How did you become interested in opera singing?
I first became interested in opera when I was in my final year of college. I was participating in choir and musical theatre productions while at school, but I never had any singing lessons. During NCEA Level 3 Music recitals, I listened to a classmate perform two pieces: a musical theatre song and a Mozart aria. I thought her musical theatre piece was thoughtful and moving, the aria was my personal showstopper. Her voice travelled through the auditorium with beautiful resonance and line. That was the first moment I experienced the grandeur and individuality the voice can create as an instrument. I was greatly inspired and instantly wanted to be able to do the same! Since then, I applied to study voice at the University of Auckland. What I love most about opera singing is the feeling of empowerment and liberation that comes with acoustic singing. The motion of producing sound from my own body is unparalleled to anything I’ve ever experienced! It challenges me to be more vulnerable as a musician, and always be one hundred percent engaged through body, mind, and soul with what I do.
Performance highlights so far?
Singing ‘Habanera’ from Bizet’s Carmen with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra at the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, when it was filled with primary school kids! They make the best audience - you can see every emotion written wide across their faces!
Photo © Charles Brooks
What are you looking forward to about being part of TANZOS?
I’m honoured to be part of TANZOS’s pilot year alongside five other talented, hard-working singers. It’s a privilege to take part in such a unique opportunity that isn’t available anywhere else within Aotearoa New Zealand. I want to take advantage of the performance opportunities, develop my understanding of new repertoire, and be taught by an excellent array of teachers and coaches. In particular, being able to work with coaches from the Jette Parker Programme is such a surreal opportunity that I’m really looking forward to!
What are your career hopes following TANZOS?
Following TANZOS, I’m really excited to take the next step to continue my studies overseas. I’ve accepted an offer from the Royal Academy of Music (London) to join their Masters of Arts programme for the 2023/24 intake. I am ready for a lifetime of music-making, and I’m excited to proudly represent my heritage as a Chinese-Kiwi singer out on a wider stage. I have the aspiration to sing in leading opera houses around the world one day, and share my passion for music with everyone I meet.
Cecilia is supported by The Freemasons Foundation
Yufan Cecilia Zhang is a mezzo-soprano from Auckland, New Zealand. She recently graduated from the University of Auckland, receiving First Class Honours in Music and a Conjoint Bachelor of Commerce and Music. Cecilia was a New Zealand Opera School attendee (2022). Currently based in Hamilton, Cecilia is an inaugural student for the Te Pae Kōkako (TANZOS) Programme at the University of Waikato.
As an ensemble singer, Cecilia performs with the New Zealand Youth Choir (2020-22), Voices New Zealand (2022-23), and the New Zealand Opera Chorus (2022). She also performs regularly as a soloist in recitals for New Zealand Opera School and Auckland Opera Studio. Cecilia was a featured soloist with Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra in the Kiwi Kapers Concert Series. In 2021, Cecilia was awarded the Les Kitney Memorial Trophy and the Cornelia Wadham Memorial Encouragement Award Trophy at the North Shore Performing Arts Competition. She was a finalist in the Becroft Aria Competition. She was also second runner-up in the Graham Allen Musical Theatre Competition. Cecilia is one of the recipients of the Opie & Bridge Scholarship (2022) at the University of Auckland. She is also a trained pianist (ATCL Level) and dancer (contemporary).
Cecilia has received multiple offers at leading conservatories in the UK, and will continue her studies overseas at the Royal Academy of Music (London) upon completion of the TANZOS Programme.