Opera Grammy for Simon O’Neill

Whanganui’s NZ Opera School graduate awarded Grammy

The head of the New Zealand Opera School in Whanganui says he is thrilled that former student Simon O’Neill has won a Grammy award.

O’Neill landed the Grammy for Best Choral Performance as part of a rendition of Mahler’s Symphony No 8 conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.

His double nomination recognises his contribution as a solo tenor in the role of Doctor Marianus in Mahler’s Symphony No 8. which was conducted by Gustavo Dudamel for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The tenor singer comes from Ashburton but has been at the New Zealand Opera School in Whanganui on multiples occasions over the years as a student, a patron and in January this year as a tutor. ‘We’re absolutely thrilled for him’ the school’s executive chairman Donald Trott said.

O’Neill was nominated for best choral performance and best-engineered album, classical – but missed out on a second award on the night. Trott said he had sent a text message to O’Neill congratulating him. He said he expected O’Neill would be being barraged by congratulatory messages right now.

When O’Neill first arrived in Whanganui to attend the New Zealand Opera School he came as a baritone, but that idea was soon turned on its head by the School’s founding principal tutor Madame Virginia Zeani.

‘She identified him as a tenor, not as a baritone.’ Trott said. ‘He was a little perplexed about that. He had a lot of gigs lined up as a baritone and suddenly he had to be a tenor’.

Trott said O’Neill had made consistent progress with his singing over the years to reach this point. ‘His voice has developed splendidly over the years and he is now at the pinnacle of his career. He’s one of the finest Wagnerian tenors in the world’. He’s also a very fine and engaging person’.

It was O’Neill’s third time being nominated at Grammys. He was previously nominated for the prestigious music award in 2006 in the Producer of the Year category for his recording of Chausson Le Roi Arthus with fellow New Zealand Wagnerian bass-baritone Sir Donald McIntyre.

He told RNZ that he was really proud of the nominations and called the honour a ‘great thrill’.

Whanganui Chronicle, April 5 2022

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