Dr Margaret Medlyn, ONZM

Dr Margaret Medlyn ONZM profile picture

Senior Lecturer and Head of Voice School of Music


Teaching in 2020


PhD Victoria University of Wellington

BMus (Hons) University of Auckland



  • Head of Voice
  • Senior Lecturer, Classical Performance - Voice


Margaret Medlyn is Head of the Classical Voice department, teaching singing in the Classical Performance programme as well as coordinating and lecturing voice related courses.

She is well known as a charismatic singer/actress, and sings regularly with the major opera companies and orchestras in Australasia. She is a champion of New Zealand music with an emphasis on women composers.

Margaret Medlyn grew up in a family actively involved in the theatre, music and the visual arts. She graduated from University of Auckland with a degree in singing, and after winning several scholarships, went to London for further study. There she was immediately employed by Kent Opera – a touring seasonal company – where she worked with such luminaries as Roger Norrington and Nicholas Hytner. Margaret also made her debut as Octavian with Opera Viva during this time. Relocating back to New Zealand after 10 years she spent the next 10 commuting back to Europe to sing in the UK and Europe.

Margaret Medlyn has sung with English National Opera, Covent Garden, Vienna State Opera and all the companies in Australasia, and worked with leading international conductors including Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Simone Young, Donald Runnicles, Jeffrey Tate, Edo de Waart, Markus Stenz, Jaap van Sweden and Roger Norrington. Her roles include Leonore (Il trovatore), Aida, Tosca, Turandot, Giorgetta (Il tabarro), Maddalena (Andrea Chenier), Marie (Wozzeck), Salome, Judith (Bluebeard’s Castle), Agathe (Der Freischütz), Kostelnička (Jenufa) Kabanicha (Kátya Kabanová), various Rhinemaidens and Valkyries, Senta, Sieglinde, Isolde, Kundry and Fricka.

Margaret Medlyn has had a long and varied recital and concert career and is a National recording artist for Radio New Zealand and has recorded an extensive list of recital programmes. Her CDs are Burning Bright featuring the work of four New Zealand Women composers under the Kiwi Pacific label, a Jenny McLeod song cycle for the Waiteata Collection of New Zealand Music, Richard Fuchs songs for Rollover Productions and Stephan Prock’s prizewinning song cycle on the CD Sojourn.

She is an experienced voice teacher – she has taught in New Zealand and the UK in her private studio for 35 years, and at the New Zealand School of Music since 2007. For 14 years she tutored alongside Professor Paul Farrington at the New Zealand Opera School working with undergraduate and postgraduate students and Opera New Zealand’s Emerging Artists. Many of her students have had success in competitions including the most recent Lexus Song Quest.

Visit Margaret Medlyn's website

Research interests

  • Embodiment of the operatic voice especially in nineteenth-and twentieth-century works.
  • Voice, subtextual communication, declamation, Tomatis
  • The psychology of performance and in the maximising of potential by training in positive outcomes.

Classical Performance Research

'Kabanicha' in Kátya Kabanová by Janáček Medlyn, M., Opera New Zealand & New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (2017), Kátya Kabanová [Fully staged opera with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra], Auckland and Wellington: Opera New Zealand.

Kabanicha requires an actor of dramatic strength, and a voice of maturity strength and stamina with emotional expressiveness, requiring a vocal technique developed through years of research. My primary research has been in the German and Italian languages and the acquisition of, and developing of my research platform by learning Czech was a significant milestone in my career. The difficulties inherent in the Czech language along with the considerable musical challenges and those of the staging and costume, were overcome by detailed and meticulous research and collaboration with the director and conductor. My reviews were outstanding: " scene- stealing, "imperious", reflecting the quality of my performances.

Mezzo in Gareth Farr’s Relict Furies Medlyn, M., & New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. (2016). Relict Furies by Gareth Farr [Orchestral concert with voice]. Wellington Cathedral, Molesworth St Wellington: New Zealand festival of the Arts.

Gareth Farr composed his music to verses of Paul Horan’s family women's experiences as they were left behind during the wars to deal with their lives, and with the dead. Originally composed for the Edinburgh Festival of the Arts, as recognition of my international standing as a singer, I was the singer for whom the work was intended, therefore to sing it in NZ, with the composer and librettist present, as the artist they had chosen was very significant. The verses are highly emotional accounts of the feelings of women left behind in the war situation. To that end I had to research in depth the ability to sing emotionally without becoming so emotionally involved that it affected my singing. I was able to use the research I was involved in at the time, the work for my dissertation on embodiment, and employ and experiment with various techniques to make the work more affecting to the audience. because of the intensity of the music, and the immediacy and domestic quality of the verses (sung in English) the effect on the audience was profound.

'Fricka' in Die Walküre by Wagner Medlyn, M., O'Neill, S., Inkinen., Goerke, C., Haller, E., Wegner, J., & Lemalu, J. (2012). The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra presents 'The Valkyrie' by Richard Wagner [Performance]. Auckland Town hall, Michael Fowler Centre-Wellington, CBS Arena, Christchurch.

'Kostelnicka' in Jenufa by Janáček With Davies, W., Randle, T., Duprels, A., Allen, J., & Medlyn, H. (20 September 2008). Presented by NBR Opera NZ in Auckland and Wellington with Auckland Philharmonia and the Vector Wellington Orchestra. Aotea Centre Auckland, St James' Theatre Wellington.

'Kundry' in Parsifal by Wagner With Negus, A., McIntyre, D., O'Neill, S., & Snell, M. (2006, March 17)) presented and accompanied by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in the NZ Festival of the Arts [Performance]. Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington. Being selected from the limited number of international artists capable of singing it, the invitation to perform this role recognises the success Margaret Medlyn has had in creating distinctive interpretations of Wagner heroines. Margaret developed her approach in England, in consultation with international Wagner specialists, Jeffrey Tate and Lionel Friend, and formulated an interpretation of the role in an important production by Nicklaus Lehnhoff for English National Opera. This initial period of research focused on expanding the range of Margaret's voice to meet the extended vocal techniques and abnormal sounds required. In this first performance of ‘Parsifal’ in New Zealand, Margaret sang alongside renowned international Wagnerian singers Sir Donald MacIntyre and Simon O’Neill and the performances were received to universal acclaim as a landmark in New Zealand’s musical development. Leading website Opera Critic said that “Margaret Medlyn’s Kundry is truly world class: the role sits ideally for her voice and her commanding stage presence and acting abilities combine to bring the multifaceted Kundry to life.”


Embodying Voice: Singing Verdi, Singing Wagner (New York, Routledge, 2018)


Walking the High wire: Performance as Research, a2ru Conference, Boston, November, 2017.

Great Ideas: A Revolutionary in Music: Richard Wagner. VUW Online presentation, 2016.

Singing Strauss' Music: Transparency and Emotion, NZSO, August, 2016.

Performance is a venture beyond the limits of life: how vocality on stage has creatively enlivened traditional practice, NZMS, Wellington, 2015.

Singing is being: A ripple in the god: Opera singer's creative embodiment in Verdi, CMPCP, Cambridge, UK, 2014.

If you've got it, flaunt it: Chest voice revealed: NZMS, Wellington, Nov, 2014, also "Opera and the Arts of the Emotions" Conference, Melbourne, 2016.

Embodying Kundry: Voice, Breath, Narrative and Metamorphosis, MSA/ NZMS Joint Conference, Brisbane, Nov 2013.

Embodiment: how opera singers connect mind and body, NZMS, Auckland, 2012.

CD releases

Rattle Records: Sojourn The works of Stephan Prock: Cages for the Wind’ set to verse by Alistair Te Ariki Campbell.

Rollover Productions: Stranger in a Strange Land Richard Fuchs songs.

Waiteata Collection of New Zealand Music: Jenny Macleod ‘From Garden to Grave’ set to text by Katherine Mansfield.

Kiwi Pacific: Burning Bright, featuring the works of four New Zealand Women composers.


Teaching in 2020