28 Jan 2023

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Deborah Wai Kapohe


Deborah Wai Kapohe was born in Winton in Southland. She studied classical guitar with Sue Court at the University of Otago and voice as a second instrument study with David Griffiths, and she was the top student of the music school there in 1988.

Further study at the University of Auckland under Beatrice Webster followed and she was again the top student in performance. Deborah was awarded both the Tower Opera Scholarship and the Aotea Centre Trust Scholarship in 1994 and in 1995 she was Guest Artist at the Australian Opera Young Artists programme where she studied with resident and guest coaches. Since 1998 she has worked with pianist and vocal coach David Harper.

Already recognised as an outstanding talent in New Zealand, Deborah is in constant demand, regularly appearing in arts festivals, operas, proms, concerts, recitals and other special events. Her international career is also continuing to develop at an impressive rate.

She has performed operatic roles with all the professional opera companies in New Zealand, as well as for OzOpera, Opera Australia and ChamberMade in Australia, and in 2000 she performed in the Beijing Music Festival Opera production of Massenet’s Werther.

Deborah is noted for her portrayal of Pamina in The Magic Flute, a role she has 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. Most recently she has received critical acclaim for her role of Nannetta in the NBR Opera New Zealand production of Falstaff.

Deborah 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 Deborah made her debut with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, singing Mozart arias in a programme which also featured bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu. This was performed in Wellington, and then within the Olympic Arts Festival at the Sydney Opera House.

2001 included performances at the New Zealand Chamber Music Festival in Nelson with the New Zealand String Quartet and a solo recital with pianist Dan Poynton, in Opera in the Park (also in Nelson) and at the Taranaki Festival. After a number of prestigious private performances in London, including at the installation of Sir Alan Traill as 'Master of the Worshipful Company of Musicians' at the Guildhall, Deborah made her public London debut in the Cathcart Spring Proms in the Royal Albert Hall in June 2001.

Engagements for 2002 include a Royal Gala charity performance at the Barbican in April, followed by performances in the Blackwood River Chamber Music Festival in Australia. Later in the year she will make her debut in the roles of Adalgisa in 'Norma' with Canterbury Opera, and Leila in 'The Pearl Fishers' with NBR New Zealand Opera.

Deborah is also noted for her solo performances accompanying herself on the guitar, and has undertaken a 17 town tour under the auspices of Chamber Music New Zealand, reflecting her ongoing commitment to her New Zealand base.






  • Auckland

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