‘Bel canto’ soprano wins Moore

Auckland Soprano Isabella Moore. Image / John Moore.
Auckland Soprano Isabella Moore. Image / John Moore.

Samoan soprano and New Zealand School of Music (NZSM) graduate Isabella Moore has been announced the winner of the Waiariki Institute of Technology 2014 New Zealand Aria competition.

Chairwoman of the New Zealand Aria Trust, Jo-Anne La Grouw, says in this competition “you will hear the best upcoming opera singers from Australasia, maybe the next Dame Kiri Te Kanawa or Dame Malvina Major – they will be of that quality.”

Auckland-based Moore, 24, recently returned home to New Zealand from Wales where she has been furthering her vocal studies with tenor Dennis O’Neill at the Wales International Academy of Voice.

She says her time in Wales has enriched her vocal technique using the renowned European ‘Bel canto’ method, which translates to ‘beautiful singing’.

‘Bel canto’ is a hard technique to define, but to encapsulate it – singing looks effortless, “almost like the singer could be speaking, no sign of strain, it just looks beautiful, looks natural,” explains Moore.

Her goal since her July return was to enter as many singing competitions as possible before returning to Cardiff to refine her vocal technique and transition to being a professional.

A self-proclaimed “perfectionist”, Moore sets impressive goals. Since arriving in New Zealand she has won six prestigious singing competitions, including the renowned Australian Singing Competition and the Lexus Song Quest.

Moore says music was in the family and her earliest memories were singing with her dad at seven years of age. “Dad must have recorded them on his phone – he would like to take credit for the singing.

“Singing along to the Warehouse jingle was my first singing debut,” laughs Moore.

Writing pop songs and performing these songs at family lunches and barbecues were early confidence-boosters for Moore whose childhood dream was to be a pop star.

Some of Moore’s early inspirations were Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey and, notably, Sporty Spice from the Spice Girls. “I actually wanted to be a pop singer – opera is full time now,” smiles Moore.

Attending St Mary’s school in Ponsonby for her high school education opened up new opportunities. Learning a couple of woodwind instruments played an early part in Moore’s musicality.

However, joining the St Mary’s choir was a defining moment for Moore. She recalls being “blown away by it”. After a few years in the choir, Cathie Harrop her choir teacher, decided it was time for some solo private singing lessons. “And that’s how I got going with solo singing,” says Moore.

“I started having a few singing lessons and I realised in the day there was Dame Malvina Major singing and Kiri Te Kanawa, and I thought I should know about the legacy of St Mary’s,” she says.

Moore says she battled nerves in her early years as a student. “I would get stage fright, my voice would cut out half way through a line of a piece. I just freaked out because I was nervous, it was horrible,” she reflects.

Moore is refreshingly candid and positive about the opportunities for budding young singers in New Zealand, saying, “New Zealand is a bit of a newbie when it comes to opera, there is a young artist program and it’s good.

“New Zealand is quite a small place and we are doing really well for our whole population of four million and we are getting some really good upcoming talents. I think Opera singing and classical singing is really starting to come up here.”

Moore goes on to say “singers are really nurtured here, it’s definitely one of the best places for a young Opera singer to come out. Because of the small numbers of students we get that performance experience. New Zealanders definitely have that X factor.”

A Verdi lover, Moore says: “I would love to sing ‘Leonora’ from ‘Il Travatore’, she gets to sing everything, you’ve really got to have your technique perfect before you can sing Leonora.”

For Moore, Italian is her preferred language to sing in. “For me it’s more because of the voice that I have, I’m definitely a bit more suited to Italian Opera than anything else really” and “you have to sing what you enjoy singing,” she says.

Her voice continues to evolve and Moore is philosophical about her growth. “At this age I’m supposed to take it easy, get my technique sorted so I might not be fully singing at the peak of my career until my 30s,” she adds.

Moore’s immediate focus will be on completing her vocal studies in Cardiff and working with inspirational voice coaches and mentors like Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

Setting her sights high, Moore plans to audition for several semi-professional programmes and approach a few opera houses in the United Kingdom.

Listen to an interview with Isabella Moore below: