HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

Maria Tanner spends 5 minutes with ... Opera in Paradise

Their delicate voices soaring high above the roar of motorbike engines and clack of chickens musicians Mere Boynton and Deborah Wai Kapohe give me a sneak peek into the lives of two Maori maidens dominating a genre of music that has swooned the coldest of hearts, brought tears to the burliest of men and raised the hardiest of critics off their haunches. Opera, a love both women share has been the catalyst in their lives equally shaping and defining who they are.
Born with a distinct competitive streak and a dramatic flair Mere Tokorahi Boynton credits the inceptive stages of her career to her Principal who with a sharp ear and directional shove thrust the young performer under the nose of the local singing teacher. “Oh shut up Mere!!” That’s what the kids use to tell me,” she laughs remembering her youth, “I grew up on a small farm, where I was always singing or dancing, performing, kicking over the kitchen chair, oh very dramatic. Then we moved to Te Karaka and the Principal heard me singing, always harmonizing higher than the other kids, and organized an audition for me with the local singing teacher, and that’s how it all started. I just loved entertaining, entering competitions, and winning, every time I won a trophy I got such a thrill.”
“Well it’s a good thing that you were in Gisborne and I was in Invercargill,” Deborah giggles finishing off where Mere had started, “because I was just as competitive growing up.” Wai Kapohe born and raised from Southland stock of a modest farming community says that its music itself that has been the instrumental force throughout her 20 year long career, “I don’t come from a theatrical background so its always been about learning. Learning classical guitar, brass, playing in the orchestra or playing in the jazz band and then picking singing as an instrument and then eventually learning the acting that comes with it (opera).”
The pair who has respectively earned a name for themselves amongst their peers has travelled far and wide scouring the corners of the globe from Australia, Beijing, Papua New Guinea, and South America, now adding Rarotonga, Cook Islands to their already extensive bill. Wai Kapohe who has performed in a number of traditional operatic roles from Mimi in La bohem to Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus including her premier opera performance Outrageous Fortune by New Zealand composer Gillian Whithead.  Boynton not limited to singing has also appeared across the silver screen in the internationally acclaimed New Zealand film Once Were Warriors as the character Mavis and gained her formal vocal training at the Conservatorium of Music in Wellington. Operating on parallel axis the pair have whittled a career adorned with stuffy Eurocentric nuances and created something uniquely their own,  opera performances with a diverse Maori style fed on the legacy of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.   

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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