19 Oct 2018

NZ Opera turning the screw for 2019 season

From Upbeat, 1:00 pm on 19 October 2018

New Zealand Opera announced a "more sustainable" 2019 season this week, which continues a trend of moving away from large chorus productions.

The Barber of Serville

The Barber of Serville Photo: Supplied

NZ Opera describes the 2019 season as "normal" following a very busy 2018 season. But it's limited stage opportunities, particularly for those in the Chorus.

In 2019 Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, touring in the winter months, will be the main opportunity to see the Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus.

NZ Opera Board Chair Philip King says the organisation's planning has been hampered because of the earthquake strengthening of the St James Theatre in Wellington reducing large productions.

"We've [also] got to live within our means and make it work financially and artistically. Doing opera is not a cheap thing to do," he says. "We will be looking to mix it up more in 2020."

The Barber of Seville production has been described by NZO new General Director Thomas de Mallet Burgess as "one of the funniest and craziest operas ever written".

NZ Opera's new General Director Thomas de Mallet Burgess

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

It features an international cast, with contributions from the NZ Opera Chorus.

"There will always be a role of productions of size and scale we are the only company who can deliver those," de Mallet Burgess says. "The professional chorus is the lynch pin of this company’s work and I would recognise that the chorus is a living organism. Its skills need to be kept up, so when its called up it's ready."

The Chorus will also be part of the a collaboration between NZO and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra on Mozart’s Don Giovanni in July, starring Jonathan Lemalu and 2018 Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist Natasha Wilson.

The rest of the 2019 opera season is an intimate affair.

A small all-Kiwi cast will take to the stage in October for The Turn of the Screw. It features Anna Leese and Madeline Pierard and will be directed by de Mallet Burgess, his first for NZO. "It's partly ghost story, partly psycho drama," de Mallet Burgess says.

NZO is also moving away from larger venues, with the ASB Waterfront Theatre being the venue of choice for "deeply psychologically piece" The Turn of the Screw. It allows audiences to get up close to the action. The production also tours to Wellington.

NZ Opera's The Turn of the Screw

NZ Opera's The Turn of the Screw Photo: Supplied

"It allows us a real opportunity to get the audience close to the menace, spine-tingling fear [of The Turn of the Screw]," de Mallet Burgess says. "[As the opera progresses] we - the audience - start to struggle to piece together what is real and what is unreal."

NZO will also host an entirely international cast for the Auckland Arts Festival in March. Famed opera director Barrie Kosky brings Komische Oper Berlin’s The Magic Flute to the city.

Kimisch Oper Berlin’s The Magic Flute

Kimisch Oper Berlin’s The Magic Flute Photo: Supplied