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Grammy-winning NZ-born opera singer returns home to help budding local talent

He’s an internationally acclaimed opera singer based in London, but now Kiwi-born Jonathan Lemalu has returned to New Zealand.

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Jonathan Lemalu says coming back to New Zealand was a “no-brainer” after Covid-19 disrupted his work overseas. Source: 1 NEWS

He’s back because of Covid-19, touring the country and giving lessons to young New Zealand opera singers.

"I have had cancelled work since forever, so it seemed like a no-brainer to get back here. Mum hasn’t been well and also the chance came to put on some performances."

The Dunedin-trained singer is used to putting on shows for large audiences across the globe and is a professor of voice at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama and Royal College of Music.

“Between one and five in the morning, three days a week, I’m teaching my students at the college in Guildhall,” he says.

“I suddenly thought as I was up in the middle of the night, it would be really nice to do that in New Zealand in our own time.”

So he’s hand-picked some up-and-coming talent here, including 21-year-old Morgan King, who won this year’s Napier Aria competition.

“He’s a bass singer and I’m a young bass baritone singer so I can pick up a few tricks and skills from him,” Morgan says.

Lemalu has shows coming up in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin, and plans to hold masterclasses in each city.

“It’s not to teach them how to sing. I guess it’s performance practice, what the audience gets, and that’s where it starts.”