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Category: Reviews – opera and ballet

Lively and colourful Iolanthe from Wellington G&S Light Opera

By , 14/07/2017
Iolanthe is one of the operettas admired by many who take it upon themselves to judge musical worth, and it doesn’t rank among the most popular, with Pirates, Mikado, Gondoliers and Pinafore. The company last staged Iolanthe in 2008. Here was a chance to see how those opinions stack up with someone who was not seeing it for the first time (I saw the 2008 production and reviewed it in... read more

NZ Opera’s 2017 Carmen surprises, disconcerts and delights

By , 01/06/2017
There's almost always a lot to like in any production of Carmen. On the face of things the opera has everything that any theatre-goer-cum-music-lover could wish for - like the Shakespearean character who says "four feasts are forward", one can say Carmen has the four things which ensure operatic success - spectacle, drama, compelling characters and memorable tunes. Of course, these things don't make or play themselves, and, despite... read more

NZ Opera’s Mikado contentious but “not to be missed”

By , 25/02/2017
When W.S.Gilbert's ornamental Japanese sword fell off the wall of his study while he was turning over in his mind ideas for his latest operatic collaboration with Sir Arthur Sullivan, The Mikado was born - or so all the G&S history books tell us. In fact, there happened to be a vogue for japonaiserie in England at the time Mikado first hit the stage, instigated some years before by... read more

Days Bay Opera does it again with Handel’s “Theodora”

By , 11/02/2017
One of the pleasures of reviewing for me is fronting up to performances of music which I simply don’t know, and subsequently asking myself (sometimes in tones of amazement and disbelief) why it is I’ve never encountered this or that work before, finding it so beautiful / profound / thrilling /whatever! Thus it was with this often compelling production of Handel’s oratorio Theodora, a work the composer wrote towards... read more

Melbourne’s Ring cycle revival a spectacular triumph

By , 16/12/2016
Introduction I went to the third run of the Ring in Melbourne, in December. At its first incarnation in 2013, I had rather set it aside, partly because the ticket prices were pretty steep – well over $1000 for the four – and something in me said that, as I have seen the entire cycle five times over the years, in various places including Bayreuth, I doubted whether Opera Australia... read more

Orchestra Wellington’s fifth concert excels with last works of Berlioz, Bartok and Tchaikovsky (almost)

By , 15/10/2016
This was the once-a-year event for the young musicians involved with the Hutt Valley Arohanui Strings, the project inspired by the famous Venezuelan institution, El Sistema. They filed in after some of Orchestra Wellington’s players had taken their seats: the more advanced ones taking seats alongside a professional player as mentor; the beginners spread across the front of the stage – some of them looked aged about four. They... read more

Sweeney Todd – powerful and disturbing theatre at St.James’, Wellington

By , 30/09/2016
Stuart Maunder, New Zealand Opera's chief, and the director of the company's current production of Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd", showing at Wellington's St.James Theatre, called the show in a welcome message written in the programme "a meaty night out at the opera". I admit I took fright for an instant, irrespective of my largely carnivorous food preferences history. It was just that I didn't really fancy watching a series... read more

Annual Wellington Aria Contest final showcases some fine talent

By , 18/09/2016
This year eighteen singers entered for the annual aria contest (it used to be the Hutt Valley Aria, when there was also a Wellington-based contest, run by the Wellington Competitions Society which died in the 1970s). Some names were more familiar to me than others. I had only recalled Laura Loach in a smaller role in last year’s Gondoliers from Wellington G&S Light Opera, but couldn’t recall her voice. Her... read more

Admirably staged and sung opera and music theatre excerpts from the school of music

By , 11/09/2016
The school of music’s once annual opera productions have in recent years fallen back to biennial events. In the between years, students create a series of scenes from opera, against a background of elementary sets and a few props that can, with a bit of imagination, be used in various settings. This production employed around sixteen singers, though the photo gallery in the printed programme contained 23 faces which included... read more

Maaike Christie-Beekman with Rachel Thomson in admirable song recital

A recital entirely of song-cycles is perhaps a little unusual, but it made for a very satisfying concert.  Maaike Christie-Beekman introduced each in a lively and informative way, giving a summary of the words of each song.  Even though she was not using a microphone, most of what she said could be heard clearly. The Debussy cycle used poems by Pierre Louÿs, which the latter claimed were translations of the... read more

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