The Auckland Arts Festival has named its line-up for 2020.
It brings together the weird, the wonderful, the musical and the “mad”.
The AAF starts in early March, following on from the New Zealand Festival in Wellington. The NZ Festival also announced its line-up this week.
Auckland Arts Festival’s artistic director Jonathan Bielski says it made sense to work together with the NZ Festival team. “I see them as complimentary,” he says. “When any arts organisations ... collaborate, they are stronger as a pair or collective.”
The festival cross-over highlights
Visionary director Peter Sellars splits his time between both festivals, offering up a musical menagerie for both. At the NZ Festival he’ll resurrect the rarely staged Kopernikus opera – ritual de mort by Vivier. In Auckland he directs the Los Angeles Master Chorale which Bielski describes as “sublime” and an “exquisite…intense experience”.
Musical theatre show Black Ties will feature at both festivals. It tells the story of two families from two different culture coming together to celebrate a wedding. It’s on at the NZ Festival between 4-7 March and appears in Auckland between 11-15 March.
New Zealand Opera’s Eight Songs for a Mad King opens in Wellington first in early March for the NZ Festival then heads to Auckland. Composed by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and directed by NZO’s Thomas de Mallet Burgess, tells the story of “mad” King George III as he navigates the complicated relationship between mental health and power.
Te reo Māori continues to take centre stage
The focus on bringing te reo Māori to more audiences continues for the Auckland Arts Festival in 2020. This follows on from this year’s efforts to offer more of the language in the programming.
Bielski says te reo Māori has become part of the DNA of the festival. Not only does the festival have obligations under the treaty, there is also an internal drive to celebrate the language and its everyday use.
Tama Waipara continues to consult on all aspects of this for the festival.
AAF 2020 will open with TIRA, an immersive music event with performances from Hollie Smith, Hātea Kapa and various choirs from around Auckland who will join in a massed waiata.
Choirs will also learn Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in te reo Māori, with everyone coming together on 11 March.
“It’s a joyous occasion,” Bielski says.
Celebration of composer Eve De-Castro Robinson
Bielski says the Auckland based composer is one of his favourites and he’s looking forward to hearing her new commission which is a clarion call on the crisis of the oceans, climate change and environment. “[It’s] a wonderful opportunity to celebrate her music,” he says.
De-Castro Robinson has written a new trumpet concerto which will have its world premiere in Edinburgh before heading to Auckland with trumpeter Bede Williams.
She’s also selected an interesting location for her concert, which will also feature other compositions of hers from years gone by. The Spiegeltent in Aotea Square is her venue of choice.
“That says everything about her,” Bielski says. “Her attitudes to music and accessibility… willingness to take risks and thrust her work into unusual environments.”
De-Castro Robinson’s work takes to the stage on March 16.
Mahler, Beethoven and Mozart
The classical composers get a few outings at the AAF in 2020.
French dance company Ballet Preljocaj combine music by Mahler with costumes from Jean Paul Gaultier in the retelling of Snow White. Bielski says the “very epic” production is on a large-scale set – much larger than ballet’s New Zealand has experienced in the past. He says the “lush” production has a “sexy edge” but is suitable for children. “It’s not your white tutu version of Snow White!” she says.
Wolfgang’s Magical Musical Circus is one for the kids, bringing together “the thrill of circus, the mayhem of Mozart”. Described as “hilarious and high-spirited” it will keep the kids occupied on 21-22 March.
Throughout the AFF the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra presents Beethoven 250 – marking the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth. All nine symphonies will be performed across four concerts at the Auckland Town Hall.
Musicians of all ages and skills are also being asked to join in for Beethoven’s Big Birthday Bash, a mass community orchestra and choir performing a selection of extracts from the 9th symphony. It will be conducted by Giordano Bellincampi on 15 March.
One of Bielski’s picks for the festival is Place des Anges, being held in the Auckland Domain. As the sun sets, the “angels” will take to the high wire over the crowd and sprinkle feathers on them. He describes it as an “aerial ballet” and a “wonderful celebration”.
Swansong for Artistic Director
This will the third and final Auckland Arts festival for artistic director Jonathan Bielski and he is making the most of it.
“I’ve had a wonderful time,” he says. “It’s a… privilege to have a job like this.”
- The New Zealand Festival is on between 21 February to 15 March.
- The Auckland Arts Festival from 11 March until 29 March.