Director's top picks for Wellington's arts festival

Eleanor Catton
Israel Galvan

New Zealand Festival

February 21 – March 16

One of the problems about choosing what to see during the forthcoming New Zealand Festival is how and what to choose from the incredibly diverse selection of shows on offer. By the time the reviews come out there shows have often finished and in many cases there is only one performance.

Shelagh Magadza, the Artistic Director of the festival who has selected this year’s programme has a few favourites including dance, opera, music and literature.

Of the opera Ainadamar she says “This opera sent chills up my spine when I first heard it.  The drama of Osvaldo Golijov’s music is so evocative of Spain and the political tension of the 1930 that led to the murder of Federico Garcia Lorca.  It is a story about an artist’s defiance in the face of fascism and this music has that same spirit; a life affirming work of beauty and truth”.

She is equally enthusiastic about the Spanish dancer Israel Galván “There is something about him that has your eyes glued to every move he makes.  He struts, he stomps and thrusts in the best tradition of flamenco dance.  But he also cleverly interweaves a delicacy and sparseness that reveals more about this form of dance than any other dance I’ve seen”. 

For Magadza one of the musical highlights will be the group Bach Collegium Japan: “This large ensemble of Japanese musicians and singers are known around the world for their interpretation of Bach’s music.  The size of the group means that most people only get to hear their acclaimed recordings, so to see them live is a great opportunity.  They will perform the St John Passion, one of my favourite pieces of music, as one of two very special concerts.”

Lemi Ponifasio who creates work which are a combination of theatre, dance and opera has a new work, The Crimson House at the festival this year. Magadza considers Ponifasio to be one of New Zealand’s most powerful voices in the arts today.  “He is visionary and uncompromising, his work challenges and often divides, but no one comes away unaffected.  Combining our Pacific, Maori and Pakeha heritage, his work is a visceral expression of where we live in a completely new way.”

Writers Week which is a Festival within a Festival (7-12 March) features a treasure trove of ideas and inspiration with writers such as Eleanor Catton, Tom Keneally and Loretta Napoleoni.  Magadza says that the full programme will come out on 30 January but the selection of writers who will be attending “covers the breadth of everything you every wanted to know about everything.”

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