2017 Major Production: War Hero
An Opera in three acts – Libretto and Music by Jonathan Drummond – World Premiere Production
A century ago, in 1917, Otago farmer Archibald Baxter was arrested for refusing to serve in the NZ military forces. Over the ensuing eighteen months he and thirteen other New Zealand conscientious objectors were subjected to various kinds of punishment, humiliation and torture at the hands of the military authorities, in New Zealand, in England, and on the battlefield of Ypres in Belgium. War Hero tells Baxter’s extraordinary story.
The opera is based on Michael Galvin’s play of the same name. Many who fought in World War 1 were heroes, facing terrible circumstances on the battlefield, displaying extraordinary courage in appalling conditions as they defended the things they believed in. Baxter may be considered to be a hero too, since he faced enormous physical and psychological challenges in defending his beliefs. It takes courage to say no, when all around you are saying yes. In World War 1 there was no place for those who refused, in all conscience, to participate in the organized violence of war. They suffered.
The opera has an all-male cast. 28 different roles are sung by 11 different singers, with an accompaniment from four versatile electronic keyboards and two percussion players. Most of those involved are opera performers building their careers – Opera Otago’s policy is to give young performers an opportunity to develop and showcase their talents.
Leading the cast as Archie Baxter is Andrew Glover (tenor), a professional opera singer born and trained in New Zealand and currently based in Brussels. Supporting him are Matt Landreth (baritone) and Alex Lee (baritone) as Baxter’s fellow conscientious objectors Kirwin and Briggs, and six talented young singers, some graduates of the University of Otago Department of Music and others still training there with Judy Bellingham or Judith Henley, together with a couple of older, more experienced singers.
The opera is conducted by Vincent Hardaker, a recent graduate of the NZ School of Music in Wellington. The stage direction is by John Drummond. Performances take place in the Mayfair Theatre on 22, 25, 27 and 29 July 2017.
2016 Major Production: A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens’s much-loved story comes to life on the opera stage thanks to Christchurch composer Philip Norman.
With a cast of over seventy, including children and dancers, this is the most ambitious production Opera Otago has mounted for several years. The opera is a faithful telling of the great story of Scrooge the miser and his journey to a realization of what Christmas is about. We meet the scary ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future. We meet the Cratchit family including the famous Tiny Tim. We hear Philip Norman’s tuneful music, and we all get to sing some Christmas carols!