60 Years Old and Still Going Strong!

Dunedin Opera Company – a.k.a Opera Otago – is 60 years old this year. We think we’re the oldest opera company in NZ in continuous existence. We’ve done over 100 productions, launched the careers of many young singers, entertained audiences with masterpieces of the repertoire – and presented more new NZ operas than anyone else in this country.

We celebrated last month with a Dinner, and then an Extravaganza Show at the Mayfair Theatre with everyone’s favourite extracts.

On April 8-9-10 we launch House Opera – a new experience of presenting opera in private homes. This weekend we are at Dunedin’s famous home Olveston, where we’ll perform Menotti’s favourite The Telephone and John Drummond’s Dearest Maurice.

We’ve also decided to close down our long-running Mayfair Costume Hire business. It used to raise money to help fund our productions, but those days are now gone; we were having to subsidise it from our opera takings! Most of the costumes have been bought, but a final auction will be held on the premises on Sunday 17 April. Go along for some bargains!

Our production at the end of the year is Philip Norman’s A Christmas Carol, a great musical version of Charles Dickens’s beloved story.

 

Review of The Magic Flute by Elizabeth Bouman (uncut!)

Review from Elizabeth Bouman

The Magic Flute
Mayfair Theatre Saturday 13th June.

 

“It’s a brave and brilliant man of music who dares to take one of Mozart’s best loved operas and totally rewrite the libretto for this century.  But Dunedin’s John Drummond did just that to (Open Italics) The Magic Flute(Close Italics), and Opera Otago’s opening night packed Mayfair Theatre audience loved every word of it. 

 

Call it what you will – “morphed Mozart” or “Mozart makeover,” but 2015 English text worked splendidly for this 1791 comedy opera, as its fantasy plot and characters relocated to a world of corporate business and environmental extremists.  Production was led by Drummond, and international conductor Tianyi Lu directed a ten-piece orchestral ensemble with stylistic excellence for the familiar arias and vocal ensembles.

 

The roar of a Harley heralds the entrance of leather-clad Queen of the Night (Ingrid Fomison-Nurse) C.E.O. of currencies and commodities company Night Inc., as three formally attired highly-motivated P.A’s jab frantically on their iphones (Claire Barton, Beth Goulstone and Julia Moss-Pearson). Papageno the Company Birdcatcher is played by Tyler Neumann, whose delightful antics produce much humour as the plot leads him to find true love with Poppy Gainer (Alexandra Clearwater).

 

Sophie Sparrow plays Pamina with confident vocal strength matching the more experienced singer James Adams, who as Tamino Prince sets out on holiday, but ultimately falls in love with Pamina – initially through her photo on a tablet!  There’s a selfie, encounters with Girl Guides and Community members, but eventually he finds Pamina in the environmentally conscious Community of Isis and Osiris, led by Sarastro (Robert Lindsay) and security officer Monostatos (Ben Madden).

 

Brenda Rendall costumed with jeans, designer tops, business suits and heels, and plain monastic robing for Sarastro and his “community of greenies.”  The young cast, mainly from University of Otago alumni and current students, displayed vocal prowess, dramatic interpretations and professionalism which are a credit to their tutors.  With English diction and great music this unique operatic experience deserves a season of full houses.”

Magic Flute 2nd night
The Magic Flute Team…who do you recognise?!

 

The Magic Flute Blog: An Introduction

We are excited to announce that The Magic Flute Blog will be having it’s first entry tomorrow evening (Sunday 17 May 2015). This blog will be a chance for you to get to know the cast, the characters, and all the behind the scenes preparation that happens to put an opera on a stage. Contributors will include:

  • James Adams – Prince Tamino (or is it Tamino Prince?)
  • Brenda Rendall – Costume designer and creator (Measuring up: Top tips from my years of experience in the wardrobe)
  • Pieter du Plessis – Marketing Manager (Creatively bringing audiences to the theatre)
  • Kurt Murphy – Flautist (On playing ‘The Magic Flute’ – the flautist’s perspective)
  • Sophie Sparrow – Pamina (Ready for my debut! A Diva’s Diary from the dressing room)

Stay tuned on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays for the latest entries. Feel free to comment with questions, insights and feedback – we love to hear what you think!

Cast
Clockwise from top left: Ingrid Fomison-Nurse (Queen of the Night), Ben Madden (Monostatos), Robert Lindsay (Sarastro), James Adams (Tamino) and Sophie Sparrow (Pamina)

Autumn Newsletter: Warm Wishes from our Chair

Autumn

Welcome to our second Newsletter for 2015.

As the nights get longer and the temperatures crisper I always think that these conditions lend themselves to our art form. What better way to relax than to sit in a warm theatre and be transported to another place and time by the music and story of a favourite opera. So I hope you have entered a date in your diaries to purchase tickets and get to a performance of The Magic Flute. And encourage your families and friends to do the same! While this is our main focus at the moment, you will see by the contents of the newsletter that a lot has been happening. I will let the rest of the contributions speak for themselves but will just add a couple of things.

Firstly I must pay tribute to the three members of the 2014 -2015 executive who did not stand again this year. Michael Andrewes, Linda Brewster and Vickie Cross worked tirelessly for the Company over the period they were members and I extend my grateful thanks to them for their contribution.

Secondly I welcome their replacements for the new term. It is with pleasure that we report that our long serving and award winning costume designer Brenda Rendall has joined us, along with Claire Barton and husband Simon Wilson. We know that they will all bring new skills and enthusiasm with them. The added benefit of having Claire and Simon is that their little daughter, Margaret, has been attending meetings and is learning the ropes at a very early age!

Thirdly thanks to all who supported our raffle which generated much needed revenue for our coffers. The winning numbers are presented later on in the newsletter.

Finally it is with mixed feelings that I report that we are soon to lose the highly valued services of Georgia Gray who is editing this newsletter and has been editing much of our other written material and working on our website. Georgia was keen to stay involved with executive even though she has been living in Wellington since the end of 2014. It has been a most successful “long distance” role and one which we have appreciated greatly. However, she is shifting to Paris with her partner Clément in July. I extend my best wishes to them for this career move. We will miss her wise and thoughtful contribution as well as her practical skills.

Best wishes. See you at The Magic Flute.

Murray Davidson

Chairman

The Magic Flute: Update from the Director

OpOtago-2015-TD-596x274

We’re three weeks into rehearsals and having a great time! By the end of this weekend we’ll have the basic moves sorted out for the opera. That’s like having the blueprints of the production mapped out, so that we can then construct the reality that audiences will enjoy. Mozart’s music is, of course, a delight and an inspiration to all of us. Our young singers bring fresh voices and eager commitment. The ensembles sound glorious, and the solo arias are starting to live and breathe in a Mozartian style. The challenges of delivering spoken dialogue are being met. Characters are starting to form. Those who haven’t been in an opera before are finding out how difficult it is (so much to think about!), but we’re all helping each other. The cast – and our great production personnel – is working as a team. As I pointed out when we first gathered together, every person’s goal is to make the other people in the cast look and sound good. Cues aren’t what other people give you; they are what you give other people. It’s exciting, and it’s fun!

John Drummond – Director

Obituary: Ian Page

Ian Page

Ian Page was a musical director, and teacher with an MA in history, who always encouraged others to participate. In 1964 he was Assistant Musical Director for Opera Otago’s production of the opera La Traviata with a Dunedin season, and performances in Invercargill, Timaru and Oamaru. In subsequent years he directed many Opera Otago and other productions, always with a clear idea of what could be achieved and support as he worked with chorus and soloists. In 1975 he and Flora Edwards established the Southern Opera Ensemble in Dunedin, touring opera programmes to many South Island centres. Its schools group also performed in schools and community concerts over several years. In 2003 he initiated the “Friends of the Opera”, providing Sunday afternoon programmes for members to enjoy music and their understanding of opera. He chaired the group till recently. Ian is warmly remembered for his teaching, his support of others, and his commitment to making and understanding good music. His wife, Prof Dot Page and the family have lost a wonderful husband and father; our community has lost a valued friend who inspired a love of music in many people. He will not be forgotten.

Tribute from Bruce McMillan

Obituary: Josie Roberts

Josie 2Josie Roberts first appeared in the Dunedin Opera Company files as the Stage Properties person in 1980, where she was involved in both operas produced that year, ‘The Merry Widow’ and ‘Tosca’. Over 29 years Josie contributed her props expertise to each of the 30 operas produced, with her last opera being John Drummond’s ‘The Stars in Orion’ in 1999. Josie is remembered for the amazing stage properties that she produced over the years, as well as her meticulous care of said properties, often warning those backstage to keeps their hands off! Josie and  her husband Bernie Roberts also stored company props in their garage for many years when there was no storage at the Mayfair Theatre. At the time of Josie’s death the family generously gifted to the company a beautiful ball gown made by Josie, as well as many props including three large vases, fabric, Japanese fans, decorations and boxes of flowers. The company would like to acknowledge Josie’s enormous contribution the company over many years, for which we are extremely grateful.

Tribute from Mary Dixon

Spotlight on our Stars: Meet the Principals

Sophie Sparrow: Pamina  - 2014 Graduate: BMus Honours in Classical Voice at Otago University  - Lexus Song Quest Masterclass 2014 with judge Kathryn Harries; finalist Dunedin Aria  - Enjoys the outdoors and travelling; plays Hockey for the University of Otago “This has always been a dream role of mine. I enjoy singing Mozart's music - at times, it can be technically challenging, but it is an amazing opportunity!  Rehearsals have been great and well-structured, we have got through the blocking. I look forward to developing my character more through understanding the inner-workings of Pamina.Sophie Sparrow: Pamina

Sophie Sparrow: Pamina

  • 2014 Graduate: BMus Honours in Classical Voice at Otago University
  • Lexus Song Quest Masterclass 2014 with judge Kathryn Harries; finalist Dunedin Aria
  • Enjoys the outdoors and travelling; plays Hockey for the University of Otago

“This has always been a dream role of mine. I enjoy singing Mozart’s music – at times, it can be technically challenging, but it is an amazing opportunity! Rehearsals have been great and well-structured, we have got through the blocking. I look forward to developing my character more through understanding the inner-workings of Pamina.”

James Adams: Tamino - Dunedin-born, but has been in Wellington for the last 10 years. Recently returned with his wife to be closer to family – in time for the arrival of their now ten-month-old baby! - Has a degree in performance from NZSM - he completed it as a baritone - Played ‘Samuel Marsden’ in Opera Otago’s production of Anthony Ritchie’s This Other Eden in 2014 “John’s ‘renovation’ brings a new angle to Tamino – he’s not a prince anymore, but more an everyman who falls into a strange and unexpected situation. It’s a new way of shaping the character that I’m really enjoying.”James Adams: Tamino

James Adams: Tamino

  • Dunedin-born, but has been in Wellington for the last 10 years. Recently returned with his wife to be closer to family – in time for the arrival of their now ten-month-old baby!
  • Has a degree in performance from NZSM – he completed it as a baritone
  • Played ‘Samuel Marsden’ in Opera Otago’s production of Anthony Ritchie’s This Other Eden in 2014

    “John’s ‘renovation’ brings a new angle to Tamino – he’s not a prince anymore, but more an everyman who falls into a strange and unexpected situation. It’s a new way of shaping the character that I’m really enjoying.”

Ingrid Fomison-Nurse: Queen of the Night - Originally from Canterbury - Age 25 - Studies privately with Judy Bellingham “I am incredibly excited to be singing the role of the Queen of the Night. The music is of course magical, and the Queen’s arias are fantastic to sing: challenging but incredibly energising and rewarding.Ingrid Fomison-Nurse: Queen of the Night

Ingrid Fomison-Nurse: Queen of the Night

  • Originally from Canterbury
  • Age 25
  • Studies privately with Judy Bellingham“I am incredibly excited to be singing the role of the Queen of the Night. The music is of course magical, and the Queen’s arias are fantastic to sing: challenging but incredibly energising and rewarding. Rehearsals have been lots of fun with a great group of people. It’s really exciting to watch characters forming and the story becoming real.”
Benjamin Madden: Monostatos - Born and bred Dunedinite, Otago Boys educated - Recent Graduate: BMus (Classical Singing) and BA (Philosophy) - Currently enjoying the challenges of teaching and directing choirs, whilst balancing a busy performance schedule around the country “I’m looking forward to seeing the many aspects of this production come together – particularly some of the rumoured hi-tech wizardry!”Benjamin Madden: Monostatos

Benjamin Madden: Monostatos

  • Born and bred Dunedinite, Otago Boys educated
  • Recent Graduate: BMus (Classical Singing) and BA (Philosophy)
  • Currently enjoying the challenges of teaching and directing choirs, whilst balancing a busy performance schedule around the country

    “I’m enjoying the challenges of inhabiting a nasty character, Monostatos. I’m also looking forward to seeing the many aspects of this production come together – particularly some of the rumoured hi-tech wizardry!”

Robert Lindsay: Sarastro - From Invercargill - Age 19, this is his first operatic role - In his 2nd year of voice studies at Otago University, studying under Judith Henley “Playing an old man at 19 is definitely a challenge, but I’m really looking forward to the performances. It’s going to be a great experience!”Robert Lindsay: Sarastro

Robert Lindsay: Sarastro

  • From Invercargill
  • Age 19, this is his first operatic role
  • In his 2nd year of voice studies at Otago University, studying under Judith Henley

    “Playing an old man at 19 is definitely a challenge, but I’m really looking forward to the performances. It’s going to be a great experience!”

Tyler Neumann: Papageno - 3rd year physics and classical singing student at University of Otago - Musical background of musical theatre and choral singing - Singing ‘Papageno’ is his first operatic role “As a cast composed of nearly all Otago music students, there is a huge sense of comradeship that has been a tremendous pleasure to be part of.”Tyler Neumann: Papageno

Tyler Neumann: Papageno

  • 3rd year physics and classical singing student at University of Otago
  • Musical background of musical theatre and choral singing
  • Singing ‘Papageno’ is his first operatic role

    “As a cast composed of nearly all Otago music students, there is a huge sense of comradeship that has been a tremendous pleasure to be part of. Papageno is such a fun character to play. His simple wants and quirky nature, putting him so firmly at odds with his morally-driven counterparts, places him at the heart of this opera’s comedic nature.”

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