Curator of St Paul’s show revels in latest role

Soprano Anna Leese. Photo: supplied
Soprano Anna Leese. Photo: supplied
From giving birth alone under Covid-19 restrictions to switching from her usual singing gig to curator for the 2021 Dunedin Arts Festival show St Paul’s at One, New Zealand soprano opera singer Anna Leese tells reporter Molly Houseman about her busy life as a mother, wife, artist, music teacher and part-time student.


Is St Paul’s at One the first concert you have curated?
Yes. I didn’t know if I’d enjoy it but I’ve loved it.

How does itcompare to being on the stage yourself?

It is completely different. I am able to spread the work out and do it when I’m able to, which right now suits me perfectly with two preschoolers. A singing gig means long, concentrated hours rehearsing and performing. It is also very, very high pressure and very exposed.

What can Dunedin expect from St Paul’s at One?

A massively wide range of classical music performances! But they will all be about 50 minutes of beautiful music played by soloists and duos and small groups. You’ll be able to fit it into your lunch break.

How did this show come to be?

This series has existed for a while and has been really popular in the past. I think the series has built up quite a following of regulars. It’s a convenient lunch-time spot for classical music in a serene, peaceful venue.

How has a year of Covid-19 affected you?

Well, a lot of my singing work was cancelled and a lot of my university singing teaching had to go online, which was incredibly frustrating for everyone. It is a great relief to be back in person for a long stretch of time (touch wood).

I also gave birth to our second son, Samuel, in Covid-19 Alert Level 4, so I had to do that completely alone in hospital. There wasn’t even a doctor available to assess me when I went into labour so I had to do it all by myself for hours. I wasn’t allowed my support person or even midwife until the very final hour, which I found quite terrifying. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough afterwards.

What has been the biggest challenge in your career so far?

Gosh. Maybe just the isolation that comes from being a travelling soloist. It made me miserable to be on the road and be alone all the time, eat alone all the time. I moved home so that I could put some roots down and base my career in Australasia and I haven’t regretted it for a minute.


How do you spend your time away from performing and curating shows?

Teaching classical voice at the university, bringing up our two adorable sons and spending time with my husband who isvery sick with a terminal illness. I’m also studying part time towards my doctorate in music.

• St Paul’s at One will be held in Dunedin at St Paul’s Cathedral, the Octagon, at 1pm, from today until to April 10.
 

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