Virtuoso opera repetiteur Bruce Greenfield is probably the finest
accompanist a singer could have for he believes the voice is the finest
“Every voice is utterly unique, every singer has their own sound. You
see a pianist is just a pianist and to me that all sounds the same.’’
Greenfield said when it comes to music he would have loved to have been a singer.
“Fortunately for me because I’m not a singer I discovered opera and
it really is my calling…the beauty of the music with the beauty of the
voice…perfect for me.’’
After more then 50 years he has now retired from the New Zealand
Opera Company but accompanying and coaching students at the New Zealand
Opera remains a lasting love.
“I suppose I could say I am retired but it doesn’t really feel right …it sounds too final.”
Greenfield has been at the NZ Opera School since its inception in 1994.
“All thanks to the wonderful Donald Trott who was determined to
further the careers of young New Zealand opera singers. He is the real
hero in all of this.”
As well as still taking private students at his Wellington studio and
teaching at the New School of Music, Greenfield is the official pianist
for Government House.
“I love the official ceremonies at Government House and our new Governor-General Cindy is a gorgeous woman.’’
Greenfield is acclaimed as one of New Zealand’s greatest repetiteurs.
It is a specialised field in that it means you don’t simply play the
accompaniment for a singer, you have had to have learned the entire
score of an opera and are able to rehearse the singer or singers through
the entire opera singing the other roles when required.
He started playing the piano at just three-years-old.
“We had a grand piano and I instinctively started playing.”
But he is adamant he didn’t really learn to play properly until he was 19 and finally had a decent teacher.
“Until then I was learning from the nuns at school and local
teachers…I was stunned when I had my first real teacher at university
it was like starting all over again.”
The calibre of New Zealand’s singers is remarkable, he said.
“But it irritates me when people talk about us being multicultural as
though it’s a new thing. It’s such rubbish we’ve had wonderful Maori
and polynesian classical singers for decades. Who could forget Inia Te
Wiata for example and that was over 60 years ago…the magnificent
production of “Porgy and Bess”directed by opera legend Phyllis Brusey.’’
Greenfield said he is a very happy man being at the New Zealand Opera
School and is relieved the school has gone ahead this year.
“It’s a highlight for me working with our young singers I look forward to every year.”