Saturday, 19 October 2019
NZSO's Classical Hits & a New Zealand chamber opera

3.00pm NZSO: Classical Hits

8.00pm Kenneth YOUNG: Man, Sitting in a Garden


3.00 New Zealand Symphony Orchestra plays Classical Hits

Associate Conductor Hamish McKeich leads the orchestra in a programme of classical favourites for the whole family.

8.00 Kenneth Young's one-man opera with a libretto by Witi Ihimaera explores the big questions: the nature of existence, life, and love.

Although Young calls this work an opera, it has only one singer.

It was written especially for Simon O’Neill and he was to sing this première. But unfortunately ill-health caused him to reluctantly pull out at a late hour. Luckily the show goes on ... tenor Jared Holt was willing and more than able to step in.

The work was commissioned by Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and the concert is presented by the orchestra in association with the Auckland Writers Festival.

The conductor is Tecwyn Evans.

In his programme note, Kenneth Young writes:

"For some time, I’d been attracted to the idea of writing a work about a man reflecting on his life and by extension, life’s greater existential questions.

"Personally, I have sought answers to the ‘bigger questions’ since I was a teenager. Although the word ‘God’ is contained within Witi Ihimaera’s libretto, I would like to emphasise that, for me, it is merely a word. In writing this work, I simply wished to encourage the listener to pursue an individual, and eventual understanding of what resonates with them. I believe there is peace to be found in this process.

"Witi has provided me with the perfect vehicle to realise what I wanted to say. It has enabled me to compose music which expresses a wide range of emotions; from joy to despair."

The man, sitting in a garden, is a scientist and is taken through four seasons. But through the opera he ages as well, so in the first act, Summer, he is a young man. In the last, Spring, he is old.

He is reflecting on his life throughout.

In Summer we learn that he had a wife and two sons, Harry and Charles. We find out that Harry, the younger, was his favourite and Charles was resentful of this.

The music starts up a ballad and the Man tells a story of a king and queen – obviously an allegory for his own life – and the tragedy to come is hinted at.

In Autumn, the Man tells us of the intense love he and his wife shared, but also their playful disagreements – he always the rational scientist and she always the romantic.

In Winter, the Man recalls the tragic day when his wife and Harry were swept away in a sailing accident. In his grief he withdrew from his remaining son Charles, who then took his own life.

Spring brings rebirth to Nature. The garden blooms again and the Man finds equivocal solace in this. Now old, he longs for his own death but struggles to make scientific sense of it all.

KENNETH YOUNG: Man, Sitting in a Garden
– Jared Holt (tenor), Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra / Tecwyn Evans

Recorded in Auckland Town Hall, 15 May 2019
Producer: Tim Dodd; Recording Engineer: Adrian Hollay