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Tenor Amitai Pati receives inaugural $50,000 Dame Malvina Major Award

Amitai Pati as Jupiter in NZ Opera's Semele
Credit Garry Brandon

A $50,000 annual opera award honouring Dame Malvina Major has been established, with tenor Amitai Pati the inaugural recipient.

The Dame Malvina Major Award had been funded by Joan Egan who wanted to acknowledge Dame Malvina’s legacy and celebrate the Dame Malvina Major Foundation’s 30th anniversary.

Dame Malvina says the award is “hugely generous”.

“Joan has created this award out of a mutual respect and her admiration for what the Dame Malvina Major Foundation has achieved for young performing artists over 30 years. She also knows the significant costs these young people face as they forge their careers.”

Dame Malvina says Amitai is a very worthy first recipient, and demonstrates the commitment and tenacity needed to succeed.

“He is endowed with a superb tenor voice and is dead set on making his dream come true. He shows grit and determination and a nothing-will-get-in-his-way attitude which is absolutely necessary in the business of opera or theatre. Amitai wants it and has a plan laid out. He heard the audience clapping his big brother once when he was very young, and he told himself he wanted that too in his own right.”

The winner of the 2012 Lexus Song Quest and member of the acclaimed musical trio SOL3 MIO says he is hugely honoured and grateful to be selected for this prestigious award.

“An opera career is not an easy journey and my many colleagues here in New Zealand and abroad can attest to that. I’ll be able to continue my coachings, learn new repertoire and study further whether in New Zealand or overseas. It will enable me to travel to my engagements both locally and internationally and covers my expenses. It takes a lot of pressure off my shoulders, both mentally and financially. One less issue to worry about which means I can focus on what really matters and that is the music.”

Amitai, whose plans for 2020 have been significantly disrupted by COVID-19, has just completed a successful season in New Zealand Opera’s Semele as recipient of the Ryman Healthcare DMMF Mina Foley Award. He was due to fly to Germany at the end of November where he is double cast with his brother Pene Pati in Oper Dortmund’s Frédégonde but this has been postponed with recent COVID-19 restrictions. He has engagements lined up in Norway and Hawaii, and here in New Zealand, in 2021.

“This last year has seen me return prematurely from Europe, have performances in China cancelled and SOL3 MIO gigs postponed, but it’s also seen some unique opportunities arise here at home, including taking on a breakfast radio gig on Flava FM with SOL3 MIO. While I don’t expect the next year to be plain sailing, with this backing from the Foundation I can at least look forward confidently. Despite the challenges facing all in the performing arts sector, I am excited for what the future holds.”
Amitai says he will be forever appreciative of the support he has received from Dame Malvina and her Foundation.

“They’ve been there for me since the very beginning. Dame Malvina always sees the best in people and she took a chance on me. She encouraged me and my passion for opera – and still does. She has guided, nurtured and supported my vision of becoming an established performer and I am truly grateful for everything she has done. New Zealand singers are very fortunate to have someone like her in their corner.”


Ryman Healthcare DMMF Mina Foley Recipient 2020 – Amitai Pati


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