Christchurch opera singer heads to Europe with $50,000 prize

Opera singer
Christchurch tenor Oliver Sewell said the award was a game-changer for his operatic career.

Supplied/Emma Brittenden

Christchurch tenor Oliver Sewell said the award was a game-changer for his operatic career.

Christchurch opera singer Oliver Sewell says winning the prestigious $50,000 Dame Malvina Major award was a “game changer” for his career.

The 33-year-old tenor said the prize money would support his time in Europe attending auditions and entering competitions to break into the “big world of opera”.

“It’s a game changer,” he said.

“There’s nothing else that would make such a difference in bringing me back to the great world of opera.”

“The biggest thing that stops me is that it is a huge financial risk.

“It allows me to do something that I could never justify or otherwise afford. It forces me to take risks and try.

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Sewell has already used the prize money to enter the Vincer First Italian Worldwide Opera Competition in Naples last week, where he won first place, competing against more than 30 finalists from five continents. He is currently based in Germany so he can attend auditions in Europe.

“Winning was a shock.

“I’ve done quite a bit of competition over the last 10 years and I’ve gotten pretty good at dealing with the disappointment of not winning and the conflict of being on stage and having to be happy and excited for someone. else.

“I was loading the case on how to deal with disappointment while being happy for someone else. I had my mask on and I was ready to clap for someone else.

“When they read my name, I had no program for it.”

Sewell in a Wellington <a class=Opera House production of La Traviata.” style=”width:100%;display:inline-block”/>

Wellington Opera/Stephen A’Court

Sewell in a Wellington Opera House production of La Traviata.

Oliver began his vocal studies at the University of Canterbury, before moving to Manhattan to complete a master’s degree at the Manhattan School of Music. He was artist-in-residence at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia from 2017 to 2020.

Dame Malvina said Sewell had a great understanding of her voice and her artistry.

“He has great musicality and a nice vocal ease in accessing the top notes,” she said.

“It’s such a pleasure to send him on the next part of his journey knowing he has all the ingredients to become a super operatic tenor.”

The Dame Malvina Major Foundation awarded its annual $50,000 Dame Malvina Major Award to Christchurch tenor Oliver Sewell this year.

Supplied/Emma Brittenden

The Dame Malvina Major Foundation awarded its annual $50,000 Dame Malvina Major Award to Christchurch tenor Oliver Sewell this year.

Sewell said winning the competition in Italy last week could open up more opportunities in Europe.

“The competition opened doors for me.

“Now I’m walking through those doors to see if I’m welcome there.”

He said he loved opera for its power to evoke emotion.

“It’s an amazing art form.

“He can tap into human emotion in ways that art forms cannot.”

He wanted to strike a balance between traveling the world as a traveling opera singer and enjoying his family life with his wife in Christchurch.

“My dream is to find the best possible balance.

“I don’t know what it looks like but I won’t know if I don’t look.”