Simon O’Neill ONZM

Founding Patron

The Hon Dame
Catherine Tizard ONZ

Founding Principal Tutor

Madame Virginia  Zeani

Board of Trustees

Donald Trott ONZM, JP

David Cairncross

Jack Bourke

Alex Reedijk
(GD Scottish Opera)

about us





The Aotearoa NZ Opera School is a registered charitable trust, established in 1994 by Donald Trott ONZM to deliver New Zealand’s premier residential training course for budding New Zealand opera singers.
Its mission statement hasn’t changed since day one: 

“To provide a period of intensive vocal, language, movement and acting training with tutors of international reputation in order to give our emerging New Zealand opera singers the very best tuition possible and to provide a taste of the disciplines required to succeed in the fast-growing, competitive and demanding world of opera performance.”

As of 2012, founder Donald Trott is the School’s Executive Chairman and Director.

In 2004, Whanganui supporters joined a roll-call of funders and patrons to create Whanganui Opera Week building significant local support for the school’s activities. Whanganui Opera Week is now identified as one of the region’s most popular events and attracts visitors from across the country.

School alumni include renowned international tenor Simon O’Neill ONZM, Madeleine Pierard (Lexus Song Quest winner 2005), Phillip Rhodes (Lexus Song Quest Winner 2007), Pene Pati (international tenor and the founder of SOL3 MIO), Amitai Pati (Lexus Song Quest winner 2012), Stephen Diaz (Lexus Song Quest runner-up 2012) and mezzo-soprano Bianca Andrews.

The Kokako – a New Zealand songbird – forms part of the school’s logo. It has a beautiful, clear voice which carries over great distances. Kokako populations have distinctly different songs, a phenomenon many people consider analogous with that of human dialects. The school’s motto Nihil tumultus, tantum opera translates as ‘Minimum fuss, maximum work’



Every year, up to 22 students gather in the historic buildings of Whanganui Collegiate  School with internationally renowned tutors for an intensive two weeks of study and performance, both at the School and in Whanganui’s arts and recreational venues. The curriculum comprises:



As well as providing a full schedule of vocal, musical and stage training, the New Zealand Opera School also presents several public performances which not only enable the students to become more relaxed and familiar with performing in front of an audience, but also give the public the chance to enjoy the students’ talents and to observe their development. Masterclasses with senior tutors also give the public an insight into some of the challenges singers face and the ways in which these can be overcome.

A typical calendar of performances includes:

  • Recital by the Studio Artists of New Zealand Opera
  • ‘In Praise of Music’ at Whanganui Collegiate Chapel
  • Public Masterclasses
  • Evening Café Performances
  • Gala Concert ‘Great Opera Moments’ at the Royal Whanganui Opera House

More information about the programme of public performances will be published closer to the date of the School. 



The New Zealand Opera School is based at the Whanganui Collegiate School campus in Whanganui, New Zealand.

The New Zealand Opera School has a long-standing affiliation with Whanganui Collegiate School. The school’s geographically central location and outstanding facilities ensure the New Zealand Opera School can provide a world-class teaching and learning experience. For more information about Whanganui Collegiate School, see their website.

Click here for a virtual tour of the grounds.

New Zealand Opera School | Student | Whanganui Collegiate