NZ Opera announces 2014 season
Opera New Zealand has announced its three operas for next year. They are three of the most popular works by three of the great opera composers. The operas will be Verdi’s La Traviata, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Puccini’s La Bohème.
La Traviata (in Auckland June 19–29, Wellington July 11–19) opens the 2014 season. The work is Verdi’s most frequently performed opera and features the famous drinking song, “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici,” and Violetta’s aria of freedom, “Sempre libera.” Verdi’s masterpiece is musical storytelling at its most spectacular, combining reckless love, masked revelry, family strife and self-sacrifice.
This new production, co-produced with the State Opera of South Australia and Opera Queensland, is created by the Australian trio who brought audiences this year’s memorable Madame Butterfly - director Kate Cherry and her design team of Christina Smith and Matt Scott.
NZ Opera general director Aidan Lang says “Kate’s productions are always superb, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing how she and her team approach this fascinating work.”
“We’ve also much to look forward to in the cast,” he says. “The role of Violetta Valéry – the ‘traviata’ or ‘woman who has gone astray’ – is one of the great soprano roles of the repertoire, and in Australian Lorina Gore we have a singer who combines brilliant vocal ability with a compelling stage presence. Her lover, Alfredo Germont, will also be sung by a bright young Australian, Samuel Sakker, who will make his NZ Opera début in this production, as will Scottish baritone David Stephenson as Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont.”
Also included in the cast are New Zealanders Jared Holt as Baron Douphol, Wade Kernot as Marchese d’Obigny and, sharing Gastone, Freemasons Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist Oliver Sewell and Freemasons Resident Artist Andrew Grenon. Fellow Resident Artist Wendy Doyle sings Annima, with Laurence Walls and Andrew Grenon sharing Giuseppe. Completing the line-up is Australian David Hibbard as Doctor Grenvil.
The work will be conducted by the hugely experienced Italian-American Guido Ajmone-Marsan, who was last with NZ Opera in 2010 with Macbeth.
Puccini’s La Bohème will be only performed in Christchurch (15 – 18 July) and features Patrick Nolan’s production which played to sell-out houses when it was first presented in 2008, with this reviewer writing that “the production was superbly realised. Singing, acting and music combined with stunning sets to present a passionate and touching but doomed story of love”.
One of the most popular of all operas, Puccini’s lyrical tour de force has universality about it with the tortured relationships, the resonant characters made memorable by the likes of Nellie Melba, Enrco Caruso, Luciano Pavarotti and its famous arias.
Aidan Lang says the production, with its fresh and contemporary perspective "brings a relevance to who we are today, as a society and a culture.”
“The cast, of almost entirely New Zealand origin, also has a youthful energy to it,” he says. “American soprano Talise Trevigne, a natural beauty with a gorgeous voice and outstanding acting ability, is Mimì, while the part of her lover, Rodolfo, is taken by tenor Shaun Dixon who has just made a very impressive début in The Flying Dutchman. Marcello and Musetta – the other pair of lovers – are taken by Phillip Rhodes, who returns following his acclaimed performance in the title role of NZ Opera’s Hōhepa in 2012, and Madeleine Pierard, who recently sang a superb Musetta at The Royal Opera House Covent Garden.” Other principal cast members include Robert Tucker as Schaunard, Wade Kernot as Colline, Richard Greager as Benoit, Richard Green as Alcindoro, and Freemasons Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist Oliver Sewell as Parpignol.
Mozart’s Don Giovanni (Auckland: September18–28; Wellington: October11–18) premièred in Christchurch earlier this year with a production directed by Sara Brodie, which gave audiences a fresh and probing interpretation looking at a society in the throes of moral, and to some extent social collapse.
“Audiences relished the contrast of the lively, romantic music with the raw, edgy nature of the production,” says Aiden Lang, “and I feel sure North Islanders will have a similar reaction.
“We also have most of the original cast returning to carry on where they left off,” he says. UK baritone Mark Stone, whose Don Giovanni so seduced Christchurch audiences, will be partnered this time by NZ Opera favourite, and last year’s terrific Rigoletto, Australian Warwick Fyfe as Leporello. Fellow Australian Lisa Harper-Brown returns to sing Donna Anna along with some of New Zealand’s finest singers – Anna Leese as Donna Elvira, Jud Arthur as the Commendatore, and exciting young stars, Amelia Berry as Zerlina and Freemasons Resident Artist Robert Tucker as Masetto. Jaewoo Kim, who last sang with NZ Opera in 2006 in the title role in Faust, joins the cast as Don Ottavio.
The productions in Wellington will be accompanied by Orchestra Wellington and those in Auckland by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra while the Christchurch season will have the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, All will feature the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus