A musical success story

Last updated 12:47 17/01/2013

THE CAST: From left, Derek Hill, Rachel Wells, Peau Halapua, Susan Boland, Jessica Hindin and Bonavenutre Allan-Moetaua.

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A company born from a passion for people and music and an entrepreneurial spirit will bring 22 shows to Nelson this year.

Operatunity started with an audience of nine 11 years ago. It will perform more than 250 concerts around the country this year, along with eight overseas tours.

Directors Geoffrey Hughes, Susan Boland and John Cameron got tired of singers complaining that there was no work for them, so the trio of opera singers decided to make work for themselves and others.

"We basically decided the world doesn't owe you a living, so we formed Operatunity to work for ourselves and fellow singers, and we survive totally on box office. For an arts organisation, that's unheard of in New Zealand," Hughes said.

The three directors do a bit of everything, but now employ five fulltime staff as well as up to 40 singers and artists subcontracted over a year.

Although the company does not receive any grants or sponsorship, Hughes said it was the largest provider of live entertainment in the country. This year it will present more than 200 daytime concerts and 56 evening concerts in 11 national tours.

"We are like an old English repertory company - drive into town, set up, do the show, pack it up and drive off to the next town. It's an old tradition that's very rarely done nowadays."

This year's lineup includes an evening concert series; three national tours featuring Rock the 50s, 60s and 70s, with veteran Kiwi rock'n'roller Tom Sharplin and his band; Helen Medlyn and Penny Dodd in their new show Hell on Wheels, an irreverent, fun look at Medlyn's life as a professional singer; and An Evening at the Opera, a chance to discover opera for the first time.

"It's a chance for people to see good-quality professional music and artists without having to take out a mortgage, making music high-quality but accessible and enjoyable," Boland said.

The 2013 daytime concerts will offer different styles of music, including musicals and "popera". Forbidden Broadway (a spoof of Broadway musicals), Music for Romantics, crooners such as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and Irish music feature in others.

Operatunity also arranges corporate events. "There is certainly not much downtime," said Boland. "We have built a reputation for quality. Too many arts companies go bust. A lot of that is to do with arts organisations telling the customer what they want, rather than asking.

"People seem to forget that music and the way it is presented must be enjoyable. Why do it otherwise? The recipe for our success is great music but also great customer service."

The Nelson shows will be staged at the Theatre Royal or Hope Church. See operatunity.co.nz.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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