Topic: Entertainment

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa helps ex-football player realise his opera potential

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa – Photo / file

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, of both Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngāti Porou descent, has helped an ex-professional football player realise his opera potential.

Tongan born Ta'u Pupu'a, who currently lives in the United States, started playing for the Cleveland browns NFL team, now known as the Baltimore Ravens in 1995.

He no longer participates in the sport due to a serious injury resulting in a broken arch in his foot.  It was then that he had to look for an alternative avenue of work.

Having spent most of his childhood at church, alongside his father who was a Methodist preacher, he moved to New York in the hope of making it into Broadway productions. 

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa was a prominent figure whom Pupu'a would look up to, especially because she, too, was of Polynesian origin. 

One day, he surprisingly came across a poster advertising that Te Kanawa would be signing books at the Metropolitan Opera bookshop.  It was there that Te Kanawa handed him her card and asked him to call her later on that day.

Soon after, she arranged an audition for him at the Juilliard School in Manhattan where Pupu'a won a scholarship and stayed there to train for the next three years. 

His new career began in 2011 at San Francisco Opera and since then he has starred in various opera roles. 

Just last week, Pupu'a appeared in The Ice Break Opera show where he portrayed a character based on Muhammad Ali.  This was also his British debut and only his second role based out of America.

Ta'u Pupu'a performs in concert, March 2014.