Soprano back among friends

Anna Leese looks over the score of Beethoven's Ah! Perfido during a rehearsal in Marama Hall...
Anna Leese looks over the score of Beethoven's Ah! Perfido during a rehearsal in Marama Hall yesterday.
London-based soprano Anna Leese is excited about being back in Dunedin, but is less enthused about the wintry weather that greeted her.

"It's great to be back home. But I'd only been back for a couple of days when I got a cold, which is a bit of a pain," she said yesterday.

Leese has returned to New Zealand for a 10-centre Chamber Music New Zealand tour with University of Otago William Evans Executant Professor in Piano, Prof Terence Dennis.

The pair open the tour in Christchurch tomorrow night, before the Dunedin performance on Tuesday.

"It's going really well for me over there, although it can be quite lonely sometimes. There's lots of travel and you have to make a lot of personal sacrifices.

"You're away from your family and it's difficult to have a steady personal life. It's really hard to tie relationships down, because you're never there for people," she said.

"I do miss that old Dunedin thing of popping out and having a cup of tea with someone."

The support of expatriate New Zealand friends like Dame Kiri te Kanawa and her flatmate, singer Emma Fraser, had helped.

"Kiri's been really amazing. She's always on the end of the phone offering to help with things. She's so incredibly generous," Leese (27) said.

"You have to have a really rigid schedule and keep your motivation up. It's easy to get up in the morning and not want to practice.

"But, career-wise, it is going well. It's a massive industry over there and there are so many opportunities," she said.

"When it's worth it, it's really worth it."

It has been a spectacular year for the University of Otago-trained singer, who studied under Isabel Cunningham.

In February, she sang with Jose Carreras at the Sage Theatre in Newcastle, before graduating from the Benjamin Britten International Opera School at the Royal College of Music, where she won the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Rosebowl.

"Prince Charles presented it to be and I made a bit of a faux pas," she said.

"He asked me about Dame Kiri and I said 'Oh, yeah, she sang at your first wedding, didn't she?' He just walked away."

Leese moved to London five years ago after winning the 2001 Otago Daily Times Aria and 2002 New Zealand Mobil Song Quest.

Her debut album, Debut Recital, was released last week on EMI Classics.

During the tour, Leese will also sing with superstar Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli at his only New Zealand concert in Auckland on August 20.

The Dunedin programme is:Ah! Perfido (Beethoven), Vado, ma dove? and Zefferetti lusinghieri (Mozart), Three Sitwell Songs (Walton), Three Songs from On This Island; Johnny (Britten), Meine Liebe ist grün; In stiller Nacht; Die Nachtigall; Nachtigallen schwingen (Brahms) and Brentano Lieder, Opus 68 (Richard Strauss).

Anna Leese and Terence Dennis perform at 8pm on Tuesday in the Glenroy Auditorium.

 

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