Trust Records
Deborah Wai Kapohe

A multi-talented performer, having studied classical guitar before developing her vocal talents, Deborah Wai Kapohe has sung prestigious opera roles, by both classical-romantic and contemporary composers, performed solo recitals in a number of countries, and toured and recorded her own songs around New Zealand.

Recordings featuring Deborah Wai Kapohe

Canciones Españolas
Spanish classical songs for soprano & piano

MMT2038, Released 2002
Farr: Warriors From Pluto
Works for chamber orchestra by Farr

MMT2036, Released 2001


Deborah Wai Kapohe was born in New Zealand's Southland region. She studied classical guitar, with voice as a second instrument study at the University of Otago, topping her year of study in 1988. Further study at the University of Auckland under Beatrice Webster followed and she was again the top student in performance. Wai Kapohe was awarded both the Tower Opera Scholarship and the Aotea Centre Trust Scholarship in 1994 and the following year was Guest Artist at the Australian Opera Young Artists programme, where she studied with resident and guest coaches. In 1998 she began work with pianist and vocal coach David Harper.

Wai Kapohe is noted for her portrayal of Pamina in The Magic Flute, a role she made her own in New Zealand and Australia. In 1999 Deborah made her debut as Mimi in La Bohème with Opera New Zealand. Other traditional roles include Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus and Sophie in Werther. She also received critical acclaim for her role of Nannetta in the NBR Opera New Zealand production of Falstaff.

The singer is equally comfortable in opera by contemporary composers. She has created roles in Outrageous Fortune by New Zealand composer Gillian Whitehead, Wide Sargasso Sea by Brian Howard and Gauguin by Michael Smetanin for ChamberMade in Australia, and she was The Child in Grandma’s Shoes by Graeme Koehne, a joint production between Opera Australia and Theatre of Image.

In 2000 Wai Kapohe made her debut with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, singing Mozart arias in a programme which also featured bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu. The programme was performed in Wellington, and as part of the Olympic Arts Festival at the Sydney Opera House.

In 2001, after a number of prestigious private performances in London, Wai Kapohe made her public London debut in the Cathcart Spring Proms in the Royal Albert Hall. Engagements the following year included a Royal Gala charity performance at the Barbican. She then debuted in the roles of Adalgisa in Norma with Canterbury Opera, and Leila in The Pearl Fishers with NBR New Zealand Opera, and undertook a 17-town tour under the auspices of Chamber Music New Zealand, reflecting an ongoing commitment to New Zealand. Her performance in the University of Otago's production of Carmen in 2006 received excellent reviews, including the following comment from Opera-Opera; “there were no redeeming features about a creature like Carmen apart from the accolades that Deborah Wai Kapohe should take for portraying the role in such a fearful fashion”.

Wai Kapohe completed her Masters Degree in Vocal Performance at the University of Otago with Distinction in May 2006, going on to performances at the Shanghai International Arts Festival in later that year. She has since diversified, beginning a degree in law at the University of Sydney the following year, but continuing to appear in operatic roles and recitals in New Zealand, Australia and China.

Wai Kapohe also has an interest and talent in contemporary songwriting, and was sponsor of both the Pacific and Christian Songwriting Competitions 2005 and 2006 which presented a total of $65,000 to songwriters who entered from around worldwide. Her own songwriting has included a commission for Dunedin's Southern Sinfonia in Dunedin, a New Zealand tour, performing her own music, with Arts on Tour New Zealand and three recordings of her own music.

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