Ta’u Pupu’a - Tenor
Ta'u Pupu'a is unique in the opera world. An outstanding Defensive End in the NFL, a career-ending injury changed his life and led him to a new career - opera. Pupu'a is a graduate of the Juilliard Opera Center (ADOS) and is a native of the Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga. He attended Weber State University in Utah on a football scholarship while pursuing a Bachelor of Music degree, during which time he was drafted to the N.F.L. by Coach Bill Belichick of the Cleveland Browns (which became the Baltimore Ravens). After sustaining his injury, he changed career direction to follow his passion. He is just as outstanding in his role as operatic tenor, as shown by the following comments: "...He seems to have limitless power... but the voice has real gold in its best moments." (New York Times) "...Everyone took notice at his brilliant tone, breath-control and ravishing, powerful tenor..." (Italian Tribune), "In the treacherous heldentenor role of Bacchus, Ta'u Pupu'a brought reserves of stentorian power and heroic strength, singing gloriously." (Classical Review), "...The sound is a big one too, a big, meaty voice that would cope comfortably with Wagner or Verdi. And he is so in control of the tenor range - high, low, medium - that one gets a thrill from hearing him in full flow. It's not just a weighty sound; it's an alluring one." (Behindthearras.com)
In 2018 Pupu'a made his role debut as Calaf in Turandot with Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre, celebrating their 20th anniversary, and recently appeared as Radames in Aida with Opera Theatre of the Rockies in Colorado Springs, also marking their 20th anniversary. Ta'u has also appeared as Canio in I Pagliacci with Opera Fairbanks in Alaska, and as Rodolfo in La Boheme with Opera Connecticut as well as a concert series in Utah, San Francisco and Hawaii.
In 2017, he appeared as Turridu in Cavalleria Rusticana and Canio in I Pagliacci with Cedar Rapids Opera, as well as the Duke inRigoletto with Opera Connecticut and Beethoven's 9th Symphony with Iowa’s Brucemorchestra. He also performed concerts in San Francisco and Baltimore.
In 2015 Mr. Pupu'a made his British debut as The Olympian in Birmingham Opera's acclaimed production of Tippett's The Ice Break, directed by Graham Vick. He then made his debut at Teatro alla Scala as Mr. Changtalay and the Second Ecologist in Robert Carsen’s world premiere production of Giorgio Battistelli's CO2. The summer found him in China for concerts in Macau and Beijing for the Asia America Opera Association Festival, followed by Cavaradossi in Tosca with the Connecticut Concert Opera. The 2013/2014 season included Pollione in Norma with Knoxville Opera, Ismaele in Nabucco with Baltimore Opera and Narraboth in Salome with Opera Hong Kong. In the 2012/2013 season, Pupu'a performed Radames in Aida with Santa Barbara, Cavaradossi in Tosca at Hawaii Opera Theatre, Cassio in Otello at Baltimore Opera, and Bacchus in a concert version of Ariadne auf Naxos at the Danish Radio Concert Hall. The 2011/2012 marked Mr. Pupu'a's professional opera debut, with San Francisco Opera in their world premiere of Heart of a Soldier. This was followed by Dr. Caius in excerpts from Falstaff for the Richard Tucker Gala at Avery Fisher Hall, and his European debut as Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos with Theater und Orchester Heidelberg.
Other engagements have included Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde for the Alexandria Symphony, Verdi's Requiem for Albany Symphony, Terrence McNally's Masterclass at the Kennedy Center, starring Emmy and Tony Award winning actor Tyne Daly, and Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos under Christoph von Dohnanyi for the Tanglewood Music Centre. In 2010, he appeared in concert aboard the Metropolitan Opera Guild's Fabled Cities of Morocco and Andalusia cruise.
Pupu’a has been awarded the encouragement award in the Giulio Gari Foundation vocal competition, and study grants from the Olga Forrai Foundation. In addition, he was a recipient of Juilliard’s Richard F. Gold Career Grant. In 2009, Mr. Pupu'a studied in Italy with his mentor Kiri Te Kanawa at the George Solti Bel Canto Academy, where he also performed in concert and recital.