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Ta'u Pupu'a, Tenor

Ta’u Pupu’a is unique in the opera world. He was an outstanding defensive end in the NFL, but a career-ending injury changed his life and led him to a new career: opera. 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.” (The 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.” (

In April, 2015 Mr. Pupu’a made his United Kingdom 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 Scalla in May as Mr. Changtalay and the Second Ecologist in the world premiere of Giorgio Battistelli’s CO2. The summer found Mr Pupu’a in China for concerts in Macau and Beijing for the Asia America Opera Association Festival, and in October he sang Cavaradossi in Tosca with the Connecticut Concert Opera. The 2013/2014 season included Pollione in Norma with Knoxville Opera, and Ismaele in Nabucco with Lyric Opera Baltimore. And in October, 2014, Mr. Pupu’a was in Hong Kong performing Narraboth in Salome with Opera Hong Kong. In the 2012/2013 season, Mr. 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 premier of Heart of a Soldier. Following that, he sang Dr. Caius in excerpts from Falstaff for the Richard Tucker Gala concert at Avery Fisher Hall. He then made his European debut as Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos with Theatre de stadt 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 Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos under Christoph von Dohnanyi for the Tanglewood Music Centre. In November 2010 he appeared in concert aboard the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s “Fabled Cities of Morocco and Andalusia” cruise. His operatic repertoire includes Pollione in Norma, Don José in Carmen, Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos, Radames in Aida, the Duke in Rigoletto, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Cassio in Otello, Cavaradossi in Tosca, the Prince in The Student Prince, and Maurizio in Adriana Lecouvreur. In 2011 Mr. Pupu’a was a recipient of the Richard F. Gold Career Grant. Summer 2009 saw Mr. Pupu’a studying in Italy with Kiri Te Kanawa at the George Solti Bel Canto Academy, where he also performed in concert and recital. In 2007 he was awarded the encouragement award in the Giulio Gari Foundation vocal competition.

Ta’u 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 NFL by Coach Bill Belichick of the Cleveland Browns (which became the Baltimore Ravens). After sustaining an injury playing for the NFL, he changed career direction to follow his passion. 

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