Based on Archibald Baxter’s autobiography, We Will Not Cease, and Michael Galvin’s play War Hero, this opera tells the unforgettable story of an Otago farmer who became New Zealand’s most famous conscientious objector in World War 1.
With an all-male cast led by international NZ tenor Andrew Glover, War Hero is a powerful representation of the casual brutality and extraordinary bravery of men caught up in the devastating experiences of the military world in wartime. As we remember the courage of those who fought – and died – for their country, we should also remember those who stood up for what they believed, however unpopular. It takes courage to say no.
John Drummond is one of New Zealand’s most successful opera composers. He has written fifteen operas, including full-length works like Plague Upon Eyam (1983), The Stars in Orion (1998), Larnach (2006) and A Schoolgirl Revolution, performed in Prague in 2009. His one-act opera The Illustrious Stranger won the Opera Factory chamber opera competition in 2015. Dunedin audiences also heard the Southern Sinfonia and City Choir perform his oratorio on Captain Scott’s fateful expedition to the South Pole, The Journey Home, in 2012.
War Hero is a powerful experience. Baxter’s journey from his arrest through his experiences at the hands of the military authorities, including his receiving Field Punishment No 1, being sent into no-man’s-land, and being incarcerated in a mental asylum, was a terrible one, and, like those who fought in the war, he did not emerge unscathed. The music of the opera takes us into dark places, but also reflects the optimism and determination of Baxter. His love of poetry, which helped guide him through his ordeals, is reflected in moments of lyrical beauty. At the end of the opera, his position, and those of the soldiers who fought, are reconciled in music which brings hope for the future.
Performances at the Mayfair Theatre are from Saturday 22 July to Saturday 29 December. Tickets will soon be available on this website, or from Miracle in Wall Street Mall.