Wilson taking 'exciting step in my career'

Soprano Natasha Wilson’s performance in Dunedin will be her last before she heads overseas to study in San Francisco. Photo: Supplied
Soprano Natasha Wilson’s performance in Dunedin will be her last before she heads overseas to study in San Francisco. Photo: Supplied
About 220 musicians will take to the Dunedin Town Hall stage for the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Carmina Burana. Rebecca Fox talks to Natasha Wilson about her first performance of the entire work as a soprano soloist.

A love of story-telling has drawn Auckland singer Natasha Wilson into the world of opera.

''There is nothing more enjoyable than being on stage and having the chance to embody a character in a story, and using music and your voice to convey it.''

Her latest role in Carmina Burana - described as a choral work of powerful pagan sensuality and direct physical excitement - gives her plenty of opportunity, as the soprano role involves taking on vocal extremes ''in a very lascivious way''.

Marc Taddei
Marc Taddei

''The vocal parts are at their extremes. Becoming comfortable with the work vocally is so important, but it takes a lot of practice.''

Wilson has sung parts of Carmina Burana, which is based on funny, bawdy and hedonistic texts taken from anonymous poems from the Middle Ages, while performing with the Auckland Chamber Choir, the New Zealand Youth Choir as well as Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir, but this is her first experience singing the entire work as a solo soprano.

The role is also her last in New Zealand before she heads overseas to study in the United States, where she will complete a year-long postgraduate diploma in voice at the SanFrancisco Conservatory of Music.

''I'm going there to hone my vocal skills, with acclaimed voice teacher Casar Ulloa.

''San Francisco is one of the best places to be in the opera world, and going to study there with such a wonderful teacher, getting the chance to experience opera in America is such an exciting step in my career.''

Wilson grew up in a very musical family and begun singing at a very young age.

''My father was a gifted musician and tenor, who played heavy-metal bass-guitar, and he was my main source of musical teaching and inspiration growing up.''

So, singing as a career has always been supported and encouraged and is something Wilson always wanted, but it was not until the beginning of her last year of her bachelor's degree at Auckland University that she realised she could possibly make a career for herself in opera.

''It was at this stage where I felt myself develop technically and, therefore, vocally.''

She chose opera because there are so ''many exciting and beautiful aspects to it''.

Natasha Wilson
Natasha Wilson
Wilson went on to win the Dame Malvina Major Foundation Dunedin Aria in 2017 and was this year a semi-finalist in the Lexus Song Quest.

She also made her professional debut with New Zealand Opera as a member of their ensemble for their touring company production of The Mikado, by Gilbert and Sullivan.

''I was obviously very excited. This production was perfect to start on as it was so much fun, and I was surrounded by an incredibly supportive company.''

The highlight of her career to date has been performing in productions for New Zealand Opera this year.

''Playing the lighthearted roles of both Paquette and Giannetta have allowed me to be ridiculous characters on stage. I had so much fun playing these characters.''

She admits one of her favourite roles to sing is Adina. It is a role she understudied for at New Zealand Opera in its production of L'Elisir D'amore.

''I understand the character and love singing the role.''

But she is really looking forward to the day where she gets the opportunity to perform the role of Susanna in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro.

Wilson admits her career path is not without its challenges. One of the biggest is the need to travel abroad in order to gain experience and be exposed to the bigger world of opera.

''Leaving your home, your family and friends behind is one of the hardest things I have to do.

''But with the right support it makes it much easier to deal with.''

Part of that support has come from being involved in Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation's mentoring programme.

Wilson says the programme has given her many skills that have helped, and will help her as she goes forward.

''The programme helped me grow as an artist, as well as a businesswoman. I am so grateful for the support.''

Wilson will be joined on stage by Australians Henry Choo (tenor) and James Clayton (baritone), who are making their first visits to Dunedin, as well as the singers of the City Choir Dunedin, Southern Youth Choir, Southern Children's Choir and Fairfield School Choir and the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra.

Bringing them all together will be conductor Marc Taddei, Orchestra Wellington's music director since 2007.

''I love the fact this work demands a sense of collaboration between vast numbers of musicians.''

To see

Dunedin Symphony Orchestra’s production of Carmina Burana 
Saturday, 7.30pm
Dunedin Town Hall

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