NZ Opera School: Review – Final concert in Whanganui showcases big hearts and talent


The New Zealand Opera School’s final performance, Great Opera Moments, delighted the audience. Photo / John Wansbrough

Great Opera Moments 2022
Wanganui Royal Opera House
saturday 22 january
Reviewed by Lin Ferguson

It was yet another superb final concert from director Jacqueline Coats and her assistant Kararina Walker. Well done!

Again, Coats’ sure hand of direction meant that the 21 students at the New Zealand Opera School, to put it in today’s idiom, “had their moves down” and sang with confidence and flair.

Audiences adored them, from proud parents and grandmas to people who simply loved hearing opera performed live, an unusual phenomenon these days, but we live in hope that it will return.

There were, of course, outstanding performances as each student was introduced and showcased and all sang in praise of their strong young voices.

How satisfying for us “adults” in the audience to be bathed in their enthusiastic young performances and to see this radiant commitment from everyone as they face their audience and sing with great heart and winning talent.

The school girl at just 19, Wellington’s Jasmine Jessen, also a violinist, was an enchanting and fragile Juliet in her “I want to live” from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette.

She had the beautiful dreamlike quality that Gounod wanted. Her voice beautifully encapsulated the sweetness of the aria.

“O pallida che un iorno” by Lemauseafa Sio Lolesio by Mascagni was rich and warm. His strong voice flowed with absolute certainty and had a liquid quality that was thrilling.

Young Hawke’s Bay tenor Jordan Fonotu-Fuimaono delivered a warm and lyrical “Where’er you Walk”, Handel’s classic. His energy was fully focused on delivering this song with every nuance and careful phrasing throughout.

“Salut! Demeure chaste et pure” by Faust de Gounod by his older brother Emmanuel Fonoti-Fuimanono brought beauty and warmth to this tune, with his powerful tenor voice that resonated and absolutely delighted this audience with its musicality.

And then there was a young woman – Rhiannon Cooper, an amazing young singer…to watch.

As she glided across the stage and sang “Einsam in truben Tagen” from Wagner’s Lohengrin, this statuesque singer was captivating, utterly memorable. We will hear more from her.
She had this indefinable quality of a powerful stage presence, a quality that cannot be learned.

It was really a great concert. Thanks to the New Zealand Opera School. May you stay long in Whanganui. We are so proud of you.


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