27 Aug 2018

Five Faves with new NZ Opera leader Thomas de Mallet Burgess

From Upbeat, 1:00 pm on 27 August 2018

New Zealand Opera recently announced Thomas de Mallet Burgess as its new General Director.

He replaces Stuart Maunder who has taken up the role of Artistic Director at State Opera South Australia.

NZ Opera's new General Director Thomas de Mallet Burgess

NZ Opera's new General Director Thomas de Mallet Burgess Photo: Grant Taylor

UK born De Mallet Burgess has an international reputation for directing award-wining opera and leading research into opera performer training.

He has also been involved also in the development of cross-cultural productions and programmes in celebration of indigenous culture.

As a director he has worked in both traditional and more innovative operas, creating several critically acclaimed productions for The Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Canadian Opera Company, Opera Ireland and Wexford Festival Opera.

NZ Opera's new General Director Thomas de Mallet Burgess

NZ Opera's new General Director Thomas de Mallet Burgess Photo: Patrick Browne

He is also a published author, writing “The Singing and Acting Handbook” for those wanting to break into the industry.

Thomas de Mallet Burgess has chosen five pieces of music that speak to him on different levels.


Debussy’s Claire De Lune


This is a favourite because “it embraces the mystical”.


Strauss’ Beim Schlafengehen

“Music by Strauss and words by Herman Hesse. Enough said,” Thomas Says. “[It] captures the transience of life. It brings me back to my wedding in a small church in Clara Vale, Ireland.”

The lyrics being performed are:

Going to bed

Now this day has fatigued me

and my most arduous desire shall

receive kindly the starry night

like a tired child


Hands, rest after so much action

Forehead, cease all thinking

Now all my senses

wish to sink into this light slumber


And unattendedly the soul

wants to take wings freely

to live on deep down and thousand fold

in the magic circle of the night


Bach’s Goldberg Variations performed by Glenn Gould

This work marks special times in the life of Thomas’ family. “Both kids born to this. Now burned on my consciousness,” he says.


Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now

Thomas has chosen the orchestral version of this tune.  “Isn’t the voice beautiful as it ages and carries with it a life lived?” he asks. “This later recording reveals an artist perfectly in control of her material.”


Puccini’s La Boheme

This opera will be performed by New Zealand Opera in September. He’s chosen the Act 4 duet between Marcello and Rodolfo.

“Before I married my wonderful wife Fiona I lived with my best mate Nick in a flat in Crouch End, London. We were both working in the theatre and struggling in love,” he says. “This duet captures the reality of that friendship.

“Ironically I was working on La Boheme at the time at Covent Garden – a lowly assistant pretending to be Mimi for Roberto Alagna while Gheorghiu was not in rehearsal.”