Thursday, November 10, 2011

Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation supports the NZ Opera School

The New Zealand Opera School, based annually during January in Wanganui, is delighted to announce that the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation will be the sponsors for the final Opera School concert Great Moments of Opera 2012, in the Royal Wanganui Opera House.

The School, based at the Wanganui Collegiate School, is now in its 18th year and Dame Kiri announced that her Foundation’s motivation for supporting the School was to show their support for this important live-in school which has to date and will continue into the future to provide a vehicle for young New Zealand singers to develop their skills in the presence of their peers and to experience their own live performances. ‘We see the School’, she said, ‘as an invaluable experience to support our primary aim of identifying and assisting New Zealand singers of recognisable ability to complete advanced classical vocal studies and ultimately develop international careers’.

In welcoming the announcement the Director of the School, Donald Trott, said this is a significant step in the life of the School.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


A fine production of Cavalleria Rusticana (set in Sicily) and I Pagliacci  (affectionately known as Cav & Pag) opened in Wellington last Saturday with all artistic and performance aspects firmly in place to the delight of a full house at the St James.

Usually these two works are presented as being quite independent of one another but in this production the creative forces have the action taking place in one village and on the same day. Cav is defined as being in a Sicilian village, Pag in just an Italian village, so why not in the same village and maybe on the same day, with the only downside being the three murders in the same village on one day. However there is/has been a strong Mafia presence in Sicily over the years so I guess that is not so strange.

The revolve set enhances the production and leaves the audience with the opportunity to use imagination, always a nice exercise as one sits there an lets the beautiful, powerful and enduring music roll over you.

Elizabeth Whiting’s great costume designs leave us in no doubt that this opera is in recent times and it looses nothing as the event could be of now just as when the operas were first written and performed. There is nothing to suggest that this could not happen now because not much has changed. John Parkers rocky outcrop and revolve work very well and create the sort of scenes that help unravel the works and enhance the performances. The only thing that would/might question is the height of the stage for the ‘on stage’ play and the difficulty of the cast audience craning their necks to see the performance but for the real audience (us) it is a treat.

Do go and see this work. As I sat there on Saturday night with the wonderful singing from all principals and chorus I felt enormously proud of our New Zealand Opera. Finally the Maestro Oliver von Dohnanyi is a superb conductor and demands and gets the most from the orchestral forces. Well done everyone.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Installation of the beautiful Willis pipe organ in St Matthews, Auckland is well underway. Now, after about one hundred and six years, the organ is in the position Mr Pearson, the architect, intended it to be and the result is VERY impressive. I have heard several stops being played by organist Philip Smith from Auckland's Holy Trinity Cathedral and the sound is superb despite the stops not yet being completely in tune (that is all to come). The case work in Oak and the façade pipes look so majestic. This instrument will provide St Matthews with an organ of great significance and the church and the Willis Organ Company of Liverpool are to be warmly congratulated on what will be another fine asset to the musical life of the church and the community.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Great Opera Moment

The finale of the 2011 New Zealand Opera School concert in the Royal Wanganui Opera House featured a very fine tenor, Pene Pati. I am sure Pene will go far and you might like to listen now to his performance of Che gelida manina (Your tiny hand is frozen), from Puccini’s great favourite La Bohème. He is accompanied by Mark Dorrell.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Every year the staff and pupils of the Wanganui Collegiate School commemorate ANZAC in a very moving ceremony. Have look at the ceremony to the accompaniment of the fine chapel pipe organ, played by Director of Music Nicholas Grigsby.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The year of the countertenor

2010/11 seems to be the year of the Countertenor. It was a great pleasure to have Stephen Diaz at both the 2010 and 2011 New Zealand Opera School to work on his beautiful countertenor voice. His singing captured the hearts of all who heard him. At only 21 years of age, one can already see in him a great voice for the future and I (and others) predict he will go far. Today the Baroque works of the 17th and 18th centuries are being rediscovered and performed in many opera houses around the world and a voice like Stephen’s will be a winner. Have a look at this TV One clip of Stephen working with Paul Farrington at the 2010 NZ Opera School. 

During the 2011 NZ Opera School, Stephen learnt the great Riccardo Broschi (1698-1756) aria ‘Ombra fedele anch’io’ from the opera Idaspe. Riccardo was the brother of Carlo Broschi who was one of the greatest of the castrati and performed under the stage name Farinelli. Stephen performed this aria in the Royal Wanganui Opera House during the final concert before a capacity audience. Have a look at Stephen’s performance of this beautiful aria.