Ta’u Pupu’a: from football player to opera singer with Dame Kiri’s help


Ta’u Pupu’ moved from Tonga to the United States with his family when he was about eight years old, the youngest of nine siblings.

As a young man, he was accepted into Weber State University in Utah on a full football scholarship.

From there he was drafted to the Cleveland Browns. He later went on to play for the Baltimore Ravens.

After his football career was cut short by injury he turned to opera.

Now it was his new passion so he moved to new York. He got work as a host in a restaurant across the street from the Metropolitan Opera.

His plan was simple: meet opera stars and study them like a “playbook.”

One day Kiri Te Kanawa was signing autographs in the Metropolitan Opera bookstore.

“I approached her with CDs and DVDs that I had of hers and wanted her to sign it, and she looked up and saw me.

In New York, when you see a Polynesian person…you click, you come together and become a family because we are so far away from our homeland,” Ta’u said.

“So when she looked up and saw me, she automatically knew that I was Polynesian and asked me what I was doing in New York.

“I told her that I live here and I am trying to pursue a singing career.

“Right off the bat, she knew that this was a hard life and she asked me if I had any help. I said no. And she said, ‘Well, can I help you?’ I said, ‘Yes, please do.'”

Months after they met, Te Kanawa took him to sing in front of the head of the vocal department at Juilliard.

She described his voice as a diamond in need of polishing, and she was committed to helping him shine.

Pupu’a spent the next month preparing to try out for Julliard’s artist diploma programme.

Out of about 100 singers auditioning, Pupu’a was one of three selected.

Today, Pupu’a is an acclaimed opera singer who takes great joy in sharing his gift with the world.


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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