Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tongan tenor back home to star in New Zealand Opera’s latest production

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John Pulu | Presenter/ Reporter/Director

Award-winning New Zealand-Tongan lyric tenor Manase Lātū plays the lead in the latest  offering by New Zealand Opera, ‘Le Comte Ory’

The work is being performed for the first time by the opera company and it was composed by 19th century Italian composer Gioachino Rossini who is described as one of the most influential of his generation.

“He’s an Italian composer, one of the great bel canto composers in history and he wrote this opera and it’s in French but the music, it’s still his music, and it still kind of sounds Italian in a way but it’s French.” Latu says.

“(In) opera there is so many things you know, there’s tragedy, there’s murder, there’s someone dying or something like that but this opera is a lot lighter than that. It’s a comic opera and it’s so nice for a change of pace and that’s what we have with this opera,” 

The opera is set in modern New Zealand and close to home for the proud Ōtāhuhu resident who has been based in Europe and the USA. 

But since he’s been back at his family home, it’s straight to family duties.

“My family has their professional plate cleaner, and laundry person back, yeah it’s good to be back.”

Manase is no stranger to New Zealand ears, he was in ‘the Shades’ known for fusing classical music with some of our Pacific Islands classics.

He took a break from the quartet to take up a scholarship at the Royal College of Music in London before relocating to New York the following year when he was accepted into a prestigious opera training program.

“I was a part of the Lindemann program at the Metropolitan opera which I attended with Samson Setu as well who is, unfortunately, a good friend of mine and yeah we were there for the past 2-3 years.”

He is the first Tongan and one of just two from New Zealand to gain a place on the program with the chance to sing in the biggest opera house in the world.

“When I am on stage, I feel like I am like a vessel for all this great music that has come and gone before me you know and, for me, it’s like being a servant of the music is something that I have really developed over time and with opera.”

Before the world stage Manase and his siblings grew up around church music.  

“My Mum, she is a minister and I have three older sisters and we’d go around for her to malanga or for her to, you know, preach around at the various churches. 

“My sisters would sing as a trio and I would, I was the younger brother, and I’m younger by a lot of years, and I’d be standing behind them just kind of humming along but how the tides have turned now. 

“They also like to remind me where I come from.”

A timely reminder to never forget his roots. 

Le Comte Ory has played in Auckland and will be in Wellington and Christchurch this month. Follow this link for more.



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