The paint and the brush came together on the 30th November and illustrated an exquisite picture called the “Oceania Women Opera,” with recurring strokes of faith, heritage, and music.
Donina Va’a, the Production Director and Lead Executive of the Pacific Women’s Professional Business Network INC and Maestro Iglese Ete, an esteemed Choral Master, and Composer, were the geniuses behind the showcase on the 30th November which was held at the dazzling Chatswood Concourse. Amongst the audience were the Crown Group, the major partner, as well as representatives from “Lindt”, “Bite Size” and “Crunch Fitness”.
The Oceania Women’s Opera included a newly composed production and tribute to the late Professor Epeli Hau’ofa and the late Teresia Teaiwa who truly embraced strength in diversity. This monumental production is an extension of Donina Va’a's initiative; connecting like-minded Pacific Islanders, strengthening diversity within any professional field.
Oceania Women Trio, comprised of Tonga’s Ana Fifita-Otai, esteemed Mezzo- Soprano and graduate from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and aspiring Sopranos she mentored, Samoa’s Lealoosina Va’a Samuels and Fiji’s Ani Lewaniu.
When we asked Ana Fifita-Otai, how she prepared for singing, she said; “Not only does it require vocal and musical preparation, the attention to character and physicality is as equally important Researching materials such as biographies of composers and historical books for a period are what I look into when I am preparing.”
The sensational guest artist Isabella Moore, a New Zealand born soprano was electrifying on the evening with her edge of the seat jaw-dropping finale performance in the first segment.
Isabella’s life mission evolved to making opera her sole career. “It is my dream to establish an international career in opera. It is my goal to one day sing on the main stage of various opera houses around the world and by doing so, represent my family, my country and my Pacific roots with pride,” she quipped.
The evening was hosted by Samoan born Priscilla Sedgwick, who was Master of Ceremonies.
Acknowledgment of the indigenous people of the land was led by Aboriginal songstress Georgia Hall who opened the evening with a beautiful Aria Io Son Lúmile Ancella followed by a medley of Aria’s including Summertime, Habanera, O Mio Fernando, Granada, Willow Song and Ave Maria.
The second-half of the production was a heart-warming musical production, “Ocean is Us”, written and produced by Maestro Tuilagi Iglese Ete. The storyline told about three women who were of Samoan, Tongan, and Fijian heritage; they set sail across the horizons to seek new opportunities. No matter where these women were though, the roots of their Pacific Island heritage and identity were always deep-seeded within them.
A Unique production as each Soprano sung in in their Pacific language, which was refreshing to hear as opera is traditionally sung in European languages.
The production was choreographed by Rako Pasefika, which incorporated traditional Pacific dances that mesmerized the audience.
The amazing production was put together over a period of two weeks, with only nine rehearsals! In fact, the first time all participants were present was on the day of the performance to which the producer laughingly pointed out “it’s not about the quantity but quality of the rehearsals and we also practically all were very keen to work alongside professionals such as Ana Fifita-Otai and Tuilagi Igelese Ete.”
Much of the operatic production is a metaphor for the lingering diaspora and struggles that Pacific Island people face when reaching a heterogeneous, multicultural society such as Australia, America, New Zealand or England.
As Priscilla Sedgwick explained in a nutshell; “Igelese with the music and Donina with the concept, stayed true to the operatic form by depicting the drama, passion, and colour of the Pacific Islands with subjects such as climate change and being lost at sea, trying to get back home.”
There was a heartfelt and overwhelming reaction from the audience, as the production, resonated with the genuine message of sacrifice. Interestingly enough, as stoic as the men can be in the audience, the production actually moved them into tears and tissues were taken out. The grand finale song of “Oceania is Us” was met by standing ovation.
Congratulations Donina and Iglese, the paint and the brush, for cultivating such a beautiful masterpiece of love, faith, and diversity. May your future endeavours continue to be successful.
“Thank you all so much for giving your all and making a difference in whatever passion and field for our Oceania Women, continues to make a difference in whatever passion and field you abide in, and blessed to have worked with you all.” – Maestro Igelese Ete
“What a privilege and pleasure to be involved. Congratulations to Nina Va’a for your dreaming and vision and sheer determination, hard work and brilliant masterminding!” – Sina Wendt Moore, CEO NZ Leadership, and mother of Isabella Moore.
“The passion and pride towards culture and the fierce connection to land or ocean, in particular, was something that moved me to tears as an Aboriginal woman.” – Georgia Dianne, Aboriginal songstress, when asked about the production.
“Ocean is us” is more than just salt water. It represents pain, struggle, sacrifice, love, and success evolved from our ancestors.” – Ana Fifita-Otai, describing the production, Ocean is Us.
“Thank you for an amazing event last night. You are a brave woman with a strong and beautiful heart for lifting our women – your passion and hard work is building the platform that inspires us all and lifts our next generations. That was an inspiring and heartwarming event – well done. You are in my prayers for continued creativity, wisdom and the strength to keep doing what you do! Be blessed!”- Selena Short, CEO Crunch Fitness