29 Sep 2010

This content is tagged as Music .


Programme of exciting contrasts for 2011 Opera Season

The NBR New Zealand Opera has launched its 2011 Season, revealing a programme of richly contrasting operas:

  • Handel’s masterpiece Xerxes, a new co-production with Victorian Opera; and
  • A new production of the famous double bill of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.


2 – 6 March: Auckland

15 – 19 March: Wellington

Xerxes is laugh-out-loud comedy combined with deliciously beautiful music performed in the most sumptuous costumes. This production is one of the best ads for opera that I know.” Tobias Cole, who sings the role of Xerxes.

A co-production between The NBR New Zealand Opera and Victorian Opera in Melbourne, in association with Auckland Arts Festival, this production of Handel’s Xerxes is the first professional, fully staged Handel opera that has ever been presented to New Zealand audiences.

General Director of The NBR New Zealand Opera, Aidan Lang, says Handel was one of the truly great opera composers of all time. “In Xerxes,” he says, “Handel has created a stream of unendingly beautiful melodies, one hit after another, including one of opera’s most beautiful and recognisable arias, the famous Largo. This is gorgeous music, with an exciting, clean, early music sound, and it’s authentically brought to life by Germany’s Wolfgang Katschner and his top-notch period music ensemble, the Lautten Compagney, who are coming to New Zealand from Berlin especially to accompany this production.”

Alongside this award winning orchestra is a stellar cast. In the core principal roles Australians Tobias Cole (counter tenor) and Tiffany Speight (soprano) sing Xerxes and Romilda. English counter tenor William Purefoy takes the role of Arsamene, Australian soprano Amy Wilkinson is Atalanta, and returning from overseas are New Zealanders Kristen Darragh (mezzo soprano) and Martin Snell (bass) to sing Amastre and Ariodate respectively. Australian Roger Hodgman is directing, with New Zealander John Verryt behind the set design.

Glamour and opulence are also prerequisites to capturing the true essence of a Handel opera, so the cast will be stepping out in fabulous costumes designed by the darling of New Zealand fashion, Trelise Cooper. Lang says, “With Trelise’s costumes, you are seeing a modern take on what would have been presented in Handel’s day. It’s a sumptuous visual feast.”

Xerxes is funny, poignant and fast moving, and with the timeless themes of love, rivalry and vices being overcome by courage and loyalty, has plenty to identify with in life today.

Xerxes Director Roger Hodgman sums up: “Handel’s sublime music, one of the world’s finest early music orchestras, great singers, a beautiful set by John Verryt and remarkable costumes by Trelise Cooper. What more could a director ask for?”


A co-production with Victorian Opera
In association with Auckland Arts Festival

Conductor Wolfgang Katschner
Director Roger Hodgman
Set Designer John Verryt
Costume Designer Trelise Cooper
Lighting Designer Matt Scott

Xerxes Tobias Cole
Romilda Tiffany Speight
Arsamene William Purefoy
Atalanta Amy Wilkinson
Amastre Kristen Darragh
Ariodate Martin Snell
Elviro Stephen Bennett

Accompanied by the Lautten Compagney
With the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus


Auckland – Civic Theatre, THE EDGE
2, 3*, 5 March – 7.30pm; 6 March – 5pm

Wellington – St James Theatre
15, 18, 19 March – 7.30pm; 16* March – 6pm

* Friends of the Opera and Opera Exposed events take place before, during and after these performances


Cavalleria Rusticana & Pagliacci

27 Aug – 3 Sep: Wellington

15 – 25 Sep: Auckland

Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci are opera’s most famous double bill. Nowadays, these two one-act operas are simply referred to as “Cav & Pag” – “verismo” works of great realism, high-voltage emotion and a scorching evening’s entertainment featuring dysfunctional relationships Italian-style!

The music is passionate and thrilling, and includes some of opera’s great highlights: the rousing Easter Hymn and the famous Intermezzo in Cavalleria Rusticana, and one the greatest of all tenor arias, Pagliacci’s heart-rending “Vesti la giubba”. “Even if you’ve never seen these operas before,” Aidan Lang says, “the chances are very high that you’ll recognise much of the music, particularly the music of Cavalleria Rusticana, which has been used in everything from commercials to The Godfather III movie.”

Reuniting for the first time since Faust in 2006 are English director Mike Ashman and New Zealanders John Parker (set designer) and Elizabeth Whiting (costume designer).

Two outstanding casts under the baton of internationally acclaimed maestro Oliver von Dohnanyi have been secured.
Cavalleria Rusticana features English tenor Peter Auty as Turiddu, Ukrainian soprano Anna Shafajinskaia sings Santuzza, Polish baritone Marcin Bronikowski is in the role of Alfio, and New Zealand mezzo-soprano Anna Pierard sings Lola.

Pagliacci sees Mexican tenor Rafael Rojas take the role of Canio, New Zealand soprano Anna Leese sings Nedda, Australian baritone Warwick Fyfe is Tonio, and Marcin Bronikowski sings Silvio.

“This is unashamedly big opera,” Lang says. “It’s opera at its most vibrant and exciting. And when done properly and interestingly, Cav & Pag are brilliant pieces in the theatre. You won’t see anything old fashioned in these productions. We’re creating them in a fresh, intelligent, thrilling manner.”

And as Director Mike Ashman says: “The obsessive nature of Cav & Pag and their impossible love affairs make them the first operas which are modern enough to us to be like movies.”


Conductor Oliver von Dohnanyi
Director Mike Ashman
Set Designer John Parker
Costume Designer Elizabeth Whiting

CAST: Cavalleria Rusticana
Santuzza Anna Shafajinskaia
Turiddu Peter Auty
Alfio Marcin Bronikowski
Lola Anna Pierard
Mamma Lucia Wendy Doyle

CAST: Pagliacci
Canio Rafael Rojas
Nedda Anna Leese
Tonio Warwick Fyfe
Silvio Marcin Bronikowski
Beppe Andrew Glover

Accompanied by the Vector Wellington Orchestra and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
With the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus


Wellington – St James Theatre
27 August & 1, 3 September – 7.30pm; 30* August – 6pm

Auckland – Aotea Centre, THE EDGE
15, 17, 21*, 23 September – 7.30pm; 25 September – 2.30pm

*Friends of the Opera and Opera Exposed events take place before, during and after these performances.


The NBR New Zealand Opera receives core funding from Creative New Zealand

Media enquiries: Caroline Nelson, ParadisePR Ltd,

Further information: www.nzopera.com

Caroline Nelson
ParadisePR Ltd
Phone +64 9 360 4472
Mobile +64 21 244 1299
Email caroline.nelson@paradise.net.nz