Natasha Te Rupe Wilson Wins $50,000 Dame Malvina Major Award

Published: Tue 16 Nov 2021 08:57 AM
Auckland soprano Natasha Te Rupe Wilson (Te Arawa, Ngā Puhi), has been awarded the prestigious $50,000 Dame Malvina Major Award recognising her “track record, talent, determination and potential”.
Natasha Te Rupe Wilson Credit: David Bachman
The award, established in 2020 and funded by Joan Egan to acknowledge Dame Malvina’s legacy and vision to “share the dream”, supports the career development of talented young opera singers handpicked by the Foundation.
Natasha left New Zealand recently for an audition tour of Europe and plans to base herself in Germany to further develop her career.
The former Dame Malvina Major Foundation Emerging Artist with New Zealand Opera, Natasha completed her studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and was a Resident Artist with Pittsburgh Opera before returning home to New Zealand last year due to pandemic.
She says the award means so much for her career and alleviates the financial strain that a singer in her position faces under normal circumstances, let alone during this pandemic.
“Dame Malvina and her foundation have been supporting me since I began performing in the regional competitions across New Zealand back in 2017. They have created a community of artists who feel like they’re part of a whānau. I’m so honoured to be a part of this community and to be able to put myself forward for the best possible opportunities, thanks to this award.”
Dame Malvina says Natasha has shown the foundation that she is determined to succeed, a huge plus in these hard times of COVID-19 restrictions.
“I have watched her determined progress over the last few years where she has grown more and more as a genuine performer. Besides having a beautiful voice, she is a serious actress and obviously loves to perform – the stage is her happy place.”
Dame Malvina says Natasha is passionate about what she wants to achieve in the future and shows great love and respect for her art form and cherished Māori heritage.
“I believe it is our duty as a foundation to find and support young people who have a defined and determined idea of where they want to go to reach the pinnacle, and the talent to support their will to do so.”
Last year’s inaugural recipient of the Dame Malvina Major Award, Amitai Pati, says the award has not only been helpful in easing the stress of financially supporting his most recent endeavours, but it has opened the door to opportunities. “In June, I was able to travel to France to participate in the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence. Not only was I able to perform, but I also made some valuable connections which have led to debuts for the coming years.
“The pandemic has affected us all. It’s been the most challenging time, especially for us involved in the performing arts. COVID has definitely made me realise that we must make the most of our situations and continue to push forward. I will always be grateful to Dame Malvina for her unwavering support.”Background
Dame Malvina Major Foundation
The Dame Malvina Major Foundation was established in 1991 to enable Dame Malvina Major’s vision to “share the dream” with talented young performers. The Foundation helps young New Zealanders in the performing arts achieve their potential by providing education and training opportunities, supporting them to prepare for professional careers. It does this through a range of grants, prizes and scholarships.
Natasha Te Rupe Wilson (Te Arawa, Ngā Puhi) – bio
Music, specifically singing, has always been my passion. This passion has always been driven by my whānau. My late father was a bassist and singer, as well as my grandfather (piano) and his father (drums). Hailing from Rotorua, my father’s whānau have always been the biggest influence in my musical upbringing, and a huge reason why I perform. My Māori heritage is a part of me, of which I’ve always been proud. I attribute my aural abilities to my upbringing – singing harmonies around a guitar, or a cappella, with my Dad and older sister, from a very young age.
Since completing my studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music under the tutelage of César Ulloa, I have been fortunate enough to be constantly performing. My most recent international engagement, since Covid-19 hit, was based in Pittsburgh PA as a 2019/20 Resident Artist with Pittsburgh Opera. I made my United States mainstage debut with Pittsburgh Opera as Rosalba in their 2019 production of Catan’s ‘Florencia en el Amazonas’. I also played the role of Morgana in the company’s 2020 production of Handel’s ‘Alcina’, and was set to make my debut as Frasquita in their mainstage ‘Carmen’ before the pandemic hit.
Throughout 2021, I’ve been fortunate to have had so many opportunities to perform throughout New Zealand. I began the year performing the role of Lisa for Days Bay Opera’s ‘La Sonnambula’ and Purea in the world premiere of Tim Finn’s ‘Ihitai - ‘Avei’a’with New Zealand Opera. Most recently I have performed Zerlina in Wellington Opera’s premiere production of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ as well as the role of Marzelline in the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra’s concert performance of Beethoven’s ‘Fidelio’.
It’s been a year of premieres for me, as I also debuted the role of Little Red Riding Hood, in Lucy Mulgan’s new production ‘Red!’. In September I was set to debut in the role of Amor while understudying the role of Euridice in NZ Opera’s collaboration with Black Grace for their production of Gluck’s opera ‘Orfeo ed Euridice’. Unfortunately, due to the lockdown restrictions in Auckland, the production has had to be postponed until 2023. Even so, it’s been a heavy year of music-making and I am grateful for the opportunities these companies have given me during such a difficult time for the arts. It has not been an easy time for those of us who have always known that music is our calling.
It’s important to mention that during the celebration of Matariki this year, I decided to announce that I will, from now on, be using my whānau’s full name – Te Rupe Wilson. This decision comes from years of feeling out of touch and removed from my Māori heritage. It began with my great-grandfather, Toroa Wirihana Rupe, changing our last name in order to prevent our whānau from being discriminated against.
My Koro Toroa, Nanny Karepe, and my Granddad Alfie (Boydie), are all buried with this acknowledgement of our tīpuna, and so I have decided to carry on representing my family name with pride. My tīpuna have all shared the same strengths - hard work, education and music – and I plan to let that continue whether I’m performing in Aotearoa or around the world.
Ko Tarawera te maunga
Ko Tarawera te awa
Ko Te Arawa te iwi
Ko Tūhourangi te hapū
Ko Hinemihi te marae
Nō Tāmaki Makaurau ahau
Ko Te Rupe Wilson tōku whānau
Ko Natasha tōku ingoa

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