Soprano Anna Leese on Strauss, Mahler and attitude

Having performed around the world including at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Dunedin-based soprano Anna Leese will next be on stage at the Due Drop Events Centre in Auckland with the Manukau Symphony Orchestra in Mahler 4.

Have you performed with the MSO before?

I’ve performed with Uwe Grodd before. I did the Haydn Nelson Mass with him a couple of years ago but I haven’t work with the MSO before so I’m really looking forward to my first performance with this orchestra in Auckland.

Richard Strauss was a prolific composer of lieder. Why have you chosen these six songs to perform?

That is a good question: although Strauss wrote many of his soprano songs for his wife, Pauline de Ahna, there is a very wide range of colours required to be able to sing them all. I have chosen these songs because first and foremost they have an orchestral accompaniment  but also because amongst those orchestral songs, these are the best suited to my particular instrument.

What does singing in Mahler Symphony No. 4 mean to you?

The Mahler 4 vocal solo depicts a child’s view of heaven  so the challenge is to sing it with child-like abandon and a sense of wonderment and curiosity. There are few opportunities in New Zealand to sing Mahler with an orchestra, so I cherish this piece as I am in love with Mahler and singing it is a dream.

Singing engagements have taken you around the world. What would you say to aspiring young singers wanting to make their mark at this time?

I think it comes down to attitude. This is a fickle industry with few opportunities so you have to maintain a positive and professional attitude always. Accept criticism with grace and see every setback (because there will be many) as an opportunity to work harder in a different direction. Above all, be a nice person to work with!


About Anna Leese

Anna Leese is a teaching fellow at the University of Waikato as well as a doctoral candidate at the University of Otago, where she is researching co-composition between singers and conductors in Aotearoa, NZ.

 Anna has performed at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Classical Opera Company, Opera Köln, Flanders Opera, Opera Holland Park, Canadian Opera Company, and for New Zealand Opera, as well as representing NZ in Cardiff Singer of the World.

 Most recently Anna has sung Strangest of Angels (New Zealand Opera), Mozart’s Requiem with New Zealand and Christchurch Symphony Orchestras, at the Adam Chamber Music Festival, Nelson; Wakatipu Festival, Queenstown; Ravel’s Scheherazade with Orchestra Wellington; Messiah with Queensland Symphony, New Zealand Symphony and Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Society; The Governess (Turn of the Screw) with New Zealand Opera; Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra; Auckland Choral Society, and in A Night at the Opera Gala with Dunedin Symphony Orchestra.

 Anna’s recordings include Elgar’s The Apostles, a recital disc with Graham Johnson, and Haydn: ‘Italian Love Songs’.


Anna Leese will be performing Strauss Orchestral Songs and Mahler’s Fourth Symphony at the Mahler 4 concert with Manukau Symphony Orchestra in 2023, on Sunday 2 April, 5.00pm, Due Drop Events Centre.

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