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Scholarship helps promising opera singer's dreams in Europe

Natasha Te Rupe Wilson's interest in classical music came to fruition as a teenager. Now her talent, determination and potential has been recognised by the Dame Malvina Major Foundation, with a scholarship to the tune of $50,000.

Te Ao Māori News talked to the rising star, whose ambitions have her reaching for the heights of another famous Māori opera singer.

Wilson, a 27-year-old soprano vocalist from Te Arawa and Ngāpuhi, refined her classical studies skills at the University of Auckland, but her musical abilities were cultivated at a young age by her whānau.

“My dad was a huge role model of mine and, being Māori, he's very musical. My Māori side of my family are all musical. My dad was a heavy metal bass guitarist and singer. He had a very eclectic taste in music, so I grew up listening to heavy metal, pop music, musical theatre but it wasn't until I was in my teens that I became interested in classical singing and my dad was like 'you should do this, it's definitely cool',” Wilson said.

One day she hopes to be just as skilled as Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

“She is just one of the best sopranos the world has ever seen and being Māori as well. She's always been an inspiration for me. Ever since I was a little girl I watched her sing in a DVD and I just remember thinking 'Oh my God she sings so high, I wonder if I could ever sing like that'.

Her career has allowed her to learn new languages.

“Sometimes you're singing in German, sometimes you're singing in French and Italian. There is only so much time you can put into learning all of these languages. I have tried to sound as authentic as possible.”

Wilson is now on a European tour. Her trip was made possible thanks to a $50,000 scholarship from Dame Malvina Major Foundation.

“It's helping me to land on my feet over here. A singer in my position, especially after covid and having cancellations and things like that. It's a complete honour and privilege to receive this.”

The award, established in 2020, is funded by Joan Egan to acknowledge Dame Malvina’s legacy and vision to support the career development of talented young opera singers handpicked by the Foundation.