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2007 Episode 7: That Certain Sound

That Certain Sound

With a burning desire to hear the delightful voices that surrounded her as a child under the tutorage of Dame Sister Mary Leo, Frances Wilson pursues the very essence of the traditional Belcanto singing technique.

Although having never sung herself and driven by a desire for perfection, Frances has honed her ability to teach opera with such passion and vigour that it's truly inspirational.

One student in particular, James Ioelu, she feels is destined to be a star baritone. Swept along by this dream they work on his technique, Frances sitting at the piano ear cocked tweaking his voice down to the very minutiae of utterances.
These skills have been forty years in the making and have been pivotal for stars like Simon O'Neill and Angela Brown - both of whom now rank as top International singers.

An accomplished accompanist in her early twenties, Frances played in many of the great studios in London. During this time however she noticed that the lack of sublime voice quality that had emerged from Leo's school at St Mary's. Only when Kiri Te Kanawa and Malvina Major arrived in London did she hear these sounds again and would come to understand that these voices weren't just born but were taught.

Pursuing this sound Frances was led to the great diva Virginia Zeani's studio in Bloomington Indiana where she accompanied for her for several years. The bond between them was strong and the link uncanny as Frances was to discover. For Zeani had actually been taught by Russian soprano Lydia Lipkovska - the very same teacher who had trained Dame Sister Mary Leo.

Her career soared  and after many years teaching in New York, Frances has returned home. She now pursues her dream of teaching through The Auckland Opera Studio, a trust run from her small luxury hotel, Mollies, situated in Auckland. Carefully selecting students with strong talent, Frances trains them gratis, nurturing their careers so they can truly focus on achieving the international standard required for success .

Wearing two hats as teacher and hotelier, her pace is unrelenting yet Frances never drops the ball. She teaches daily, holds regular workshops for students inviting international teachers, puts on local productions and recently flew James to Florida to train with Virginia Zeani. In her own words "It's detail, detail, detail... I am a cog in a big wheel and I am just going to keep going and going."