Rarely performed Handel opera on at Mercury Theatre

Handel's Oreste
Auckland Opera Studio and NZ Barok Orchestra 
Directed by Benjamin Henson
Mercury Theatre
August 20, 21

New Zealand's freshest young opera talent alongside stage veterans will bring Handel's rarely performed baroque Oreste opera to the stage, presenting a fiery tale of sacrifice, danger, and triumph. A semi-staged production, Oreste will combine the forces of Auckland Opera Studio and NZ Barok Orchestra at the historic Mercury Theatre just off K Rd later this month.

Magically saved from sacrifice at her own father's knife, Iphigenia is bound to serve the goddess Diana on the island of Tauris under the tyrannical rule of a King living in fear. As the blood of all strangers must be cast over the island's altar, fate brings Orestes, Iphigenia's estranged brother, to its shores. 

First performed in 1734 at the Covent Garden Theatre, Handel's Oreste is a tightly woven exploration of love and lust; a desperate search for sanity in a world built on fear; a bitter struggle between destiny and desire. A combination of youth and experience make up the vocal cast who will perform recitatives in English and arias in Italian,

The cast includes Madison Nonoa who was one of the four finalists in the recent Lexus Song Quest. She will be singing the role of Iphigenia along with Stephen Diaz (Oreste), Rebecca Ryan (Hermione), Filipe Manu (Pilade), James Ioelu (King Toante) and Kalauni Pouvalu (Filotete). This group of singers will be directed by Benjamin Henson, one of two national candidates for the Engine Room initiative.

The Auckland Opera Studio was founded in the early 2000’s, established to provide free professional coaching to graduate students. The studio is led by powerhouse opera aficionado Francis Wilson, a world-renowned tutor and vocal instructor who is working with New Zealand's freshest young opera talent alongside seasoned virtuosos of the stage to bring Handel's rarely performed baroque Oreste opera to Mercury Theatre.

Providing the musical score are the instrumentalists of NZ Barok Orchestra. They are the only group performing baroque music on historic instruments in New Zealand, providing audiences with the opportunity to experience sounds and songs as they were intended to be heard by the original composers. They take to the stage alongside the vocal soloists to bring Handel's score to life.

Benjamin Henson is an Auckland-based theatre director, an artistic director known for his incredibly visual, high-energy theatre work.

He is the artistic director of Fractious Tash, who have gained considerable notoriety for their pop-culture twists on classic texts – including Titus (2013), the Earnest (2014); which sold out its two-week run at Q Theatre, and the unnerving Not Psycho (2015).

He trained at Theatre Direction at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, London while directing productions for the London fringe and cabaret circuit. He has directed productions in Germany and France, as well as nine consecutive years at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe,

He has recently directed two shows at the hugely successful Popup Globe (The Tempest and revisited Titus), and completed the Auckland Theatre Company Engine Room director’s internship programme and has been directing a show in their Next Big Thing Festival show at the Basement Theatre (currently running).

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