Gathered in evening sunshine on Monday evening New Zealand Opera School chairman and founder Donald Trott welcomed 21 students to two weeks of intensive singing and drama at Wanganui Collegiate School.

It is the 25th year of the school which aims to give young singers the skills and the confidence to head into the world of international opera.

"You have all been selected to be here at this residential school where you will be trained and helped to go forward and study and perform overseas. Welcome to you all, it is wonderful to have you here," Trott said.

A new addition to the two-week performing schedule of this year's school is a special concert at the historic tiny St Mary's Anglican Church in Upokongaro on Sunday, January 13 at 2.30pm and featuring four of the students.

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Organiser Lynne Gray said the church built in 1879 is in grave need of repair.

"We thought a concert during the opera school weeks would be perfect. We desperately need to raise funds to help us restore the old church. On Sunday the concert will be $20 but there is only seating for 100. We're hoping people will think it is a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon."

On Monday evening students, tutors, accompanists and opera staff enjoyed a barbecue and a catch-up.

With an intensive schedule ahead it was an early finish for the students.
Director Jonathan Alver said the students had a hectic work schedule ahead.
"They need to be at their peak every day."

Formal functions coming up include the lunchtime recital on Wednesday January 09 at noon at Heritage House on St Hill St, the Collegiate Chapel Service "In Praise of Music" on Sunday January 13 at 11.30am, and the spectacular 25th celebration concert "Opera and Aroha on the River", on Thursday, January 17 at 7.30pm on Taupo Quay, and the final concert at Royal Wanganui Opera House "Great Opera Moments" on Saturday January 19.