By GILBERT WONG
This morning Jared Holt will wake up on the first day of what he wants to be the rest of his life.
Last weekend the 24-year-old baritone won the Mobil Song Quest, the country's premier singing prize. After a hectic week he was on a plane to London on Saturday for what will be three years at London's Royal College of Music, where he joins his friend and previous Mobil Song Quest winner Jonathan Lemalu.
Jet lag willing, Holt begins today his postgraduate diploma in music, followed by a strenuous performance course in opera at the prestigious school across the road from the Royal Albert Hall.
The win was a triumph for persistence. He first reached the final in 1996 and was a runner-up in 1998.
Holt acknowledges the need to wait for maturity.
"You can sing your lungs out at 19 but your voice can only develop to a certain point. It has been been great in the three contests as I've been able to see my voice growing and been able to develop experience on stage."
His voice has settled into a high baritone, with increased dynamics and a strong forte sound.
"In 1996 it was an effort to sing above the orchestra. I don't have that problem any more. I think my voice has more height and colour now."
For his effort he received $10,000, a study scholarship of $15,000, plus air travel. Any money will come in handy. He has a fees scholarship to the Royal College which covers the £11,000 course costs, but he still has to find living costs. As a student he will be limited in the work he can do, though the two-year opera studies course is designed to teach performance and there may be paying roles.
Lemalu, in the country before heading to perform at the Olympics, has given him good advice and will offer a voice from home when he needs it.
Since completing a double degree in law and arts at Canterbury University at the beginning of the year, Holt has been able to make a living from his singing.
For Canterbury Opera he played Valentine in Faust, was Baron Duphol in the production of La Traviata in Auckland this year and played Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus for the Wanganui Opera.
Under the tutelage of Christchurch music and opera teachers Gillian and Edmund Bohan, he has taken a singing career seriously since he was 17, after success as a soloist and in choirs from the age of 9.
"I didn't really see it as an option until towards the end of my law degree but it's been developing since then and the opportunities have arrived."
With eight solid roles under his belt, he felt it was time to have a crack at a professional career.
The law is still an option, Holt says. He enjoys the intellectual discipline he gained as a clerk for Kensington Swan but on stage he finds a satisfaction the law does not provide.
"You have to find the emotion. What great singers talk about is 'who speaks to us.' You find it isn't something you can put on. You have to be true. If you're lying or not there, people can see that and people are touched by someone who's genuine on stage."
Like his hero Bryn Terfel, Holt loves performing the roles that require a "big" voice, but can find joy in the sensitive and emotional pleasures of lieder.
He's well aware that he stands at a crossroads that might lead to a professional career that could take him around the world. It's a heady moment, but Holt has his feet on the ground.
"It's going to be a hard work for three years. It's a big ask and it won't be glamorous but it will pay off if I work hard."
By GILBERT WONG