A rising star from Aotearoa: Graduate's path to opera

Te Ohorere Williams is a masters graduate with a voice to be reckoned with.

Te Ohorere Williams. Photo: Chris Loufte
Te Ohorere Williams. Photo: Chris Loufte

Te Ohorere Williams is a well-known face in the realm of singing and acting in Aotearoa New Zealand. A proud descendant of Ngāiterangi, Ngāti Pukenga, Ngāti Porou, and Ngāti Kahungunu, she graduated on 14 May with a Master of Music in Classical Voice Performance.

Growing up in Tāmaki Makaurau, her love for music and performing arts was nurtured within her family, particularly by her koro Sydney Crawford who lived with them for 12 years and was rarely seen without his guitar.

Te Ohorere says, "there wasn’t a moment that went by that he wasn't without his guitar. It was always really special, and it really got me into music from a young age."

But her first transformative encounter, which solidified her passion for singing, occurred when she sang in a mixed choir for the first time when she was 14 years old.

"I'll never forget the first time singing in that choir. It was like so many big buzzing vibrations around me that I almost started crying. It was just so incredible to feel that feeling.”

Her lifelong dedication eventually led her to Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland, where she first completed a Bachelor of Music in Classical Performance. 

Under the guidance of Dr Morag Atchison during her undergraduate studies, and Professor Te Oti Rakena during her postgraduate studies, Te Ohorere honed her craft, becoming a professional classical soprano known for her impressive voice modulation and control.

No stranger to the opera stage, Te Ohorere’s powerful and versatile voice has resonated with audiences across Aotearoa, earning her a place among the country’s most promising classical singers.

She attributes much of her inspiration to seeing Māori and Pacific singers like Madison Nonoa and Natasha Wilson perform on stage.

“I went, ‘oh my goodness, she's Brown. She's singing on stage, and she has a role.’ That was a big turning point for me. Seeing someone else do what I really love made me believe it was a possibility for me too.”

Te Ohorere and whānau. Photo: Chris Loufte
Te Ohorere and whānau. Photo: Chris Loufte

She has performed as a soloist and with prestigious ensembles such as the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra, St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra and the Camerata Choir, and featured in an online miniseries with Chamber Music New Zealand.

She has also sung the national anthem for the ANZAC dawn commemorations at the Auckland War Memorial Museum for the past three years, leading a public audience of 10,000 as well as a televised audience. 

Te Ohorere says that studying remotely during the Covid-19 lockdowns came with its challenges.

"For many students, learning from home was very difficult. But it is especially different when your studies involve creative arts; it’s hard to showcase classical singing through a screen when the artform is primarily live and in the moment.

“Classical singing requires a lot of training, not just on singing technique, but being able to perform onstage, have stagecraft skills, be attentive to many different languages, and be innately musical. A lot of preparation goes into one performance.

"We can open the door to this world and allow people to see the hard work that goes into it, be entertained and actually have fun while you’re at it."

The lockdowns also led her to explore acting, a passion that complemented her operatic training, unlocking new dimensions of her talents.

In early 2024, Te Ohorere was in the play "Hyperspace" with Auckland Theatre Company and Te Pou Theatre, an experience she describes as transformative.

"Acting and opera are beautifully complementary. Being on stage is about creating magic and connecting with others, whether through song or spoken word," she explains.

This July and August, she will embark on a school’s tour with Te Pou Theatre, bringing her love of performance to new audiences and inspiring the next generation of Māori performers.

Beyond her musical achievements, Te Ohorere is also pursuing a Bachelor of Laws at the University.

Media contact

Te Rina Triponel | Kaitohutohu Pāpāho Māori
E: te.rina.triponel@auckland.ac.nz