When Oamaru Mail editor Rebecca Ryan emailed internationally-acclaimed opera singer Rebecca Ryan to arrange an interview, she wondered how she had managed to email herself. Editor Rebecca Ryan talks to soprano Rebecca Ryan about a singing career that has taken her around the world – and how she ended up in Weston.
Life in Weston is a world away from gracing international stages performing opera, but soprano Rebecca Ryan feels right at home.
Ryan, originally from Bluff, moved to North Otago with her family last year, following a singing career that has taken her around the world.
She has set up a teaching studio in Weston and is about to make her opera debut in Oamaru, putting on a solo concert at the Manor Estate on April 13.
The eldest of five girls, Ryan said her love of music developed at an early age.
She grew up playing the piano and violin, but fell into singing after getting into the New Zealand Secondary Schools Choir and the National Youth Choir while she was a pupil at Southland Girls’ High School.
After completing her first class honours degree in music at the University of Otago, she moved to London for a working holiday.
Armed also with a degree in information technology, she spent two years working in office jobs before being accepted into London’s Royal Academy of Music where she got her postgraduate diploma in music, enabling her to start working full time as an opera singer.
Ryan spent years in Europe, appearing in concert performances with many orchestras and choirs, her varied repertoire ranging from Bach and Handel through to Mozart, Mahler and Brahms.
This included three years in Ireland, performing and travelling the world with the Irish Baroque Orchestra, Ireland’s premiere period orchestra.
She shot to international prominence when she gave the UK premiere of the newly-rediscovered Gloria by Handel at London’s Royal Academy of Music, conducted by Nicholas McGegan.
It was believed to be the first time the piece had been performed since 1707.
“At the academy they have these huge vaults of music and a German Handel scholar had rediscovered this piece called Gloria – Handel’s Gloria – and I sang the British premiere of it,” she said.
“I was studying at the academy and I’d sung a Handel’s piece in a competition – that’s what I’m quite good at – and they just asked me to sing it.”
Ryan moved home to Invercargill about 10 years ago, getting tired of travel.
“It got to a stage where I was doing some really nice gigs in New Zealand and I was travelling back and forth [from London],” she said.
While she was happy to have returned to her southern roots, where she met her partner Callum Hoy, the international work dried up.
“I figured that I could get work and travel, but I didn’t get as much work,” she said.
She continued to perform around the country, started teaching from her own studio in Invercargill and had three children – who are now 4, 5 and 7 years old.
She is enjoying family life in North Otago and is slowly growing her teaching business from her teaching studio in Weston’s Main Rd, alongside her partner’s workshop – Ahoy Engineering.