Thursday, October 29, 2009

2010 New Zealand Opera School

Students workshop a scene from La Traviata at the 2009 New Zealand Opera School under the direction of Aidan Lang. 

The sixteenth New Zealand Opera School is shaping up to be another fine event. We have been inundated with applications and making the elections for the limited spaces has not been easy, but we’ve now done the selections and everyone has been written to with the news. An excellent spread of voice types, a good geographical spread and some very interesting new voices. 

Funding has not been easy this year with some rejections which undoubtedly have their origins in the economic downturn. Still we are very delighted with the personal support we receive from people like Dame Jenny Gibbs, Adrian Burr, (both have been great supporters since inception) the Deane Charitable Foundation, Bev McConnell, Mark and Karilyn Brown, the ASB Trust, the Mercury Theatre Restoration Fund Committee, the Freemasons Roskill Foundation and many others. 

The school runs from the 3rd to the 14th January 2010. A varied programme of public events is staged each year to give the singers performing experience and the public an opportunity to hear our rising opera talent. 

The public programme is as follows: 
3rd Jan School commences 
4th Jan Sarjeant Art Gallery mid-day concert, featuring the NBR New Zealand Opera Emerging Artists 2010 (refreshments served)
7th Jan Several Wanganui cafés host an evening meal with live opera performances by the students from 7.30pm 
8th Jan 1st Public master class with Prof Paul Farrington in the Prince Edward Auditorium Collegiate School @ 7.30pm 
9th Jan 2nd Public master class with Prof Paul Farrington in the Prince Edward Auditorium Collegiate School @ 7.30pm  
10th Jan Chapel Service dedicated ‘To Music’ in the Collegiate School Chapel, choir, soloist and organ @ 11.30am 
11th Jan Opera excerpt - watch a segment of opera being created at the hands of Aidan Lang, General Director of NBR New Zealand Opera @ 7.30pm 
13th Jan Final Concert in the Royal Wanganui Opera House @ 7.30pm 
14th Jan School concludes. 

Do join us.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Eugene Onegin in Review

And if you were wondering what the media had to say about the Genesis Energy season of Eugene Onegin you might like to view some of these:
Radio NZ National - Arts on Sunday
Radio NZ Concert - Upbeat
bFM review/interview with Kristen Darragh

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rank on Rank

The Auckland Town Hall Pipe Organ grows daily. I am fascinated and inspired by rank after rank of beautiful pipes being installed by the small team from Klais, Bonn. From the rank of the smallest pipes, with the littlest of all being no more than 6cms in height to the mighty 32-foot Oboe this musical instrument is a work of art and rightly claims the title ‘King of Instruments’ (W. A. Mozart). The job is up to schedule and planning for the opening next March is in hand. All the citizens who have donated through our ‘Become an Organ Donor’ programme will receive an invitation to the relaunch of this wonderful city amenity. I am sure this instrument will bring a renewed enthusiasm for and interest in the world of the music of the pipe organ.

Eugene Onegin Triumphs

Please read the review from Wellington by John Button, a very experienced, knowledgeable and erudite reviewer. The Wellington season is a ‘sell-out’!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Klais MD pays us another visit

The organ in our beautiful Town hall grows daily as rank after rank of new, and some of the original 1911 organ, take their place behind the splendid and indeed inspiring façade of pipes. Markus, the voicer from Germany can be seen regularly at the lovely new console checking each rank following their placing inside the instrument and voicing.

Trott and Philipp Klais at the new console. The original 1911 ivory keys and stop knobs have been refurbished and retained.

Philipp Klais, the Managing Director, and fourth generation family member as head of the firm, flew in from Bonn the other day to check progress and with Ian Bell, our English adviser to the project, (also present) they listened to and discussed the merits of the sound. The consensus from all who have heard the instrument at this stage is one of great enthusiasm. Indeed I gave a tour to the wife of a prominent New Zealand Businessman and arts philanthropist, while Markus was at the console putting the assembled ranks through their paces. She was VERY impressed and claimed it as a beautiful and enriching experience.

From Bonn, L to R Markus the voicer of the pipes and Lukas, apprentice with Philipp inspect the new pipes just installed in the Great Organ.

Indeed I find the sound very faithful to the grand English organ sound, rich, full and beautiful as a Town Hall organ should be, in my opinion, and I guess in the minds of 99.9% of the population whose instrument it is.

The instrument is destined to be finished by the established date of 2nd December. There will be several months of ‘play in’ and adjustments ready for the grand public launch on the 21st March 2010. This will be a ‘red letter’ day form Auckland and this instrument will be ‘the jewel in Auckland’s crown’.

The Organ Trustees have appointed John Wells as the Artistic Director for the grand occasion. John is in the process of composing an organ concerto to celebrate the occasion and the Freemasons (the Lodge of the Liberal Arts and the Freemasons Roskill Foundation) are paying for the commission. This will be great day of celebration with choirs, organ and orchestra.

Markus, Philipp and Lukas inside the Swell Organ.

On the 25 and 26th March the renowned organist from Britain, Thomas Trotter will present a symphony with organ and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and on Sunday the 28th he will give a solo recital.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

No Wyn for WOW - for now

In one of my earlier blogs I said that Maestro Wyn Davies, Director of Music, the NBR New Zealand Opera would be performing his famous ‘Just Wyn’ cabaret later this year as a fund raiser for the New Zealand Opera School. Sadly this will now not be the case as Wyn will NOT be returning to New Zealand until about April 2010. The good news is that he will perform this great and entertaining work then. Those who remember Victor Borgé will delight in a somewhat similar performance by Wyn.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

From Russia, with love

Peter Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin, based on the great Pushkin poem, will reach the Aotea Centre on the 15th of September (dress rehearsal) and open on the 17th of September for a season of five performances, and then open in The St James in Wellington on the10th of October. Of the ten operas Tchaikovsky wrote, this one is, without doubt, the most famous.

Act 1 The young sisters, Tatyana and Olga, are together in their home and while their mother, Madame Larina listens at first to the two singing, she and Tatyana’s nurse Filipievna soon join in. A chorus of reapers arrives singing a sort of folk song and present Madame Larina with flowers.

Tatyana is immersed in thoughts of far-off regions that the songs have inspired whist Olga says she has no time for such dreams and that the music does nothing but make her want to dance. Then Lensky, Olga’s fiancé, accompanied by his friend Onegin arrive at the home. Meeting as any young lovers would Olga and Lensky engage in conversation while Onegin and Tatyana get to know each other. Tatyana realises that there is a growing affection for Onegin and before the end of the first act she writes a letter expressing her love. This is delivered to Onegin. He, however, does not share her feelings. Love and marriage are not for him, he loves her as would a brother but no more than that. The curtain falls on act one.

Act2 A ball to celebrate Tatyana’s birthday is in progress. A guest is none other than Onegin who dances with her which engenders ill natured gossip amongst some of the guests who do not view Onegin kindly. Bored with the whole event Onegin turns on his friend Lensky and steals a dance with Olga that she had promised to her fiancé Lensky.

A diversion softens the tense situation when the old French tutor Triquet sings a charming song which he dedicates to Tatyana. A dance is announced and Onegin further infuriates Lensky by continuing to dance with Olga. Able to stand the situation no longer Lensky challenges Onegin to a duel.

Great consternation arises from all the guests and Onegin, in an ensemble that follows, bitterly regrets his behaviour towards his friend but realises that the affair has gone too far and the duel will take place in the morning.

Deep remorse is in Lensky's heart, as, in the chill of the early morning, he prepares for what he seems to know will be his death. Onegin arrives, late, and in a dispute over the matter of a second (a duel cannot take place without a second) Onegin introduces his servant as an appropriate second and the two go off to discuss the conditions of the duel. The bleak music and the dead-pan nervousness highlight the situation. The pistols are raised and fired and Lensky is killed.

Act 3 Years have passed and we are now in St Petersburg, with an elegant ball in progress at a fine mansion, the home of Prince Gremin, a close friend of the Tsar. The atmosphere is in considerable contrast to the rather folksy occasion in Madame Larina’s house at the commencement of the opera. Onegin is present after having spent years in the ‘wilderness’ to atone for the death of his friend. Prince Gremin arrives with his wife who is none other than Tatyana. In a ‘show-stopping aria’ Prince Gremin tells Onegin of the great happiness the beauty and love of Tatyana has brought him (English translation of the first line (‘To love all ages must surrender’).

Soon Tatyana leaves the room and the final scene has Onegin recalling their earlier times and he realises that he is hopelessly in love with Tatyana. But she is the wife of Prince Gremin and will remain honourable to him. The final parting comes with Tatyana leaving the room and leaving Onegin totally distraught as the curtain falls on a great opera and a great piece of Russian poetry. Running time is about 2hrs 30mins

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Westminster comes calling, the Abbey that is!

It was my great pleasure to take Christopher Herrick, organist from Westminster Abbey through the Auckland Town Hall Organ on Monday.

Christopher is here giving some lectures and recitals the most public of which will be in the Christchurch Town Hall. Christopher was VERY impressed with the splendid work Klais have achieved and particularly impressed with the supreme efforts they have gone to to ensure the ‘English’ sound. He has given his own ‘feedback’ on this.

Christoper Herrick

Back in 2004 Christopher gave a very fine recital on the Town Hall Organ before it was dismantled. At a subsequent Council and Organists meeting he declared that what happened to the organ in 1970 was a great tragedy and wished the Council and the Trust the very best of luck with the refurbishment project. We will soon be on the final run and the great desire of so many enthusiasts will be realised. Keep 4.30pm 21st March 2010 firmly in mind.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Top 10

The other day, my radio told me that a very reliable source has named Simon O’Neill as being one of the top 10 tenors in the world and particularly in the world of the Wagnerian tenore.

Congratulations and salutations from all your friends here. It really only seems like yesterday at the NZ Opera School in 1994/5 that Madame Virginia Zeani confirmed to a nearly full Prince Edward Auditorium at the Wanganui Collegiate School that Simon was indeed a tenor and not a baritone. Over the following years, Simon followed his dream, worked very hard, kept the vision before him and is now well on his way. In 2012, 13 & 14 he will be performing in the opera
Otello in none other than La Scala Opera House in Milan.


We're on the move

The Wellington office of The NBR New Zealand Opera is moving to new
premises — from Wednesday, 15 July 2009 please visit us at:

The NBR New Zealand Opera
Freemasons House
195-201 Willis Street
Wellington 6011

Friday, July 3, 2009

Hey ho for the ‘classics’ – cars that is!


In the latest Daimler Spare Parts Car Club magazine (arguably the largest car club in the Southern Hemisphere), the President urges the restoration of these beautiful English classics as a means of helping the environment, rather than simply scrapping them for something new and, perhaps, seemingly more glamorous – although I have yet to see a new car that matches the beauty of say a Mark 2 Daimler or Jag or maybe a Rover 3500 P5B or an XJ6. They always ‘turn heads’. Someone sat down with pencil and paper and designed these beauties. If they were not so beautiful, why is there such a demand in places like Japan for these vehicles? So many have left these shores for new homes in Japan. There was a lovely P5B for sale recently. No local takers! Where did it go? To Japan.

Daimler XJ6 4.2

I have long been an admirer of English classics and others from Europe like the earlier Mercedes, Citroens etc. My little ‘collection’ comprises a 1972 MGB (26 years: my everyday car) a series one XJ6 4.2 Daimler (21 years) and a Rover 3500 P5B. (5 years). I have owned seven Rovers previously and was negotiating on a P5B Coupe in 1977 but a sudden death in the family put it far from my mind, so I did it 27 years later, not a coupe but a saloon, with no regrets. It was my 30 year old nephew, showing great interest in these cars, who re-aroused my interest. Thank you Matthew. Classics are a drivers car.

Rover 3500 P5B

I thought viewers to my weblog might like to see these vehicles, all in great condition and all perfectly capable of a quick trip Auckland-Wellington return when desired.

Footnote: Classic cars should ALWAYS be garaged, serviced and used regularly. It’s fun.

Monday, June 29, 2009

APO and Organs

Photo: Kerry Stevens

Wild weather did not keep away a large crowd of mums, dads and children from yesterdays APO open day in the Auckland Town Hall. Ensembles were conducted by little would-be conductors, little hands poured over the stands of the creators of flutes and stringed instruments and everyone sat on the Great Hall floor, riveted, as introductions were made by APO’s CEO Barbara Glaser. Eckehard Stier, the APO’s Director of Music, conducted the full orchestra and stopped from time to time to point out irregularities, quiz the audience, and award complimentary tickets for correct answers. AND the little demonstration organ was a real draw card. John Wells, Kerry Stevens and I had much pleasure in explaining the workings of a pipe organ through the medium of the beautifully constructed demo organ (made in Bonn by Klais). Soon it will have a permanent place in the Town Hall where visitors can operate it for themselves and get an idea of how the huge and much older brother, soon to grace our Town Hall, works. The Auckland City Council are to be warmly commended on the commissioning of this little organ which will enable the public to see just how a pipe organ works. It will reside in various places in the Town Hall.

The BIG BROTHER will soon start receiving its remaining thousands of pipes and will (all going well) be finished by the 2nd December. Then it will be ‘played in’ privately, until the grand public launch at 4.30pm on Sunday 21st March 2010. Put the date in your diary now. It will be a great celebratory day. More exciting news about the launch later.

Friday, June 26, 2009

There’s nothing quite like a Welsh Maestro

Scottish Opera certainly know where to obtain their Maestro for the next performances of The Italian Girl in Algiers in Edinburgh and Glasgow, later in the year. Scottish Opera’s Maestro is not available to conduct the season, so our very own Wyn Davies has been engaged to bring it all to life. Nothing like great cooperation from the Celts, is there. We wish Wyn another joyous season of The Italian Girl. And while on the subject of conductors, warmest congratulations to John Rosser on his fine conducting of the final night here in Auckland. I watched almost the entire performance from the Stage Manager's area with monitors right on the conductor.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wales wins – in music, at least

The visit of Bass Baritone Bryn Terfel was a vocal highlight of 2009. Not only did we have the great pleasure of hosting the singer, but his parents, Nesta and Hefin, were here also, as a kind of birthday present for dad to see New Zealand, and they loved it as we did them. Great and lasting bonds were established. Both parents are singers (who in Wales is not) and for me it was a great pleasure to sing (as an impromptu), the Welsh National Anthem with them at the reception at Colin and Maree Reynolds' home in Auckland (hosted by The Opera Guild and Friends). Later in the evening, I was coerced into singing a duet of Po kare kare ana with Bryn. I have, still, no idea how this came about but concluded that as he had only just learned it he wanted a local ‘prop’. It was great, for me!

The Saturday concert in the Great Hall was a wonderful occasion and what a performance. Beautiful at full voice and beautiful in the softest and almost inaudible notes. Wonderful control and the clearest possible diction. We were blessed and thrilled with the occasion. Bryn was just the most engaging and easy mega star and we have been so fortunate to have had him here for this tour under the auspices of the NBR New Zealand Opera. Thank you Aidan for arranging this. Unforgettable.

Bryn opens soon in Tosca at Royal Covent Garden in the role of Scarpia. That will be a marvellous production I am sure.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bryn Terfel Joins Dunedin Choir

Well not quite, but while charming his way around the Scottish outpost, he popped in on the Dunedin Male Voice Choir. Immediately they claimed him as an Honorary Member and proclaimed him their new Welsh pronunciation coach. As if this weren't enough, he has also visited the albatrosses and seals, offered a game for Zingarei-Richmond, had two offers of marriage and six dinner invitations. Such capacity for life! As Stuart Coats, our NBR New Zealand Opera Tour Manager, says: “He’s that kind of chap”.

Next, he will be in Christchurch (13th June) then Wellington (17th June) and then on to Auckland. For those fortunate enough to possess one of a very limited number of tickets (available at a mere $45 from Julie Byrd at the NBR New Zealand Opera offices, phone 09 379 4068), there will be a Meet and Greet at the home of Colin and Maree Reynolds, Viaduct Basin on the 19th June. The Auckland concert will be the following evening.

Don’t miss this one (and probably final) and only concert to hear this great performer.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Mollies in St Mary’s Bay was alive, as it often is, with the sound of music, and this time it was our splendid tenor Simon O’Neill. The evening was very suitably introduced by Simon’s tutor and mentor Frances Wilson.

I had the pleasure of the company of Jenny Gibbs, Tom and Anne Morris and Willie Hill and Coral Mazlin-Hill for a splendid five-course meal, interspersed with delightful commentary on Simon’s career thus far. With snippets of an aria here, a demonstration of voice type there, Simon gave a mixed audience (including Josh Kronfeld) of 40 persons an amusing and most interesting ride into the world of opera through his eyes. He ended by displaying a contract with La Scala Opera for a tenor role in Verdi’s great opera Otello for 2011/12/13. Well done Simon. It was delightful to be with you again and to have the pleasure of Carmel’s company, where she could relax knowing that twins Tom and Grace were safely asleep upstairs. A great and memorable evening. Thank you Simon and Mollies.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

La Bella Italiana Venuta In Auckland!

The Auckland members of the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus are now in full re-rehearsal to ‘come up to speed’ with our Italian Girl (aka Wendy Dawn Thompson).

Following rave reviews in Wellington, the company has arrived in good form to rehearse with the chorus and APO, ready for the grand opening night on Thursday the 28th of May. If you have not yet booked for this production, do so now. Throughout the remainder of 2009, people will say to you: "Did you go to the Italian Girl?" If you have to reply "no", you will have to admit you missed a comic opera of great acclaim and an operatic event that will be remembered for years to come.

Performance dates:
Thursday 28th May, 7.30pm Opening night
Saturday 30th May, 7.30pm
Tuesday 2nd June, 6.30pm Friends night
Thursday 4th June, 7.30pm
Saturday 6th June, 7.30pm Final night

After June 6th, the production ‘sails’ off for a season in Scotland.

Come and join The Italian Girl for a great night out!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What a romp!

Cast members of The Italian Girl in Algiers in full flight. From left to right: Beach Babe 1, Richard Green (Haly), Beach Babe 2, Katherine Wiles (Elvira), Conal Coad (Mustafà), Kristen Darragh (Zulma)

The Italian Girl in Algiers should not be missed.
A contemporary, high tech design component, wonderfully acted and sung, hilarious costumes and on top of that the MUSIC which is so engaging. With its joyous quintets, sextets, duos and arias it cannot fail to entertain and please. It's just the sort of entertainment we need in the chill of the evening and the economy. You’ll have a great laugh. All the principals are outstanding so I am not going to single out any one in particular. It's a marvellous cast of New Zealand singers, joined by one lovely tenor guest, Christian Baumgärtel from Germany.

The wonderful Wendy Dawn Thompson (Isabella) risks life and limb careering around the stage on a Segway while wearing 4-inch heels

Do not miss this opera. It’s well worth the time and the cost. Just have a look at the photos with Wendy Dawn careering round the stage on her Segway and delivering the music in her glorious voice.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


The final dress rehearsal hit the St James stage last night and my ‘feedback’ from independent audience members has been VERY positive. Comments like: fantastic, very funny and wonderfully sung have been the norm. Also modern and very accessible. There were one or two small technical problems but these will be sorted today already for the big opening night on Saturday. Congratulations to everyone and very best wishes for the big night. Tell all your friends this is a great show and wonderful entertainment.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Capt Bryan Wyness (Chair of the NZ Opera School Trust) and I (Director) travelled to Wanganui on Thursday 30th Apl to talk with Andrew Carpenter, Bursar Wanganui Collegiate School about he 2010 New Zealand Opera School, 3rd to 14th January and to meet some of the WOW (Wanganui Opera Week) committee.

A most useful and worthwhile journey with Collegiate ensuring great care would be given to the re costings for our 2010 School and both parties agreeing that there was prestige for both Schools through the event. Collegiate have just appointed a PR person and the Opera School’s PR person, Caroline Nelson will be put in touch with the appointee to ensure maximum coverage for both parties throughout the country.

The Opera School has been enormously grateful to individuals and trusts that, over the years, have supported the School financially. This year is not going to be easy with the stressful financial constraints currently affecting many people and WOW will do all they can in the local community to assist with fund raising. In this connection Wyn Davies, Director of Music, the NBR New Zealand Opera has willingly agreed to perform voluntarily his famous Just Wyn cabaret in the city towards the end of the year as a fund raiser.

What a wonderful privilege to be invited by Nicholas Grigsby to attend the usual Friday chapel practise at 8.30am. Great singing from the boys and girls of the School and even the Welsh would have been thrilled with the rendition of ‘Guide me O Thou Great Jehovah’ accompanied by the chapel’s fine pipe organ. Thank you Collegiate and Nicholas, it brought back great memories for me and it is nice to know that that tradition is still in place.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The naming sponsor calls

As Barry and Kati Colman stepped from a super new Lexus at the NBR New Zealand Opera’s HQ in Auckland Barry apologised for being 15 minutes late and quipped ‘Its only taken you one year and 15 minutes to get us here’. But we were delighted to show them our new (well nearly new) offices at 100 Mayoral Drive in Auckland and have a good discussion about the opera company, where we are now, the way ahead and future productions. Over the years, since 2000, the names New Zealand Opera Company and the NBR have become synonymous and we believe a very good synergy too. Wherever you see the opera company you’ll see the NBR even on the other side of the world. Next trip for Barry and Kati is the Onehunga Technical Centre.

By the way those of you who have the Italian Girl programme, do read Barry’s foreword. It’s delightful.

See you at the opera.

Monday, April 27, 2009

One goes and another comes

The excellent vocal progress achieved by Wade Kernot in recent times shows great promise for the future. Wade achieved great success on Thursday 23rd in gaining second place in the Lexus and his time as Young Artist with the NBR New Zealand Opera has helped consolidate his progress. Now he goes to the other side of the world to Germany to develop his career and we wish him the very best of good success.

And now our lovely mezzo Kristen Darragh joins us as the Young Artist for 2009. We welcome Kristen warmly and we know that her lovely voice will enrich us all just as it did at the New Zealand Opera School in Wanganui in January and as she did as a Lexus finalist and on Friday night in a joint concert with Wade at the marvellous home of Jenny Gibbs.

By the by it was great to see Margaret and John Hunn, Tim and Lorraine Olphert and Patricia Hurley from Wellington at Jenny’s home on Friday.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Singing For Supper

The NBR New Zealand Opera’s new ‘Supper Club’ launched its first soiree to its newest members and guests on Tuesday 21st April at Mollies in St Mary’s Bay. The club is directed towards the business communities as another fund raising initiative for the company.

A lovely occasion hosted by Aidan Lang with great singing of excerpts from the Italian Girl by Conal Coad and Katherine Wiles and with introductions from our Music Director Wyn Davies (also included was an aria – Una voce poco fa – from The Barber of Seville, slipped in to further demonstrate Rossini’s style of music). All this while 80 guests drank our generous sponsor Sileni wines and supped on tasty morsels from Mollies fine chefs. And to top it all off, a range of attractive items were auctioned by Christopher Devereaux (arguably Auckland’s top auctioneer), raising $11,300 for the opera company’s funds. Well done everyone and warm appreciation to Maryanne Mummery who organised the evening and to our staff who assisted with ‘logistics’.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Scots wahae!

Excitement mounts as we welcome back Alex Reedijk, now General Director of Scottish Opera. We are of course doing Italian Girl as a joint production with them. Alex arrives on May 4th.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Exciting Lexus (both the Car and the Song Quest)

And the winner of the 2009 Lexus Song Quest is: Aivale Cole

Second place: Wade Kernot
Third place: Julia Booth

Let us Lexus!

The excitement is mounting!

On Thursday evening six of our young artists will exercise their vocal prowess before the distinguished German tenor Siegfried Jerusalem, in Auckland's Town Hall. (I recall seeing him in Die Walküre in the Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires some years ago.)

The finalists are:
  • Wade Kernot
  • Aivale Cole
  • Kristen Darragh
  • Andrew Glover
  • Julia Booth
  • Polly Ott
The MC for the evening will be Aidan Lang

All but Aivale have been, or in the case of Polly, will be, PwC Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artists with the NBR New Zealand Opera and again all but Aivale have attended the New Zealand Opera School in Wanganui under the guidance of Paul Farrington, Margaret Medlyn, Barry Mora and Richard Greager. Aivale has sung with New Zealand Opera and is a fine performer.

This will be a great evening and I wish all contestants a very happy and enjoyable evening. They will all shine.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Attention, all pipe organ lovers!

Hello all you pipe organ lovers who have looked at my blog. Here is a nice historic organ for you to view (photo by Arie Hoeflak). It is dated 1894, with some 6 additional stops which date back to around 1971, the adding of which I was closely involved with. It now has 25 speaking stops and is a very fine two manual organ in the beautiful brick and stone Presbyterian Church of St Paul’s Wanganui. It is in great condition and well maintained by the congregation.

In the clip below, you can enjoy Nicholas Grigsby playing Buxtehude's Präludium, Fuga und Ciacona on this wonderful instrument.

The SILENT Organ

Yes, all is quiet in the organ ‘loft’ in the Auckland Town Hall. The wonderful work done by Klais with assistance from the South Island Organ Company and The Edge lies waiting for the arrival of the great bulk of the 5352 pipes that will be the make up of the new instrument, and the chaps to install, voice and tune these new ranks, included in which will be the two Maori stops, unique to this instrument.

More about this later. In the meantime City Organist John Wells has to make do with the large electronic organ as a poor substitute until the organ is recommissioned at 4.30pm on Sunday the 21st March 2010. What a day that will be!.

Meantime Ian Bell of London, the City Council’s expert advisor is in regular contact with Philipp Klais in Bonn, monitoring the progress of our instrument. I will keep you posted as any significant developments occur. By the way we are still, and will be for a long time to come, seeking folk to become ORGAN DONORS. A brochure can be obtained from outlets in The Edge or me.We have plans for promoting the organ and the possibility of establishing an organ scholarship well beyond the commissioning and into the future.

St Matthews in the City are recommisioning the lovely pipe organ in their church and Ian Bell has also been retained as advisor to them. Much of the organ is now at the Willis Factory in Liverpool and is due for re installation early in 2010. What an exciting time this will be for the church and indeed for the organ lovers of the community.

NBR NZO Millenniums’ Sponsors

Every year, for their continuing very generous financial support, our Millennium Benefactors are given the opportunity to be the named sponsors of an artist or creative of their choice in one production. This opportunity is also extended to the Friends of the Opera in Wellington and Auckland and our Auckland Guild. For the Italian Girl the following artists or creative:

Mustafa, Conal Coad, sponsored by Jenny Gibbs, C.N.Z.M.
Elvira, Katherine Wiles, sponsored by Trevor and Jan Farmer
Zulma, Kristen Darragh, sponsored by John and Margaret Hunn
Lindoro, Christian Baumgartel, sponsored by Friedlander Foundation
Isabella, Wendy Dawn Thompson, sponsored by Turnovsky Endowment Trust
Taddeo, Warwick Fyfe, sponsored by The Opera Guild, Auckland
Director, Colin McColl, sponsored by Friends of the Opera, Auckland
Set/Lighting Designer, Tony Rabbit, sponsored by Friends of the Opera, Wellington

Wyn Davies, our Director of Music and conductor of the Italian Girl, is annually sponsored under a special funding arrangement by Friedlander Foundation.

The company is enormously grateful to all its wonderful financial supporters and sponsors and we are delighted that the funders named above have made the selections they have.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lexus Song Quest Finalists

Warmest congratulations to the six finalists of the 2009 Lexus Song Quest the winner of which will be known after the competition on the 23rd April in the Auckland Town Hall.

The Trustees of the New Zealand Opera School are delighted to see that five of the finalists have all attended the School. I refer to Wade Kernot, Julia Booth, Kristen Darragh, Andrew Glover and Polly Ott. Wade, Julia, Kristen and Andrew have all been Emerging Artists with the NBR New Zealand Opera and Polly may be an Emerging Artist in the next annual session. Also, the sixth finalist, Aivale Cole, has sung with NBR New Zealand Opera. There is no doubt that our combined work and dedication to these young New Zealand Singers is having results.

I look forward immensely to the finals.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Easter Wishes

I send you all a very blessed Easter. May the celebrated events be healing, peaceful and uplifting.

Yours sincerely,
Donald Trott

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

NBR New Zealand Opera’s 2007/8 Emerging Artists

Left to right: Hadleigh Adams, Barbara Graham, Matthew Landreth, Julia Booth, Michael Gray, Barbara Paterson

Last Saturday evening those of us fortunate enough to gather in the great hall of the Auckland Town Hall were treated to a unique experience when the work of six New Zealand composers for the opera voice was presented by the six very fine Emerging Artists from 2007/8 PwC Dame Malvina Major Artists programme.

The whole evening was delightfully hosted by the Artistic Manager of the APO, Antony Ernst, who conducted a brief interview with the composer prior to our singers presenting their work. The pieces were:

  • Hone Tuwhare’s poem RAIN composed by Anthony Ritchie (who was unable to be present) sung by Baritone Matthew Landreth
  • Jeff Lin’s contemporary version of Chinese Li Yu’s Exile from the Native Land sung by Tenor Michael Gray
  • Penny Dodd composed a piece from scratch by adapting a soliloquy from Euripedes’ Medea sung with great conviction by Barbara Paterson
  • Anthony Young gave us a scenario where a mother tries to explain to her blind baby What is Light sung by soprano Julia Booth with great pathos
  • Matthew Crawford’s Karlo Mila’s poem A Place to Stand with texts in Maori and English was well presented by soprano Barbara Graham and finally
  • Hadleigh Adams gave us a very moving composition by David Hamilton entitled ‘Breaking the Quiet’, based on the Mt Erebus disaster of 30 years ago. No one was there to hear the sound.
Our singers who had worked with the composers during the year gave very fine presentations. From time to time the orchestral compositions overwhelmed the singers but they gave very worthwhile and very credible interpretations and it was a privilege to be in the audience.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Rebuilding the Auckland Town Hall Organ

Apart from the NZ Opera and the NZ Opera School the most exciting thing in my life in the last few years has been the refurbishment of the Auckland Town Hall Pipe Organ.

Being on the Trust (representing The Edge) has been a very interesting journey. The restoration of this magnificent instrument back to the grandeur that it had when Henry Brett (a former Mayor of Auckland) donated it to the city in 1911, and which was sadly decimated by following an unfortunate fashion of the 60’s, will provide the Auckland City and indeed New Zealand with a pipe organ of great world-wide significance.

The German firm from Bonn, Orgelbau Klais, the firm who won the $3.5million contract, removed, in January 2008, all that was left of the 1911 instrument and shipped it to Bonn for refurbishment. The pipe work that was installed in 1970 was also removed and sent to the South Island Organ Company’s factory for storage until it is decided what will happen to it. The South Island Organ Company is working with Klais on this project. Thus all but the façade pipes and the huge 32ft Open Wood pipes on the back wall of the organ chamber were dismantled leaving the area for complete refurbishment to receive the wonderful new instrument.

In December 2008 three large containers arrived in Auckland with all the refurbished materials from the organ along with a range of the larger new pipe work that had been constructed in their factory in Bonn. Then on the 5th January 2009 a team of 11 German craftsmen (shown above, with His Worship the Mayor and yours truly in front of the Auckland Town Hall Organ) arrive from Bonn and they along with 2 from the South Island Organ Company and 1 from The Edge commenced the huge task of installing all the splendid work that had been constructed in the German factory. The Great Hall was a mass of timber, cases of pipes, swell, solo and choir boxes, wiring and all the ancillary detail that makes up this grand and intricate instrument.

Donald entertains the Klais crew during their rare free time.

During the next 6 weeks this fine team did an absolutely splendid job, working from 7am till 7pm daily to install the major structure, the refurbished pipes from the original instrument, the swell, solo and choir boxes, the hundreds on miles of wiring, the lovely new console, the walkways through the organ on three levels, the beautiful oak stair case inside the organ, the new larger pipes (there are still three more containers to arrive in August to make up the 5352 pipes that will comprise he completed organ), the new blower motors in the Town Hall basement and all the wind reservoirs. A huge and complex job completed with the utmost efficiency.

On my return from the Opera School on the 15th January I could not keep away from the Town Hall. This was history in the making and I simply lost count of the number of people I showed though the instrument. The staff were so accommodating and pleasant of my (and visitors) invasion of their space and I thank Thomas Von Heymann (foreman) and his staff for their gracious acceptance of this. Also I am very grateful to Leigh Redshaw of the Auckland City Council and Frank Woolf of The Edge for allowing me to do this.

His Worship the Mayor, John Banks, was so impressed with the work that he invited the whole team to morning tea and the following day was taken on a tour of the organ. More soon.