatea (Handel Consort and Quire Auckland); Adele: Die Fledermaus (Opera Factory NZ); Ulla: Ulla’s Odyssey by Anthony Young (Opera Factory NZ, world premiere).

Concert repertoire includes Messiah (Christchurch Symphony Orchestra), Where Moons Circle and Burn by Louise Webster (Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, world premiere), Death of a Bullfighter by Jonathan Mandeno (Ensemble Aventa, world premiere), The Creation (cover, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra), Bachianas Brasileiras no.5 (Aorangi Orchestra), Merab/Witch of Endor: Saul (Handel Consort and Quire Auckland), Mozart’s Requiem (St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra Auckland), Pierrot Lunaire, Carmina Burana (University of Auckland). 

Meet our Artists

Lilia Carpinelli, Meet our Artists

Lilia Carpinelli


Italian soprano Lilia Carpinelli has been a member of the Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus since 2013. Lilia has appeared with orchestras in Italy, Israel, Palestine, Austria, China and New Zealand. Operatic roles include: Micaëla (cover): Carmen (Napier Festival Opera); Lisa: La sonnambula (Auckland Opera Studio), Maria: M. Williams – The Juniper Passion (Atoll Records), Eleonora: Prima la musica poi le parole (Vienna, Orchestra Giovanile di Roma); Lulù in Viviani’s Eden Teatro (Naples, Trianon Orchestra); O Nino: El retablo de maese Pedro (Salerno, Augusteo Theatre); Dirindina: Scarlatti (Caserta, Garibaldi Theatre with Nuova Orchestra Scarlatti), Dorilla in Hasse’s La Serva Scaltra (Naples, Teatro Cilea, Discantus Ensemble); Girlfriend: Len Lye: The Opera (Auckland University). Oratorio performances include Rossini’s Stabat Mater (Napier Civic Choir) and Petit Messe Solemnelle (Auckland Choral), Monteverdi’s Vespres 1610 (Bach Musica), Faurè’s Requiem (Avellino Conservatorium Orchestra), Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater (Nuova Orchestra Napoletana), Cimarosa’s Magnificat, Vivaldi’s Gloria, world premiers of Logroscino’s Stabat Mater, Paisiello’s Requiem and Piccinni’s Salmo ‘Da te solo in tanti affanni’ ( Salerno Conservatorium Orchestra). Lilia has a MMus in performance with First Class Honours (University of Auckland) and a BMus with Hons in Classical Singing (Salerno Conservatorium - Italy).

Meet our Artists

Declan Cudd, Meet our Artists

Declan Cudd


New Zealand born tenor Declan Cudd is a 2017 Freemasons New Zealand Opera Artist with New Zealand Opera. Declan holds a Bachelor of Music and Post Graduate Diploma in Classical Performance Voice from the New Zealand School of Music, where he was awarded the Te Koki New Zealand School of Music Directors Scholarship. Declan now studies under the tutelage of tenor Patrick Power, other teachers included tenor Richard Greager and Australian soprano Lisa Harper-Brown.

Declan has been a member of the Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus since 2013, recently performing in New Zealand Operas tours of Sweeney Todd and The Mikado. Recent roles include Monostatos (understudy), The Priest (understudy) and the First Armed Man (understudy) in The Magic Flute and The Beadle (understudy) in Sweeney Todd. Declan performed the title role in the New Zealand School of Music’s 2015 production of Dido and Aeneas, and the Teapot and Math’s Man in L’enfant et le Sortileges, and minor tenor roles in their 2013 production of Il Corsaro. Concert performances include the tenor solos in Elijah, Mozart Mass in C minor, Mozart Requiem, Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle.

Meet our Artists

Chelsea Dolman, Meet our Artists

Chelsea Dolman


New Zealand based Soprano Chelsea Dolman holds a MMus in Performance Voice (Waikato) and was a 2014/15 Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist with NZ Opera. She recently completed her studies with Dame Malvina Major and received the Dame Sister Mary Leo Scholarship at the 2015 New Zealand Opera School.

She was a finalist in both the 2015 Sydney Eisteddfod McDonalds Aria and the 2014 NZ Aria Competition. She also gained 1st place in the 2016 IFAC Handa Napier Aria and 2nd place in both the Christchurch Aria (2013 & 2015) and the Waikato Aria (2013 & 2014). Operatic roles include Louisa: The Bone Feeder (Auckland Arts Festival 2017), First Lady (understudy): The Magic Flute (New Zealand Opera 2016), Kate Pinkerton: Madama Butterfly (NZO 2015), Tisbe (understudy): La Cenerentola (NZO 2015), Dr Bartola: Barber of Seville (NZ Opera’s 'Opera in Schools' Tour) and Pamina: Die Zauberflöte (University of Waikato).

Meet our Artists

Sarah-Jane Rennie, Meet our Artists

Sarah-Jane Rennie


Sarah-Jane holds a Bachelor of Music Performance in Voice from The Victorian College of the Arts and a Diploma in Performing Arts (Opera) from the School of Music (Auckland University). She was a 2002 Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist.

Sarah-Jane’s roles include: Amor: Orfeo and Euridice (Auckland Chamber Orchestra 2002) and Elettra: Idomeneo (Auckland Opera Studio 2005). Her cover work for New Zealand Opera includes: Leila: The Pearl Fishers (2002); Donna Anna: Don Giovanni (2013); Violetta: La Traviata (2014, 2016); and Micaëla: Carmen (2017). Her concert work includes: Verdi in Concert with the APO (2005); The Lloyd Webber Requiem (2002); The Messiah with the CSO in 2003; and ‘Kiri and Friends’ concert with APO recorded for TV, CD and DVD.

She has toured for Sir Andrew Lloyd Webbers’ the Really Useful Group and played the Carlotta Alternate for The Phantom of the Opera Australasian tour 2008-09 and the World tour 2013-16. She sang in ten cities across the Pacific, Asia and Europe.

Sarah-Jane has trained under Isabel Cunningham in Dunedin and Olga Vosnesenskaya at l’Arena di Verona and regularly works with Sharolyn Kimmorley.        

Meet our Artists

Lachlan Craig, Meet our Artists

Lachlan Craig


Lachlan studied at the University of Auckland, completing his BMus in Performance Voice at the University of Auckland studying with Dr. Morag Atchison, his Honours Degree in Choral Conducting and Pedagogy with Dr. Karen Grylls gaining First Class Honours, and a Masters of Music in Voice under Dr. Te Oti Rakena.  Lachlan also studied at The 2015 and 2017 Choral Music Institute at Oxford University under Dr. James Jordan and Dr. James Whitbourn.  He is a member of Voices NZ Chamber Choir and a Freemasons NZ Opera Artist.  Lachlan is also an alumni of the NZ Secondary Students Choir, NZ Youth Choir and the UoA Chamber Choir.  Lachlan holds a full-time studio teaching position as Director of Choirs at Saint Kentigern College as well as being the Musical Director and Conductor of the Auckland Youth Choir.  Lachlan is in regular demand in NZ and abroad as a tenor soloist, conductor, teacher, adjudicator and clinician.  For full bio see 

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