Soprano Felicity Tomkins in recital last year at the University of Waikato with Francis Cowan on piano.
There have been many firsts over the past 12 months for Te Puke-raised soprano Felicity Tomkins.
His first performance in the United States, his first visit and performances in Germany – and currently his first participation in the Lexus Song Quest are on this list.
The Song Quest is a competition that began in 1956 and has opened many doors for young artists.
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Dame Malvina Major and Amitai Pati of Sol3 Mio are the previous winners.
The competition has not been held for four years.
“It’s pretty exciting to get the chance to be a part of it, it’s a big part of the opera scene,” Felicity said. “There have been some really big names involved in the past.”
Currently studying in the United States, before returning to New Zealand, she spent five weeks in Germany and Austria as part of her studies.
“It’s pretty exciting to be home and share what I’ve done with people, see friends and just hang out and enjoy singing.”
She says it’s nearly impossible to predict how the competitions will go.
“I think you always have to approach things with the main goal of having fun and sharing with everyone. Anything else that happens is a bonus.”
Born and raised in Te Puke, Felicity attended Te Puke Primary School and then went on to Tauranga Middle School and Tauranga Girls’ College.
She graduated from the University of Waikato as a Sir Edmund Hillary Scholar and Adastra Foundation Scholar, with joint Bachelor of Music (Vocal) and Bachelor of Science (Biochemistry) degrees.
She joined the Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus (Auckland) in 2019 and was a Dame Malvina Major Foundation Studio Artist with New Zealand Opera in 2020.
Her later studies took her to the United States, where she completed her Artist Diploma in Opera Vocal Performance at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) under the tutelage of internationally renowned tenor Stuart Skelton. .
Felicity was in Germany and Austria as part of CCM Opera’s language and cultural immersion program.
The program is about learning about the local culture and immersing yourself in the musical environment, especially at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich.
“The artist diploma is a level above the masters”, she says. “It’s one of the best schools and it’s so cool, I love it. It’s exciting to be somewhere else, but also to be really grateful for the foundation that New Zealand has given me .”
She says singing is a collaborative process.
“It’s a part of it that I like.”
Another is actual performance.
“It’s a very immediate setting and I have conversations with the audience – even with something that’s in a foreign language. That’s one of the things that appealed to me the most – you have a shared experience with the public.”
She says the magic of the live performance is hard to explain, “but it’s pretty special.”
Felicity says her ambition is to have bigger roles and perform in bigger venues around the world.
“Being able to sing and have a good career would be an absolute dream – it’s a very special thing to be able to do.”
The 10 artists selected for the Lexus Song Quest are currently preparing for the semi-finals which will take place on Saturday and Sunday, with the final judged live on July 23 at the Michael Fowler Center in Wellington.