Baritone Moses Mackay has been awarded the prestigious $50,000 Dame Malvina Major Award as he returns to his passion of opera, training in Italy with some of the world’s best.
The singer recently released his debut solo album of original non-operatic songs, GRACE, a dedication to his late grandmother.
“I took a break from opera a few years back to work on my compositions, and to release GRACE. What this gave me was time, time to grow as an artist. Now to be at this point of my life and have this time to focus purely on operatic vocal studies is a dream.”
The award is funding Moses’ vocal development as he furthers his career in opera, including auditioning for opera houses in Europe where he is now based.
He recently participated in the Mediterranean Opera Studio and Festival in Sicily where he worked with Italian tenor Jack LiVigni, along with Maestro Kamal Khan and Nelly Miricioiu, and performed the role of Enrico in the Opera Lucia di Lammermoor. He then performed the role of Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana at the Arte Lirica Festival Bassano del Grappa before being tutored by voice teacher and vocal pedagogue Sherman Lowe in Treviso, Veneto. He is currently taking part in Patricia Hurley’s Italian for NZ Opera Singers Masterclasses in Tuscany.
Moses outside Teatro Massimo in Palermo
“I am full of gratitude that the Dame Malvina Major Foundation believes in me. The baritone voice matures a little later than other voice types, it feels right for me to be doing this now,” says Moses.
Dame Malvina says Moses has an amazing talent and commends him for doing things his way.
“Moses has never stopped performing but he has been concentrating on composition these last few years, exploring his Samoan ancestry through music, helping others. He has been hugely generous to many, possibly at the expense of his own career. At long last, he’s realising his own worth, heeding the advice of others to focus his future on opera and honing that talent,” she says.
“He has taken up the challenge. Opera is something he has always loved, he has a great baritone voice and acting ability. This special Italian experience can do nothing but enhance his future, his Italian language and the plans he has to compose a South Pacific opera.”
“At long last, he’s realising his own worth, heeding the advice of others to focus his future on opera and honing that talent”
The Dame Malvina Major Award, established in 2020 and funded by Joan Egan to acknowledge Dame Malvina’s legacy and vision to “share the dream”, supports the career development of talented young opera singers handpicked by the Foundation. Tenor Amitai Pati won the inaugural award, followed by soprano Natasha Te Rupe Wilson in 2021 and tenor Oliver Sewell in 2022.
Head boy of Rosmini College in 2007, Moses first met Dame Malvina when he was transitioning from high school to university, with a dream to be on stage. “She was one of the first people I came across who saw me and noticed my talents at such a young age,” says Moses.
“I was always interested in the stage and in sound – it was never just opera. It was choral singing, musicals, film scores, jazz – anything that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up! When I first met Dame Malvina she told me she wanted to sing in musicals, yet she lived the life of a very successful opera singer. Her honesty made me feel like I could be and do anything.” Moses went on to study a Bachelor of Music at the University of Auckland, alongside Italian and French, successfully audition for the NZ Opera chorus and be named a Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist with NZ Opera in 2011.
With his cousins Pene and Amitai Pati, he was invited to study a Master’s degree at the Wales International Academy of Voice in 2013, with the trio forming Sol3 Mio as a way to raise money for their studies, recording their first album in the UK.
Over the years, the trio have come together to perform and record albums as Sol3 Mio, to international acclaim, while each pursuing their own musical careers in different parts of the world.
“There is so much that this award has given me and I’m not quite sure how to express this, even more than I am already so grateful for,” says Moses.