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The New Zealand Arts Review

Six Degrees of Separation: Searching for status, glamour and love

Six Degrees of Separation by John Guare

Auckland Theatre Company

ASB Waterfront Theatre

Until August 29

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The theory of six degrees of separation says that we are all connected, it only needs to have six individuals who know someone who knows someone six time to make those connections happen. That’s six steps to Angela Merkel, Mick Jagger or J K Rowling.

But it’s something of a false sense of connection. We might think we have hundreds of friends on Facebook but that’s pretty much a fantasy. Most of the time individuals are isolated in their limited society with very loose connections, often estranged or distanced from family, colleagues and their social groups.

ATC’s latest production Six Degrees of Separation is about these social connections, how they can work to advantage or disadvantage. Much of the play is about manipulation, as well as deceit, aspirations, narcissism, and entitlement. And nothing is what it seems to be.

It is a brilliantly crafted play with some superb actors, skilfully directed by Colin McColl. It raced along filled with dramatic and comic events which had the audience enthralled and delighted.

We enter the world of Ouisa Kittredge (Jennifer Ward-Lealand ) and Flan Kittredge (Andrew Grainger) where they are, entertaining their rich South African friend Geoffrey (Bruce Phillips) who they hope will come up with $2 million to invest in a Cézanne painting that art dealer Flan intends to flick on to a Japanese buyer.

Out of the blue, a young coloured man named Paul (Tane Williams-Accra) crashes the apartment looking for help, he has been attacked and robbed of his wallet and the only copy of his university thesis. It’s not all that random because Paul knows the Kittredge’s as he was at Harvard with two of their children.

They also discover that he is actually the son of the famous actor Sydney Poitier who is about to direct a film version of Cats.

The Kittredge’s and Geoffrey are entranced and entertained by the young man and after he has beguiled them with his life’s story, cooked a meal for them and promised them minor roles in Cats he is given a bed for the night.

Then things start to go awry. We discover that Paul is actually a conman and his interaction with the Kittredge’s is only one of many. While he takes a bit of money from his unsuspecting marks what he seems to want to do is scam status, respect sex and possibly love.

Despite having been conned Ouisa is mesmerized by Paul and there is a mutual fascination bordering on love with each in wonderment of the others world.

There are some great sequences in the play as when Paul elaborates on his stolen theses speaking eloquently about intellectual paralysis, phonies and creativity while managing to drop in references to Freud, Jung and Beckett.

He also has a speech about “The Catcher in the Rye” which dazzles his hosts with his insights and conviction. It’s a clever speech and Williams-Accra’s delivery is impressive .

But there are other parts of the play which don’t work. When all the Kittredge’s children swarm onto the stage they look and sound as though they are the cast from some amateur production. They interrupt the flow of the show and really don’t seem to add much

Jennifer Ward Lealand wearing the fabulous attire of a New York hostess is the standout performer with a mixture of self-control, vulnerability, and dry wit as she negotiates her relationships with Flan and Paul.

With equal amounts of animated confidence and shadowy deceit, Williams-Accra provides a fatally flawed character, unsure of his own desires and morality as he uses white liberal guilt to achieve his goals of entering the world of the rich, important and glamorous – aspiring to just a bit more than Andy Warhol promise of fifteen minutes of fame.

Flan is given a nicely layered character by Andrew Grainger), a combination of hard-nosed businessman and art world gambler who is supremely confident but emotionally inadequate.

At one point Paul says something about the imagination being the passport we create to take us into the real world. In a way each of the characters tries to imagine themselves in another world, to move through some of the six degrees but it is only Paul who succeeds – and fails.

Ouisa (Jennifer Ward-Lealand) and Flan (Andrew Grainger)

August Articles

The Children by Lucy Kirkwood

Tony Lane. Between Heaven and Earth

Kazu Nakagawa, Objects in Search of a Past and a Fututre

Danish Design coming to the Auckland Art Gallery

Objectspace exhibition of architectureal firm RTA Studio

Six Degrees of Separation: Searching for status, glamour and love

Objectspace exhibition of architectureal firm RTA Studio

In Context, RTA Studio

Objectspace, 13 Rose Rd, Ponsonby

Until September 7

Its often said that context is all and it seems that in the case of the Objectspace exhibition of work by the architectural firm RTA Studio they work on that principle.

Their project, Ironbank on Karangahape Rd which is now ten years old is well scaled to the surrounding historic turn-of-the-century buildings which surround it providing dramatic vistas from two road frontages.

The building features environmentally friendly features including harvested rainwater, solar heating, natural ventilation and low emissivity glass. It has received a number of awards received the first 5 Star As–Built Greenstar rating from the New Zealand Green Building Council and also received Auckland City Council, Mayoral Award for Urban Design in 2019.

It is a major example of contemporary architecture linking sympathetically with its surroundings. But that same ability to work sympathetically with the surrounding architectural environment has not down well with locals in response to a new design by the firm in Mt Eden where the proposed building is labelled as a carbuncle and condemned as destroying the character of the area.

This sort of response is an indication of why there needs to be more exhibitions of contemporary architecture. Objectspace is trying to do something about that with exhibitions such as In Context which is the first exhibition in a series exploring the work of New Zealand architects.

RTA’s work has been described as contextual; their projects carefully knitted into the urban fabric. They have a reputation for thoughtful interventions in Auckland’s urban fringe with projects often stemmed from unpromising commissions – tightly constrained sites, limited budgets, or the need to reuse existing buildings.

Now working across a range of building types across the country, RTA’s expanded field of operation has drawn the studio to develop new techniques to embed these projects within their cultural, economic, and landscape settings.

The Objectspace show has nearly 30 models of their works both built and unbuilt exhibited on a long bench with the models moving from urban works through to those in rural settings.

They range from Objectspace (2017) itself and the nearby RTA Studio Office (2017) through houses - E-Type House (2014), educational establishments- Freemans Bay school (2018) to commercial - Mahurangi Winery (2002).

The exhibition designers have managed to place the various building in an invented landscape with the viewer having a bird’s eye view of them.

However, the exhibition isn’t entirely successful as the models are made of corrugated cardboard and too small to get a real sense of the way the buildings work in context with the environment. The uniform colour of the card, the lack of colour and detail also don’t help.

The exhibition would have been more effective if photographs and plans had been included.

RTA Studio, Model of Ironbank

Danish Design coming to the Auckland Art Gallery

Denmark Design

Auckland Art Gallery

October 26, 2019 – February 2, 2020

 

John Daly-Peoples

The Auckland Art Gallery will be presenting a major exhibition of Danish design later in the year with work curated by the Designmuseum Danmark

The exhibition will outline the development of Danish design from the 19th century to present day with more than 200 objects spanning furniture, graphic design, tableware, light fittings, and jewellery.

Auckland Art Gallery Director Kirsten Paisley says, ‘Denmark Design will showcase the ground-breaking creativity and enduring appeal of Danish design. These objects are renowned across the world as timeless in their ingenuity and international resonance.’

‘New Zealanders have been bringing classic examples of Danish design into their homes since the 1950s – from the sleek Panton chair to the ubiquitous Bodem coffee press, icons of Danish design are synonymous with the art of homemaking. This exhibition is a must for anyone with interests in interior design, industrial design and the applied arts.’

The most obvious example of Danish design won’t be on show however but most New Zealanders will have experienced Danish design in the form of Sydney Opera House designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon.

It’s a building which was ahead of its time both in its appearance and the use of materials showing the Danish approach to design, combining aesthetics, functionality and simplicity.

The exhibition curator Emma Jameson says, ‘Denmark has been at the vanguard of design because of its nuanced balancing of function and aesthetics. By displaying the objects individually and within staged home settings, the exhibition will showcase the ground-breaking craftsmanship of Danish design while emphasizing how design items were, and still are, intended for the everyday needs of the home.’

The exhibition features iconic works, such as the ‘Egg’ chair, the ‘PH Artichoke’ light and the Lego brick. Among the pioneering designers and manufacturers whose creativity and skill are represented are Royal Copenhagen, Hans Wegner, Finn Juhl, Arne Jacobsen, Verner Panton, Nanna Ditzel, Henning Koppel, Georg Jensen, Komplot and Ursula Munch-Petersen.

The Y or the ‘Wishbone’ chair designed by Hans Wegner in 1949 has been in continuous production for more than 50 years and is a landmark piece of design in terms of innovation in manufacturing and was a catalyst in changing attitudes towards furniture design in the 1950s and 1960s

There are a couple of works by the prominent designer Arne Jacobsen. In the late 1950’s he designed all aspects of the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, from the exterior façade through to the stainless-steel cutlery as well as the “Egg” chairs which were in the lobby of the hotel.

The “Egg” is a perfect example of Jacobsen’s principles of design, and the unique use of curved lines and simple forms made the chair stand out at the time.

Jacobsen’s AJ cutlery set look to be of much more recent design being perfectly balanced and like the Sydney opera house a marriage of the functional and timeless design.

The exhibition highlights the complex craft and production processes behind finished objects of classic simplicity as well as the way craftsmanship and innovation in two- and three-dimensional design was applied to objects for everyday use.

Exploring the processes of designing and making, the exhibition reveals how the Danish have considered not just the wellbeing of the individual user, but also materials, economics, environment and society to result in an approach that offers us all a new way of living – a design for life.

Arne Jacobsen, The Egg Chair

Kazu Nakagawa: Objects in search of a Past and a Future

Kazu Nakagawa, [but] move backwards

Trish Clark Gallery

Until September 7

 

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Kazu Nakagawa's latest exhibition “[but] move backwards” features drawings, paintings sculptures and architectural models which, as well as emphasising the artist’s hand at work show the artist creating works which inhabit a space between idea, drawing and architecture

The simplest works in the show are “Vessel work #08” ($1600) and “Vessel Work #09” ($1600), sensitive drawings of a simple bowl where the artist employs minimal means of drawing an object while investing it with an ethereal quality.

Several of the works relate to his large sculpture included in this years Sculpture on the Gulf. The work “ Kamua Kamuri” two circular curving work consisting of carefully engineered facetted planes derived from a combination of origami, geometric shapes and the complex diagrams of structures such as the DNA molecule.

There is also a connection to the way that many artists, particularly Maori artists think of their work as a reworking and rethinking of their own past art and those of others. As the artist says in the exhibition notes “An architecture becomes a piece of paper or a piece of paper becomes an architecture”.

There is the sculptural work “Preliminary Study No 1 for the series kamua kamuri” ($7200) as well as “Preliminary Study No 3” ($8200) and “Preliminary Study No 4” ($9500) for the completed work which are like abstracted landscapes or slices of geological strata.

While these works are called preliminary studies, they exist as works as well as highlighting the artists approach of paring the object down so that it is more idea than object.

“Preliminary Study No 5” ($12,000) with its eight white panels is like a set of cinematic frames scanning an empty landscape with an ambiguous architectural shape and has resonances with some McCahon “Walk” works.

The small architectural works in the exhibition such as “A play ‘and land’ “ ($4500) have connections to de Chirico with their surrealist sets of stairs as does the 16 unit “not allow me to doubt” ($10,000) where sets of stairs and their outlines speak about ideas evolving into concrete solutions.

Included in the show are two installations featuring carved books. ‘A Play ‘and land’ Act 7 Scene 5/River and Still Life’, ($4500) with one book bearing the embossed title River and “(un)dress” ($9800) with three books all with the title”[un]dress” resting on a handmade table. They seem to offer the prospect of knowledge and revelation which will be forever withheld.

https://trishclark.co.nz/exhibitions/kazu-nakagawa-2019/

Kazu Nakagawa; not allow me to doubt, A Play 'and land' Act 8, Preliminary Study No 1

The Children by Lucy Kirkwood

The Children by Lucy Kirkwood

Plumb Productions

Directed by Paul Gittins

Herald Theatre

Until August 18

 

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

In Lucy Kirkwood play “The Children” Rose (Elizabeth Hawthorne) shows up unexpectedly at the coastal cottage of her old friends Hazel (Carmel McGlone) and Robin (David Aston). All three characters are nuclear engineers in their sixties who helped build a nuclear plant which has recently had a meltdown. Robin and Hazel still live close to the site and their farm is even within the exclusion zone.

Their chats are initially civil with talk of the problems of aging, health and appearance. But these conversations slowly reveal layers of tension with an underlying animosity between the two women and we go through something of an emotional roller coaster ride exposing jealousy, anger, love and infidelity.

Many of the issues touched on have resonance with the current climate change revolution and the growing sense of the need for accountability

Rose wants them all to be part of a repair crew to try and stabilize the damaged reactor, possibly putting themselves in danger. For Rose this is partly out of a sense of responsibility. She believes their design of the plant has contributed to deaths at the time of the accident.

There is also generational guilt issue here as many of the engineers currently working in the plant are young with families. Rose raises issues around the notion of who should take the risks. The old who may have made mistakes and whose exposure to radiation is more acceptable than exposing the younger engineers.

As complex and contradictory, as they question what they owe to the next generation.

As in her previous play “Chimerica” which looked at Chinese-U.S. relations with an American photojournalist searching for the iconic Tiananmen Square protestor Kirkwood looks at political issues though the eyes of secondary players making these issues more immediate.

Carmel McGlone’s Hazel is a brilliantly conveyed character, constantly on the move with a spiky nervousness as she deals with her feelings towards Rose, Robin and her unseen daughter.

Elizabeth Hawthorne’s Rose who Hazel thinks of as sinister is much calmer revealing an astute and calculating, demeanour while David Aston’s Robin provides a nuanced foil to the two intense female characters

Director Paul Gittins touch is impeccable as he moves the three characters across the fully furnished stage. He manages to bring drama and comedy out of all their interactions. In one sequence Hazel prepares a meal in front of Rose, cutting up the salad vegetables and the bread but there is an edginess to every knife slice which seems to highlight their fraught relationship.

While the play deals with interesting and important issues both about environmental issues and relationships it comes alive because the three actors bring an emotionally charged insight and intensity to their roles.

The Children. David Aston, Elizabeth Hawthorne, Carmel McGlone

Tony Lane. Between Heaven and Earth

Tony Lane. Between Heaven and Earth

Orexart

Until August 31

In Tony Lane’s latest exhibition, the artist continues to paint landscape which feature bulbous hills, enigmatic shapes and objects to create almost surrealist works which could have been painted in Trecento Italy by artists such as Sassetta or Duccio.

But the artist has added another dimension to the exhibition, writing in his catalogue notes;

“While staying near Te Kaha in the eastern Bay of Plenty earlier this year, I reread Judith Binney’s biography of Te Kooti, Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki, Redemption Songs. The countryside we travelled through to get there – the pumice country of Rotorua, the Kaingaroa plains stretching out, with the Urewera Hill country lying on the horizon, its intimate relationship with the coast – allowed me to connect with the book in a way I hadn’t on first reading”.

“What struck me most about Te Kooti’s writing was his profound empathy with his surroundings, both in the geographical sense and in a more general metaphorical way – his shared identity with this world. It led me to think of our contemporary issue of climate change and our part in it. It reminded me of our need to connect with the natural world, the one we alienate ourselves from – at our own peril”.

“These paintings, Between Heaven and Earth, are an attempt to reveal the beauty of the natural world and to reach beyond it to an ideal one, a heavenly one that lies in parallel, on the periphery of our vision.”

“Five Views of the Plateau” ($10,500) with its layered sets of hills references the early panoramic records of Capt. Cook while in “Earth to Heaven, Heaven to Earth” ($21,500). the plains of Tuscany become the flat lands of the Central North Island, bisected by straight roads or ley lines.

In these paintings he discovers and reworks the ideas which those early artists dealt with – the nature of pictorial space, spatial light, simple perspective and use of symbolism.

For many Maori everything in and of the landscape is personified — the trees, the hills , the clouds and the streams. Similarly, many artists of the Medieval and Early Renaissance saw allegories and symbolism in the landscape.

The parallel purpose of these paintings acknowledges the way in which the artist can portray the landscape and its history along with personal and spiritual dimensions.

“The Cloud” ($16,500) can be read as evolving from the Maori use of the word “ao” as in aotearoa but also referencing the Cloud of Unknowing a tract written by a Christian mystic in the Middle Ages.

The artist has often included strings of beads which had various symbolism – the threads of life, the prayer beads and looped bracelet related to String Theory and DNA strands .

In these works, the strings are used to link heaven and earth, the spiritual and the physical as with ”Earth to Heaven III” ($9500). Here as in other works the metallic dots forming the strings connect with the ribbed metal frame becoming a framing device and part of the painting rather than a simple border.

With “Drop of Water” ($6500) the artist combines a number of features of his previous work such as the waterdrop, a symbol referencing the baptism of Christ as well as the final drop of fluid from his wound on the cross. There is the cloth covered table – an altar both of sacrifice as well as celebration. The strange L shape is one of the artists common marks which he uses to reference signs of under-painting or the underlying architectural elements often occurring with frescoes.

In all his works there is a cross pollination of ideas and concepts and the artist toys with notions of mysticism, metaphysics, the scientific and pseud- scientific combining the rational with the intuitive.

The painters of that early period were confronted with the problem of how to move from a simple and simplistic depiction of objects, figures and events to a more complex sense of narrative and how to imbue objects with a symbolic and psychological dimension. Lane continues that search.

Tony Lane, "Five Views of the Plateau"

Reconciliation, Fatu Feu’u

Reconciliation, Fatu Feu’u

Artis Gallery

Until August 11

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

In his latest exhibition Fatu Feu’u has works which address social, political and environmental issues which are confronting Samoan society.

They are mainly based on the Samoan tradition of ‘ifoga’ or reconciliation/rebuilding after a terrible event or action. The central letter ‘I’ as a motif captures this, with different colours coming together, meeting halfway. This can be a meeting between families, tribes, villages or even nations – often to reconcile after someone has wronged another person or party.

Feu'u's work draws inspiration from ancient designs and patterns – from tapa cloth. siapo, lapita pottery and tattoo along with contemporary Samoan design.

There are also the influences of abstract art and that of other artists including Colin McCahon and Tony Fomison.

The artist has employed shapes and symbols that he has developed over many years – masks, fish, birds, sails along with hints of human figures and landscape.

Many of the siapo patterns themselves are derived from insects, leaves, shells, animals and fish.

The largest of the works in the show is “Amuia” (5.2 metre) which combines elements of Samoan history and quotes from the Bible to address issues of social problems such as youth suicide and depression. The work is divided into dozens of small grids, providing a network to link the people, lands and seas of Polynesia with references to travel, fishing and the presence of natural forces and mythological gods.

Another large work “IA MANA” ($48,000) was painted to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Samoa’s independence from New Zealand as well as a reference to the recognition of New Zealand’s responsibility in the suppression of the nationalist movement and its responsibility for the deaths resulting from the influenza epidemic of 1918 considered to be the most disastrous local epidemic of the twentieth century.

This work bears McCahon’s “I Am” in large letters which also helps spell out the Samoan “Ia Mana”, linking the concepts of self and mana The accompanying poem-like text gives an acknowledges the recording of history using Samoa, English and a shadowy set of symbols / words.

“A Conversation” ($6800) with its dramatic reds and yellows the artist morphs traditional fish shapes into almost realist versions, the pairs of fish seeming to be in conversation

“After the Storm” ($15,000) which references the 2009 tsunami bears a text “aue te fefe”, an almost biblical incantation about disaster and climate change. As well as several of his traditional symbols the artist has included an image of the Polynesian stick charts which chart the ocean currents and stars used for navigation or to warn of weather changes.

“The White Chapel” ($14,000) refers to the New Zealand Government’s plan for the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary with the artist using the notion of a chapel as a sanctuary or safe place. The blue and white work contains simple images of male and female, bid, fish and stylised home.

The artist has also included three bronze heads which combine aspects of early Polynesian, African and early European modernism with Ulu Loloa ($9500) looking close to a Picasso work.

Fatu Feu'u "After The Storm" Referencing the disatrous tsunami which struck Samoa in 2009

Articles July 2019

Film Review. Parasite

Handa Opera, Sydney Harbour 2020

Nicky Foreman, Incrementum

Brett Whiteley Catalogue Raisonné: 1955–1992

Simon O’Neill in Concert with Iain Paterson

Film Review: Ophelia

Boy Walking by Ronnie van Hout

Gisborne's inaugural Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival launches in October

New Zealand International Film Festival Opening Night Screening La Belle Epoque

Mozart's Don Giovanni

NZSO's Matauranga Concert and a Beethoven blockbuster

Glaister Ennor Graduate and Barfoot & Thompson Graduate Art Awards

Glaister Ennor and Barfoot & Thompson Graduate Art Awards

Glaister Ennor and Barfoot & Thompson Graduate Art Awards

Sanderson Gallery, Newmarket

Until July 28

I judged the Glaister Ennor and Barfoot and Thompson Graduate Art Awards two days ago with Ella Mangan from AUT and Julie Cromwell from Whitecliffe taking the two prizes

Julie Cromwell (Whitecliffe) – Winner of the Glaister Ennor Award

A large black urn (Clay, carbon and wood) sitting on its wooden packing case with flakes of the works on the top of the case.

This elegant, imposing urn work has been made recently but it could have been made several centuries ago. It is a timeless object and speaks of a couple of the threads of art making. The artist creating something practical as well as aesthetic. Something which is useful and something that is beautiful.

Many craft objects are appealing not just because of beauty and utilitarianism. They are at the heart of the notion of art, transforming a base material and an unformed idea into a complete object. A process which connects with history, art, and society.

I was also intrigued by the black fragments from the bowl – an indication of the work having almost just been completed the particles the result of the final incising by the artist or are they a result of the urn disintegrating. And then there is the smell, as if the urn has not just been fired, it has been burned , charred, like some form of offering to the gods.

Ella Mangan (AUT) – Winner of the Barfoot and Thompson Award.

Two free standing LED screens with images of artist taking on numerous guises, using the frame of the screen as a viewing booth which she poses and performs in.

One of fascinating aspects of art is the process of art both in the visual and performing arts, how an artist goes about mining their idea, how they use themselves, models and materials to produce art. In the field of portraiture, figure studies, self-portraiture some artists are obvious in their manipulating their subject whether it be Francis Bacon’s skull-like heads, or Jenny Saville’s huge fleshy nudes or even Yvonne Todd’s enigmatic portraits.

But other artists notably in TV and video the manipulation is not obvious, we don’t expect to see reality of the failures, the endless takes. We don’t need to see the way the images are manipulated.

Ella Mangan in these vignettes is posing as various characters, taking on different personas or roles and she is also the artist / director behind the camera.

She uses herself to create all those outtakes as a reminder how the artist is the supreme manipulator.

Comments on the other works in the exhibition

Harriet Reihana presenting two ways of perceiving the natural world -through delicate drawings and natural sculptures grown on foliage.

Andrea Bolima’s painting which blurs the distinction between abstraction and realism, between landscape and figure.

Gerry Parkes dramatic skulls exploring symbolism around death and rebirth Gabriel Tiongson abstract work combines shapes symbols and notions of mapping.

Leicester Elias’s The Shroud of Turin features a panel which seems to be waiting for an image to form

Kate Russel’s bank statements for July are an intimate portrait of a life through income and expenditure.

Edward Wheelers bike which recycles beer looks at life in an inventive and witty meditation on contemporary issues and Jacob Abdale Vague similar musing on life through religion and Microsoft Help

Bailey Simpsons two Bareback images explore notions of sexuality while Raymond Sagapolutele powerful portrait engaging with the viewer bears a power cord like the attribute of office

Sheree Stone’s view of our maritime heritage documents of our past while Charleen Singh’s appropriated, reworked tourist snaps in Nepal document another culture

Karlin Raju digital work blurs the notion of the artistic creator through digital manipulation

Glaister Ennor Award. Jack Porus (Glaister Ennor), Julie Cromwell, John Daly-Peoples (Judge), Andrea Jane (Sanderson Gallery), Peter Thompson (Barfoot and Thompson)

NZSO's Matauranga Concert and a Beethoven blockbuster

Matauranga

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Auckland Town Hall

July 20

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Over the past few years there have been a number of concerts featuring music which has responded to war, World War I in particula . These have included works such as Anthony Ritchie’s oratorio “Gallipoli to the Somme” and Ross Harris's “Face”.

These have all been recent works which have reflected on the battles of one hundred years ago so it was illuminating to hear the NZSO playing Carl Nielsen’s Symphony No 4 “The Inextinguishable” which was written in 1916 in the midst of the war.

Nielsen said of the work that it was an attempt to express what we understand by the spirit of life and the symphony does reflect that. However, the music as well as offering hope also conveyed a sense of hopelessness.

This is a war symphony and we hear the sounds of war and catastrophe throughout the piece. From the opening electrifying sounds to the final whirlwind of aggressive playing of the orchestra, including waves of clashing timpani.

This is not a Requiem but an account of living through times of upheaval and conductor Carlos Kalmar ensured that the music conveyed not only the sounds of war but also the emotional and psychological impacts on an individual

The work is filled with a sense of upheaval and danger, but there is also a sense of tranquillity with hints of folk song and even triumph Among the ferocious sounds of conflict there are the occasional bird sounds, discordant music contrast with an intimate. romanticism

The programme opened with Matauranga, a new commissioned work by New Zealand composer Michael Norris.

The work is a celebration of Captain Cooks arrival in New Zealand and acknowledges the links between European and indigenous cultures and there was a sense of the work referencing the Lilburn / Curnow “Landfall in Unknown Seas” which has the lines;

Suddenly exhilaration

Went off like a gun, the whole Horizon, the long chase done

Always to islanders danger

Is what comes over the sea;

The work was paired with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 12 by an eleven-year old Mozart. This linking of music across 250 years was reinforced by the composers use of taonga puoro as well as live electronic which was based on computer processing of the traditional instruments.

The half dozen taonga puoro were all essentially wind instruments such as the putatara (conch), pukaea (wooden trumpet) and the porotiti (humming disc). Alistair Fraser who played the instruments moved effortlessly between the various them, his sounds blending and complementing those of the orchestra.

The orchestral sounds of the natural world – birds, water and wind merged with the sounds of the taonga puoro to create a portrait of the New Zealand landscape and it is significant that sounds of some of the instruments would have been similar to those which greeted Cook on his arrival.

The Mozart piano piece was played by British pianist Steven Osborne with a supreme delicacy and assurance which. highlighted the composer’s early flair for writing which had elements of showmanship as well as technical brilliance.

Also on the programme was Osvaldo Golijov’s homage to Piazzolla and the tango. The work opened with the first and second violins interacting with each other, like two dancers engaged in elaborate dance movements. These initial hectic dance sequences morphed into more languorous sequences and ultimately a dance of despair.

In August the NZSO will be presenting a blockbuster of a show presenting the nine Beethoven symphonies over four concerts – Heroic, Destiny, Pastoral and Joy all conducted by NZSO Music Director Edo De Waart, one of the foremost authorities of Beethoven’s music.

Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21

Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 36

Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 Eroica

Auckland August 16 Wellington August 28

 

Beethoven’s First Symphony premiered in Vienna where the young Beethoven was already well-known. Mozart had recently died, and Haydn was nearly retired, so Vienna wanted a new hero. Even though this symphony is in C major, it does not start that way. Beethoven wanted to startle people.

The year before the Second Symphony was composed, Beethoven told a friend that “for almost two years I have ceased to attend any social functions, because I find it impossible to say to people: I am deaf.” Despite Beethoven’s hearing loss, it is one of his most energetic and cheerful works.

Eroica is one of Beethoven’s most celebrated works and was famously dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte before being changed after Bonaparte declared himself Emperor. This “heroic” symphony is considered a landmark in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras.

Symphony No. 4 in B flat major, Op. 60

Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67

Auckland August 17 Wellington August 29

Beethoven began composing his Fourth Symphony after he had started work on his Fifth. Though less known that the symphonies before and after it, the Fourth is charming and cheerful. Romantic composer Robert Schumann called it “a slender Grecian maiden between two Nordic giants.”

Beethoven wrote his famous Fifth Symphony between 1804 and 1808. The four-note opening motif is known worldwide, often appearing in popular culture – from disco versions and rock and roll covers to film and television scores. It is commonly thought that this motif is said to be fate knocking on the door, although there is little evidence that this was what Beethoven had intended. Author and music critic E.T.A. Hoffman, a contemporary of Beethoven’s, wrote that the Fifth Symphony “sets in motion the machinery of awe, of fear, of terror, of pain, and awakens that infinite yearning which is the essence of romanticism”.

Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68 Pastoral

Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92

Auckland August 23 Wellington August 30

Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, also known as the Pastoral, was composed in 1808. Beethoven was a nature lover and often went for long country walks. He described this symphony as “more the expression of feeling than painting”. This symphony has five movements with each subtitled by the composer: “Awakening of cheerful feelings on arrival in the countryside; Scene by the brook; Merry gathering of country folk; Thunder storm; Shepherd’s song and Cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm”.

Beethoven wrote his Seventh Symphony while he was spending time at the Bohemian spa town of Teplice. The work is filled with lively dance-like rhythms. A drone-like line in the double basses recurs in the third movement hinting at a rustic, outdoor celebration. Though some critics didn’t like the work, Beethoven described it as his “most excellent symphony”. When the Seventh Symphony premiered in 1813, the second movement Allegretto was so popular the audience demanded an encore.

Symphony No. 8 in F major, Op. 93

Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 Choral (Soloists Sabina Cvilak, Kristin Darragh, Oliver Johnston and Anthony Robin Schneider with Voices New Zealand).

Auckland August 24 Wellington August 31

Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony is light-hearted and cheerful. It is one of Beethoven’s shortest symphonies, with a second movement much faster than most symphonic second movements. It is said to imitate the newly invented metronome. Beethoven met the metronome’s inventor, Johann Mälzel, at a dinner party while writing this work.

The Ninth Symphony is regarded as one of Beethoven’s finest works. It has the largest orchestra of his symphonies and was the first symphony by a major composer to use voices. In the final movement, the voices sing the triumphant Ode to Joy, a poem by Friedrich Schiller. The work premiered in 1824 in Vienna. The audience gave rousing ovations, including waving handkerchiefs and lifting hats so that the deaf composer, who could not hear the applause, could see the ecstatic response.

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Mozart’s Don Giovanni

Mozart’s Don Giovanni

The Trusts Community Foundation Opera in Concert

Auckland Philharmonia, New Zealand Opera and The Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus

Auckland Town Hall

July 19

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The days of Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein seem to be remarkably similar to the day to day life and times of Don Giovanni, although neither of them seems to have a dedicated servant keeping a record of their sexual exploits.

The latest production of Don Giovanni presented by the Auckland Philharmonia in association with New Zealand Opera and sponsored by The Trusts Community Foundation Opera in Concert is given a contemporary setting making it a very pertinent work.

It is difficult to know if being consigned to the flames of hell is all that frightening these days but when Don Giovanni was first performed it seemed logical for the earth to open and the villain be thrown into the depths of the underworld.

Don Giovanni, which tells of the abuse of power by a member of the aristocracy and his eventual damnation, was relevant in pre-French revolutionary France and has had many makeovers to make it more socially, morally and politically relevant. This new Don Giovanni really brings the work up to date with an intelligent, pacey and exciting new version.

Normally concert performances of opera consist of the principals standing on the stage and singing without recourse to props or interaction.

However, Stuart Maunder, the Stage Director for this production allowed the entire Auckland Town Hall to be his stage with the cast and chorus using its numerous entry’s and exits with the Commendatore even walking along the entire aisle of the stalls to confront Don Giovanni.

Maunder also has few clever visual tricks - for the feast in the final scene he has Leporello bring on Uber Eats meals

The Don and Leporello are part of the upper class and their encounters with the women of the story, Donna Anna, Donna Elvira and Zerlina, are clashes between civil and corrupt society. Each of the roles is brilliantly portrayed and given a realism and real depth of character.

The standout performer was Robert Gleadow singing the role of Leporello. He brought a comic touch to the role of the servant dominated by his master, in awe of him and at the same time wanting to remove himself from the corrupting environment.

In one of his attempts to hide from the chaos on stage he hunkers down next to the violinists pretending to be one of the players and for the famous “list aria" he shows Donna Elvira the Don’s list of conquests by scrolling through his cellphone.

What was most striking about his performance was his superb diction, astute acting, excellent timing as well as the ease with which he inhabited the stage, flitting between his character and his role as an observer, commenting on all the characters and events.

Donna Anna, sung by Ekaterina Siurina, gave a forceful performance displaying an extraordinarily angst-ridden voice imbued with strong emotional dimensions. At times, her body seemed to tremble along with her voice, overwhelmed with rage. She combined a fragility and intensity that made her presence on stage poignant and moving.

Brigitta Kele singing the role of Donna Elvira who is conflicted in her love and loathing of the Don used her voice to reflect on her moments of joy along with passages of desperation and pity.

Natasha Wilson created a stylish Zerlina with a lovely mix of the coquettish and the pragmatic singing with an endearing nonchalance.

Richard Sveda gave an electrifying portrayal of the charismatic Don as he prowled the stage, by turns fervent, obsessive, fickle, hot-blooded and quick tempered.

He inhabited the role with a superb naturalism, creating a man who relishes his life of depravity, deception and joie de vivre but who is also something of a philosopher. He used his voice as a passionate instrument playing with the emotions of his women and the audience.

Morgan Pearse’s Masetto was suitabley aggressive and loutish, Adam Frandsen’s well-modulated voice helped create an earnest Don Ottavion and Pelham Andrews forceful voice made him a spine tingling Commendatore.

The Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus gave a superb account of themselves. Not only was their singing exquisite, they also carried of their acting tasks with assurance.

The Auckland Philharmonia under Giordano Bellincampi played superbly, never dominating the singers. Their playing added to the emotional depth of the arias as well as providing the sumptuous environment of Mozart’s music.

New Zealand International Film Festival

New Zealand International Film Festival

Opening Night Screening La Belle Epoque

Director Nicolas Bedos

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Westgate July 25, Civic July 26, Rialto July 27

La Belle Epoque is a clever multi-level film, a tongue-in-cheek romcom, a celebration of cinema, a rumination on the notions of illusion and reality as well as a look at the way the virtual world can change lives. It’s also a brilliantly scripted comedy.

Victor (Daniel Auteuil), an aging cartoonist without a job is given the opportunity to immerse himself in a new life by Antoine (Guillaume Canet) who has a business which offers clients a new form of adventure and entertainment.

He uses the whole gamut of film and theatre to create historical tableaus or re-enactments where the client can be present at a previous time in history - on the battlefields of WWII, a drinking session with Ernest Hemingway or at a banquet for Louis Napoleon.

Victor initially goes for prehistory but then decides on reliving the week he met his wife Marianne ( Fanny Ardant ) forty years ago, partly because she has just left him.

The street cafe is recreated (based on Victor’s early drawings) and a young actress Margot (Doria Tillier) plays the part of his wife. Victor falls in love with this recreation of his wife.

There are elements of “The Truman Show” but Bedos never tales the viewer completely into this world of facadism. There is always the director, cameras, the actors forgetting their lines and the canned music. At one point one of Antoine’s staff jokingly suggest he is playing God to which he replies “No, I’m a scriptwriter”.

The festival is screening twenty-five films which have come direct from the Cannes Film Festival including the tied Jury Prize winners Les Misérables and Bacurau.

Bacurau

Fierce politics and top-notch furious filmmaking collide to potent effect in this Cannes-lauded portrait of a near-future fight for survival in the remote reaches of northern Brazil.

It Must Be Heaven

Palestinian director Elia Suleiman’s artfully composed, comedic contemplation of his place in the world discerns universal truths and absurdities in a shifting global context.

Les Misérables

In the crime-ridden suburbs of impoverished Paris, the line between corrupt cop and upstanding criminal is not so clearly defined, in this explosive, Cannes Jury Prize-winning thriller.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Winner of Best Screenplay and the Queer Palm at Cannes, Céline Sciamma’s striking 18th-century tale of romance between a painter and her subject burns bright with female desire and the craft of a masterful filmmaker.

Sibyl

Exploring psychotherapy, boundaries and obsession, Justine Triet’s film deliciously portrays the creative crisis of a shrink-wannabe-author, who steals her actress patient’s story for a novel.

Sorry We Missed You

A most worthy follow-up to I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach’s new social-realist drama zeroes in on the life of an average British family at the mercy of the modern day ‘gig economy’.

The Whistlers

Breathing new life into the Romanian New Wave, Corneliu Porumboiu crafts a rollicking genre movie which travels between Romania and the sun-soaked Canary Islands, where the best laid plans of a bent cop hinge on learning a secret local whistling dialect.

The Wild Goose Lake

Gangland subterfuge tumbles into a dazzling nocturnal manhunt in Chinese director Diao Yinan’s film noir par excellence – a modern genre classic in the making.

The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil Bruising Korean box office star Ma Dong-seok is in full beast mode in this seriously entertaining action thriller, which pits a burly mob boss and an unhinged detective against a marauding serial killer.

Litigante

Set in Bogotá, Colombia, Franco Lolli’s excellent character study focuses on a lawyer struggling to care for her young son and ailing mother amidst a developing scandal at work.

A White, White Day

Evidence of a deceased wife’s affair tips a grieving ex-cop in remote Iceland over the edge, leading to a shocking spiral of events in search of the truth.

Vivarium

Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots star in an unsettling tale about a couple whose search for a starter-home lands them in a strange housing development, where they remain trapped.

Deerskin

Georges (French megastar Jean Dujardin) becomes obsessed with the ‘killer style’ of his deerskin jacket and decides all other jackets must be obliterated in this oddball comedy that gets increasingly weirder and more unhinged.

The Orphanage

A touch of Bollywood fantasy enlivens this moving story of a savvy Afghan teen living in a Soviet-run orphanage in the late 1980s while a destructive war rages through the country.

Song Without a Name Replete with starkly beautiful black and white photography, this affecting arthouse thriller from first time Peruvian director Melina León is based on a real-life case of child trafficking.

Special Screenings For Sama

Shot over five years, Waad al-Kateab’s intimate, Cannes award-winning film addresses her baby daughter and delivers a harrowing account of the war in Aleppo, the devastation wrought on the city, its people and children.

Take Me Somewhere Nice

Winner of the Special Jury Prize at Rotterdam, this delightfully absurdist road movie channels Jarmusch and Kaurismäki in telling the story of a young woman visiting Bosnia to find her estranged father.

Adam

Set in Casablanca’s Old Medina, this nuanced tale of female solidarity transcending temperamental difference captivates through the richly detailed performances of two superb actresses.

Beanpole

Talented Russian filmmaker Kantemir Balagov won Best Director at Cannes (Un Certain Regard) for this hugely impressive account of post-war Leningrad, and the friendship of two women at its devastated centre.

Fire Will Come

Oliver Laxe’s slow-burn Cannes gem combines arresting landscapes with the smouldering inner life of a reticent ex-con whose return to his mother’s home in the Galician countryside sparks tension.

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound

An ear-opening and revelatory history lesson on the unsung power of sound in cinema, Making Waves interposes fascinating interviews with dissected scenes to educate and exhilarate even the seasoned cinephile.

Nina Wu This fiery Cannes title challenges the #MeToo movement’s popular discourse with a confronting and complicated tale of consent and abuse, based on its lead actress’ own experiences in the movie industry.

Port Authority

Debuting writer-director Danielle Lessovitz weaves a boy-meets-trans girl romance about identity and belonging around the New York underground ballroom scene.

The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão

A saga of sisterhood for the ages, Madame Sata director Karim Aïnouz’s sensual tropical melodrama won top prize at this year’s Cannes Un Certain Regard section.

Gisborne's inaugural Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival launches in October

Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival Gisborne

October 4 – 20

Joining the list of regional arts festivals, this October sees the inaugural Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival in Gisborne

This will be city’s new flagship contemporary arts and cultural event delivering performance events by hundreds of performers from across New Zealand and the Pacific.

The inaugural Festival Director Tama Waipara says, “Anchored in Tūranga-nui-ā-Kiwa/Gisborne, our festival celebrates our whakapapa connections right around the coast, from Raukokore to Rangitukia, and Manutuke to Muriwai. This Festival will centre itself in the heart of the East Cape but stretch its arms far and wide; globally acclaimed, proudly local and unashamedly accessible.”

“We will celebrate the first stories of our whenua, and our whakapapa connections across the Pacific. We want people to know who we are and where we come from. We want to champion the stories and voices of our place amidst the most glorious backdrop of our home, Te Tairāwhiti.”

“Māui Pūtahi” will be the festivals opening event, created by local director and artist, Teina Moetara - part performance, part ceremony, part interactive experience telling the stories of the creation of the land and people of the area.

The opening weekend also features “Up, Up and Away! Manu Aute Kite Day” – a free event at Gisborne’s Soundshell with a line-up of local and global talent and musical performances including Anika Moa performing some of her famous Songs for Bubbas, and the the arrival of the waka flotilla.

Dave Dobbyn, Anika Moa, Annie Crummer, Maisey Rika, Rob Ruha,Teeks and some of New Zealand’s most iconic musicians will perform at “Under An East Coast Moon” with a special guest appearance from contemporary Hawaiian musician Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole.

A new production of Samoan / New Zealander Tusiata Avia’s powerful poetry collection “Wild Dogs Under My Skirt” will headline the Pacific work with the sometimes painful intersection of New Zealand and Samoan cultures in her life. This popular play performed by an all-female cast of six Pasifika actors under the direction of Anapela Polata’ivao.

The Festival will present the world premiere of “Henare” by playwright Hōhepa Waitoa and producer Hone Kouka. It is a story inspired by Henare Waitoa who was one of Ngati Porou's most prolific composers. “Tomo Mai” was his most well-known song, composed to welcome the 28th Battalion home from the war.

Following a sell-out premiere season in the 2018 Auckland Arts Festival in partnership with Silo Theatre, “Cellfish” will make its Tairāwhiti debut starring Jason Te Kare and Carrie Green.

Writing about the play last year I said about the original performance “Inspired by the Shakespeare in prisons projects, Cellfish takes us inside the prison world, the heads of the tutors and the inmates they work with to explore ideas about crime, guilt, recidivism and redemption".

"The script flows brilliantly, combining ordinary speech, te reo, clipped street/prison patois and Shakespeare. Much of the focus of the play is on violence, in the home, in the wider community and in mythology. It is about the social problem of violence and how its effects on perpetrators and victims, as one of the female characters says, “Why do men hurt women?”

"While there is much emphasis on the way in which learning the language of Shakespeare and learning about the characters can help in restoring dignity and mana to individuals, the play also shows how the language of Shakespeare can be used to negotiate ways of trying to understand the meanings and intentions of the bard’s language".

"At the core of these interchanges though is the need to communicate. As soon as emotions and memories are articulated and spoken about, there can be the process of change, acceptance of responsibilities and renewal.” There will be the world premiere of “Witi’s Wāhine”, written by Nancy Brunning and based on excerpts from Witi Ihimaera stories, including Parihaka Woman, Medicine Woman and Waituhi. Mere Boynton, Roimata Fox, Ani-Piki Tuari and Ngapaki Moetara will present some formidable and inspirational wāhine Māori characters.

Other theatre includes Trick of the Light Theatre’s "The Bookbinder" is a story of mystery, magic and mayhem, blending puppetry, shadow play, paper craft, storytelling and live action to tell the tale of a bookbinding apprentice and “I Ain’t Mad At Cha” is a new New Zealand play about a young Māori boy’s relationship with rhymes and the whole “being Māori” thing

“Meremere” performed by critically acclaimed dancer, Rodney Bell merges spoken word, music, dance and multimedia design to tell Rodney’s story – from a childhood spent on the pā under the eaves of the Te Tokanga-nui-a-noho, to scaling the heights of an artistic career and living rough on the streets of San Francisco.

“Meremere” explores the human response to the ebbs and flows of fortune, the transformative journey to inner strength and peace, and the immutable call of home.

Tupua Tigafua who has danced with some of Aotearoa's creative elite, including New Zealand Dance Company, Black Grace and MAU, has now created an intriguing and visually complex dance show, “Shel We?”, inspired by the works of renowned American writer Shel Silverstein.

Annie Crummer, Bella Kalolo, Ria Hall and Jackie Clarke will pay tribute to Aretha Franklin in their concert “Respect!” And Reb Fountain whose album, “Hopeful and Hopeless”, won the Tui for Best Country Album/Artist in 2018 and also the APRA Best Country Song will be performing at The Dome.

In “Ka Hao: Tira Waiata” twenty-four talented rangatahi from Tairāwhiti whānui will juxtapose waiata with some of the region’s most sacred spaces taking festival-goers into magically remote pockets of the region, including Tokotoru Tapu Church, Holy Trinity Church, St Mary’s Church and Christ Church, Raukokore.

Included in the visual arts programme will be “Te Ara i Whiti”, an installation of light sculptures and artwork while Manawa Moana, an installation in the War Memorial Theatre will presents a supersized manifestation of global consciousness about the proliferation of plastic in the ocean and in everyday life.

KE Design, in partnership with Tairāwhiti Museum, will present “NATIVE VOICES: Ko au, ko mātau - I am, we are” - an art exhibition which reinforces an indigenous legacy and challenges the impact of a nation’s ‘dual heritage’ on our Māori future.

“Te Māpouriki” features German-Japanese maestro Jun Märkl conducting the premiere of NZ composer Kenneth Young’s new work of the same title alongside a selection of popular classics, such as Mozart’s vigorous Paris Symphony , Richard Strauss’ first horn concerto, Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage (Op.27), and Robert Schumann’s first symphony – Spring.

For “Taonga Moana” the national chamber choir of Aotearoa, Voices New Zealand, will join forces with Kiwi composer Warren Maxwell, eclectic Finnish composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, and multimedia artists Tim and Mic Gruchy for a spectacular choral celebration of oceans and reminder of our duty of care as kaitiaki.

“A Synthesized Universe” by Anthonie Tonnon is a 360-degree, multi-sensory experience in which audiences go on an interstellar journey through the known universe. Alongside custom animations by Andrew Charlton, critically acclaimed musician and producer the work explores the vastness of the cosmos through surreal storytelling and live music performed on a 1968 electric guitar and Wellington-designed synthesizer-sampler

Curated by Mere Boynton in partnership with Tairāwhiti Museum, “Music for Intimate Spaces” is a situational musical installation. Audiences will move through the spaces - C Company Memorial House, Wyllie Cottage and the SS Star of Canada to the sounds and music of place and time.

In “Tukutuku”, students with and without disabilities from Gisborne Girls’ High School will collaborate to create a programme of original works that meld live music and dance, under the leadership of a team from the inclusive Jolt Dance Company and Christchurch Symphony Orchestra.

“Vai” is an intuitive installation of femmage exploring the spirit and visual characteristics of water, created by Lina Marsh and taking place free-of-charge at Lawson Field

Theatre. Director and actor, Anapela Polata’ivao will direct a cast of Gisborne locals in a rehearsed reading of “Barbecue” by Robert O’Hara - a cruelly funny comedy about the dysfunctional O'Mallery family who come together over a barbie to stage an intervention.

“Show Me Shorts” New Zealand's leading international short film festival has become a popular addition to the Gisborne arts calendar. This programme will include some of the best new short films from New Zealand and around the world, featuring a diverse collection of cultures and voices. .

www.tetairawhitiartsfestival.nz.

 

Ronnie Van Hout's Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man

Boy Walking by Ronnie van Hout

Potters Park, Mt Eden

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

A new sculpture has been added to the small collection of public artworks in Mt Eden with “Boy Walking” by Ronnie van Hout Other notable works in the area are by Richard Gros, Richard Wedekind, Sarah Hughes and Arekatera Maihi.

The 5.6 metre work has been installed at Potters Pak at the corner of Dominion Rd and Balmoral Rd and is adjacent to the small bronze, “The Sound of Rain” by John Radford which depicts a small Mt Eden bay villa.

Van Hout, who used to live in the area, says the child strolls forward into the future with confidence and work explores the notion of a child transitioning into adulthood. It is also a relevant image for Mt Eden with Dominion Rd being a major thoroughfare used by walkers.

The theme of walking is seen down the road at 788 Dominion Rd with Peter Lange’s plaque “Halfway down Dominion Rd” referencing the Mutton Birds' iconic song and frontman Don McGlashan.

The 1992 hit song was inspired by a man Mr McGlashan saw walking down the street while he was travelling on a bus.

There is another connection to the walking theme up by Eden Park with Billy Apple’s Monkey Hill Stairway, a set of basalt, granite and marble steps from the end of George Street.

That the artist has used his own features for the sculpture is a radical and witty approach. Rarely do artist get to produce public art works acknowledging themselves and in so doing he has cleverly avoided any charges of sexism, racism, ageism or political favouritism.

This is both a tribute to the residents of Mt Eden and A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man

 

Film Review: Ophelia

Ophelia

Director Claire McCarthy

In cinemas from July 25

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

There have been over fifty film versions of Hamlet including the brilliant one by Laurence Olivier in 1948 and Grigori Kozintsey’s 1964 adaptation and of course Kenneth Branagh’s four hour one.

There have also been a number of variants around the play including Tom Stoppard’s "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" which takes a couple of minor characters and builds new stories around their fate.

Claire McCarthy’s Ophelia goes in a similar direction taking the relatively minor role of Hamlet’s love interest, expanding it and providing a fuller backstory for the heroine.

There are a few inspired scenes notably the opening where she is seen in a replication of the John Everett Millais’ portrait of Ophelia, lying drowned in the lake. The film generally seems to have used a Pre-Raphaelite / Game of Thrones approach to design as well in terms of fashion and settings.

It is while she is swimming in the lake when Hamlet (George MacKay) returns to Elsinore that he catches the first glimpse of her and so begins their romance.

The film begins six years before the Hamlet story we know when the ten-year-old Ophelia (Mia Quiney) disrupts the young Hamlet's farewell party. Hamlet barely notices her but Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts) is taken with the wilful, and intelligent girl and has her become one of her maids in waiting much to the resentment of the other ladies in waiting.

In the midst of all the tragedy and madness of the court with the coarse king, the narcissistic and the dithering Hamlet. Ophelia (Daisy Ridley) seems to one the only sane person.

The film has also cleverly introduced Gertrude’s older sister Mechtild (also played by Naomi Watts) who is something of the local witch who provides various drugs and the poison which killed Hamlet's father.

McCarthy and scriptwriter Semi Chellas have played with the original Hamlet having the original text morph into something new. In the original Hamlet's  “get thee to a nunnery” is used as a curse by the deranged Hamlet against Ophelia but in this film it is intended as a means of dissembling so that those watching only see a “mad “ Hamlet.

The film has also borrowed from Romeo and Juliet with the two lovers having a secret marriage, but they have left out all the ghosts. The whole film is a clever reworking of the plot and text.

But it won’t please the Shakespeare purist and it certainly won’t please Game of Throners with its lack of violent action and enthusiastic sex scenes.

 

Ophelia (Daisy Ridley) and Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts)

Simon O’Neill in Concert with Iain Paterson

Simon O’Neill in Concert with Iain Paterson

Pianist; Terence Denis

Auckland Concert Chamber

July 8

Then Gallagher Concert Chamber Hamilton, July 10 Royal Opera House, Whanganui, July 12 St Andrew’s, Wellington, July 14

 

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Simon O’Neill and Iain Paterson’s recent concert follows on from the O’Neill’s latest CD entitled “Distant Beloved” which takes its title and inspiration from the Beethoven song cycle “An die Ferne Geliebte” (To the Distant Beloved) which he dedicated to his wife and children from whom he is often parted during his world tours.

“An die Ferne Geliebte” opens with the song “Auf dem hugel sits ich spahen” the first lines of which are “I sit on a hill gazing at the blue cloudscape.”

Beethoven explores his feelings through descriptions of landscape, clouds, forest and the wind all reflecting the desires and fears of an angst-ridden lover.

O’Neill invested the songs with feelings not unlike the words, a mixture of quiet contemplation and animated expectation. He sings with careful phrasing as though exploring his own feelings and observations.

Appearing with O’Neill was Scottish bass-baritone who sang a set of songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams set to the poems of Robert Louis Stevenson. Paterson clad in tartan kilt and sporran gave the songs a spine-tingling frisson imbuing them with a sense of regret and a yearning for the landscape of Scotland.

He also sang the John Ireland / John Masefield “Sea Fever” superbly. Using first-person poetic voice, he emphasised the rhythms, imagery and the complex figures of speech of the poem giving a real sense of the movement of a tall ship in rough seas.

The pair also sang two major duets from Madame Butterfly and Das Rheingold.

O’Neill in the role of Pinkerton sang about the greatness of American imperialism with a fine nonchalance while Paterson sang an exasperated Sharpless with a huge voice

From Rheingold they gave a towering performance singing the roles of Froh and Wotan in the final moments of the opera, They sang with a stunning clarity and power, beautifully articulating the text.

The two sang other works by Verdi, Tosti and Strauss along with a few standards such as “Danny Boy”, “My Love is Like a Red Red Rose” and Mario Lanza;s “Without a Song”. With all these works they managed to transform the simple lyrics into something majestic.

In addition to the two great international singer there were two newcomers on the programme.

Tenor, Manase Latu was a 2019 Circle 100 scholarship winner, awarded $20,000.00 to help with his studies at the Royal College of Music in September.

Bass-baritone, Samson Setu was awarded one of the Circle 100 travel scholarships to cover his costs for international travel to London for his studies at the Royal College of Music.

Both appeared to have taken to the stage as fully formed operatic stars with astonishing voices and assured stage presence. Setu sang from Verdi’s Macbeth with a thunderous bass-baritone while Latu sang from Donizetti elixir d'amour with great sensitivity.

O’Neill and Paterson sang “Au fond du temple saint” from “The Pearl Fishers”, the bond of friendship between the two men emphasized by the intricate blending of their two voices.

For the finale they were joined by the two younger singers to give another rousing version of the same aria with a remarkable display of control and passion.

 

Simon O'Neill

Brett Whiteley Catalogue Raisonné: 1955–1992

Brett Whiteley Catalogue Raisonné: 1955–1992

By Kathie Sutherland

AU RRP: $1500.00 NZ RRP: $1600.00

Schwartz City Books 

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The first comprehensive publication of Brett Whiteley’s artistic work will be released as a limited edition (1000 copies) in December this year. “Brett Whitely: Catalogue Raisonné: 1955–1992” has been compiled by art historian Kathie Sutherland over seven years and comprises a seven-volume collection that covers the artist’s lifetime of work in exhaustive detail.

Whiteley who is Australis most important artist of the twentieth century was a hugely talented artist who managed to court controversy all his life. He is best known for his voluptuous nudes and surreal visions of Sydney Harbour.

The importance oh his work is highlighted by the fact that there have been a number of forgeries done, some resulting in fraud cases. Several of those contentious works have been left out of the new book, probably devaluing them by millions of dollars.

Many New Zealanders will have made the trip to his preserved studio and home in Surrey Hills, one of the more important artists studios internationally

The book is an unprecedented publishing event that confirms Whiteley’s his place in the history of Australian art. Weighing 21 kilograms and totalling 2400 pages, the set of seven cloth-bound books in a slipcase features more than 4600 artworks, including hundreds of never-before-published works.

Volumes I, III and IV hold paintings and drawings from the 1950s to the 1990s; Volume II contains concertina fold-outs of the mammoth "The American Dream and Alchemy"; Volume V contains Whiteley’s prints; and Volume VI compiles his ceramics and sculpture. A final book, Volume VII, holds essays, a cataloguing text, an exhibition history, an artist’s biography, a bibliography and an index of persistent themes in his work.

 

The catalogue can be ordered directly from the Schwartz City website here: https://www.blackincbooks.com.au/books/brett-whiteley

 

Brett Whiteley, Self Portrait

Nicky Foreman, Incrementum

Nicky Foreman, Incrementum

Artis Gallery

Until July 7

 

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Nicky Forman’s latest exhibition feature a series of diptychs like small altarpieces and a set of decorative panel paintings. In all the works she brings together elements of her personal environments, her interest in symbolism, her travels to France and her interest in French art and design.

These elements are used to provide a sense of narrative, heritage, achievement and aspirations. Several of the Latin tags used on the works refer to notions of growth, evolving strength and discovery. In many of the works there is a sense of the alchemical tradition, of discovering the secrets of the universe. This notion of discovery is highlighted by the theatricality of the artists way of constructing the works.

The altarpieces ($1850) are relatively small works, 200 mm x 400mm when opened and are like precious cases containing private mementos or enigmatic notations.

“Alpha” is filled with symbols: an astrolabe, the bees, the scallop shell, the Greek letters alpha and omega. The bee features in many of the works as it is one of the oldest symbols of French royalty

“Camino” is a reference to the pilgrimage walk to Santiago de Compostela which the artist has walked herself. The exterior features scallop shells while the interior has a plant form suggesting rebirth.

“Uriti” which has a landscape which is somewhere between a view of the Sienese landscape and Taranaki with the exterior of the work bearing a familiar Foreman motif, the crossed wooden palings of the farm or crucifix.

The larger works ($6200) are like heraldic or armorial panels bearing symbols and words. “Encompass” with its lilies, laurel fronds and urn could have come from the distressed wall of a French chateau or even Pompeii.

“Virtutem Forma Decorat” (virtually decorated shapes)n is like a section of blue and gold trompe l’oiel ceiling with its astronomical elements.

The largest work in the show is “Incrementum” ($8900) which is elaboraarly decorated with images, symbols, small cameos, Latin inscriptions and symbols of science all sum up the idea of renewal growth and discovery. .

 

Nicky Foreman "Steadfast"

Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour 2020

La Traviata

Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour

La Traviata

March 27 – April 26, 2020

In 2012 La Traviata was the inaugural Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour production and next year it will be restaged with many of the original creatives involved,

This year’s production of West Side Story, the first musical that has been presented had an audience of over 65,000.

While the setting of operas on the water is not unique to Sydney with the Bregenz Festival having mounted several productions on Lake Constance, the Handa Operas are remarkable in bringing together the extraordinary backdrop of the iconic Sydney skyline, world-class performances, colourful costumes, incredible sets and always finishing with a breath-taking fireworks display.

Opera Australia’s Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini says the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour has established a firm reputation as one of the world’s greatest outdoor theatrical experiences.

“Bringing back La Traviata has a sense of nostalgia. This event has come so far in the last nine years and has successfully brought the art of opera to so many new audiences. We are proud of what we have accomplished,” Mr Terracini said.

Director Constantine Costi will take the reins for the first time in 2020 to present a production based on celebrated director Francesca Zambello’s original 2012 production.

The original set designer, Brian Thomson will be returning with a new vision of Verdi’s classic and has confirmed he will be keeping the sparkling 9-metre-high chandelier with its 10,000 crystals.

The chandelier was able to be moved by means of a large electronic arm and at the end of Act One, it doubled up as a lift as Violetta entered a small capsule at its base and was raised up into the night sky.

Also returning will be the conductor of the original Handa production maestro Brian Castles-Onion.

The Parisian nightlight of the 1950s is brought to life by Tess Schofield’s original bright and playful costumes, from pink champagne suits to Mardi-Gras themed outfits for the masked ball in Act II, which sees guests arriving by motorboat. Shannon Burns, who danced in the original production in 2012, now returns as choreographer.

 

La Traviata 2012

Parasite

Directed by Bong Joon-ho

Parasite

Directed by Bong Joon-ho

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

“Parasite” which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year is a bizarre film about a poor family living in a rundown part of Seoul who manage to inveigle their way into the house and lives of a wealthy Korean family.

Initially this is to the benefit of both families but then splits in the social order change and their lives fall apart.

It’s a black, at times bleak comedy where relationships are based on deceit and lies and the strange links which exist between master and servant.

The father Ki-taek is played by Song Kang-ho and wife Chung-sook are both wily, smart operators even though they are out of work. Their children daughter, Ki-jung (Park So-dam), and son, Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik) are equally smart and intelligent.

The family’s break out of poverty comes when Ki-woo manages to get a job tutoring the daughter of the rich Korean family. Ki-jung as part of the deception makes her brother a fake diploma and it isn’t long before the whole family have jobs in the household.

Their plan runs well, as they manage to seamlessly and ruthlessly displace the family’s existing domestic staff - tutor, maid and driver at the same time managing to keep their family connections secret from their employers.

Their scheme comes unstuck in the latter part of the film with a couple of unexpected plot developments which add depth to the “parasite” theme.

Ki -taek and his family’s squalid basement is in stark contrast to the architecturally designed modern mansion of the wealthy entrepreneur Mr Park (Lee Sun-kyun), his ingenuous wife, Yeon-kyo (Cho Yeo-jeong).

The film asks what constitutes a parasite? Is it the servants who leach of the wealthy family or the rich family making use of the talents of the poor family?

It is comic, tragic and at times savage film with several comic sequences such as making fun of North Korean newsreaders contrasting with sudden and violent events.

The comparisons between the lives of the two families both in terms of housing, lifestyle the unspoken rules of interaction and personality highlight the social distinctions of class social status, aspiration and materialism.

 

Ki-taek and his "parasite" family

Articles June 2019

The World Press Photo Exhibition

Peter Peryer The Art of Seeing

Gow Langsford Gallery, Enveloping Scales.

New Zealand Symphony Orchetra, Winter Daydreams.

Tim Melville Gallery, Salome Tanuvasa, Mirrored Systems.

Orex Gallery, Stephen Allwood, Narcissus.

ATC & Prayas Theatre, A Fine Balance.

Jennifer Ward-Lealand at The Civic.

The Michael Hill International Violin Competition,

Auckland Philharmonia Preview. NZ Opera,  Barber of Seville.

RNZB, Black Swan White Swan.

 

The World Press Photo Exhibition

The World Press Photo Exhibition

29th June - 28th July 2019

Smith & Caughey's, Lippincott Room

253-261 Queens Street, Auckland

 

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

 

The annual World Press Photo exhibition opened this week at Smith & Caughey’s. The awards with a dozen categories including Contemporary Issues,  General News, Nature, Portraits and Sport recognize professional photographers for the best pictures contributing to the past year of visual journalism.

This year, to put a spotlight on the stories that matter, there are three major new awards - World Press Photo Story of the Year, the World Press Photo Interactive of the Year and the World Press Photo Online Video of the Year

The winners were chosen by an independent jury that reviewed more than 78,801 photographs entered by 4,738 photographers from 129 countries.

The exhibition travels to over 100 locations around the world each year, showcasing the stories that matter with photography from the annual Photo Contest.

The major winner was John Moore (USA) for his photo “Crying Girl on the Border” which shows Honduran child Yanela Sanchez crying as she and her mother, Sandra Sanchez, are taken into custody by US border officials in McAllen, Texas, USA, on 12 June 2018.

After this picture was published worldwide, US Customs and Border Protection confirmed that Yanela and her mother had not been among the thousands who had been separated by US officials. Nevertheless, public outcry over the controversial practice resulted in President Donald Trump reversing the policy on 20 June.

John Moore, said of his work: “I think this image touched many people's hearts, as it did mine, because it humanizes a larger story. When you see Yanela’s face, and she is more than two years old now, you really see the humanity and the fear of making such a long journey and crossing a border in the dead of night.”

Another award went to Pieter Ten Hoopen, (Netherlands/Sweden), for his series on the The Migrant Caravan which documents the largest migrant caravan in recent memory, with as many as 7,000 travellers, including at least 2,300 children, according to UN agencies. The caravan, assembled through a grassroots social media campaign, left San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on 12 October, and as word spread drew people from Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala.

Pieter van Hoopen, says of the series “I wanted to cover what it means to be on the road to a new life - or what people hope to become a new life. I wanted to focus on the human aspects, on relations between the people and how they handle it.”

While  most of the images are of people in situations the results of war, civil chaos and disaster many of the photos address environmental and social issues while others document both the beauty, rawness and savagery of the natural and built environment.

There is Brent Stirton’s series on the resurgence of falconry in the Arab world, Angel Fitor’s image of fragile comb jellyfish and Alyona Kochetkova’s refined self-portrait following surgery and chemotherapy.

Thomas P Peschak has projected archival images of the flourishing seabird population on the Peru’s Guano Island taken in 1906 onto the contemporary landscape to illustrate the huge drop in bird population as a result of guano mining.

There is also Sarah Blesener’s fascinating long-term project looking At the youth programmes in both the United States and Russia where young people are taught what it means to be patriotic.

This is a Rotary Club of Auckland event Admission $15 / $12, $20 weekends

 

John Moore. Crying Girl on Border

Peter Peryer: The Art of Seeing

Peter Peryer: The Art of Seeing

Director Shirley Horrocks

Auckland international Film Festival

ASB Waterfront Theatre

July 28 & 30

One of the fifteen New Zealand films in the forthcoming Auckland International Film festival will be Shirley Horrocks’ “Peter Peryer: The Art of Seeing” which examines the life and work of one of the country’s major photographers.

Peryer made a big political splash in 1995 when his work was exhibited in the show “Second Nature” at the Frankfurter Kunstverein when his image “Dead Steer” was used to promote the show.

I was in Frankfurt to review the exhibition opening of “Second Nature” for the National Business Review and wrote of the exhibition “The poster advertising the show has a dead cow lying on its side at the edge of a country road. The legs jut out in rigor mortis. It could be some large advertising model or something from a fairground. But the horde of flies around the face and the chewed ears attest to it being real.

We could all tell a story about the fate of the steer—the accident, the fall from a truck. We understand the ways of the country. But to the German audience this is about mad-cow disease, even English-cow disease. The cow is seen as a political event, an ecological disaster.

This is not the wry wit of a New Zealander but a serious confrontation of issues.”

The comments I recorded were made by a couple of Germans I met at the opening but they had an unexpected impact.

The review was published in National Business Review on Friday May 12. On the strength of those few phrases in the review a furious John Falloon the then Minister of Agriculture took a copy of NBR to Cabinet that morning demanding the exhibition be cancelled.

He also wrote a letter of complaint to Cultural Affairs minister Doug Graham, and rallied enough Cabinet support to stampede our diplomats overseas into lowering the profile of their support for the exhibition. When the show later opened in Aachen the NZ Embassy staff were able to attend the exhibition but not open it.

This is one of the highlights of the Shirley Horrocks bio-pic and continues her rich tradition of documenting New Zealand artists.

What begins as a gentle, engaging look at the artist’s life becomes a photography masterclass in style, technique and his broad career subjects of nature, people and place. Always looking for the next shot,

Peryer is a photographer who dedicated his life to seeing. He is generous with self-analysis, and a singularity of vision that often played with scale, negative space and reality vs artifice.

He is matter of fact about the response when his style shifted from black and white to colour. Peryer’s famous (and infamous) prints are richly illustrated on screen, including Dead Steer, the Erika portraits, and the Mars Hotel series.

Expert commentary from industry figures Luit Bieringa and John McCormack, among others, accesses the importance of his work in New Zealand’s art history.

The access to Peryer at his home in Taranaki before his death in November 2018 makes this the most definitive documentary that will ever be produced on the artist.

Clips from a 1994 TV doco add further depth to the richly told stories, but it is Horrocks’ one-on-one time with Peryer amongst his vibrant gallery of work that beautifully frames the man and the artist.

His home is alive with work past and future, with curiosities on every shelf and nature ready to inspire in every corner. Peryer’s gentle and humble approach to editing his own work is an endearing insight as he collaborates with digital printer Kevin Church in a mutually respectful process with each print that he decides to produce. A late career move to start reviewing the ‘100s and 100s’ of stored film negatives shows him undertaking a similar process with film developer Jenny Tomlin.

 

Peter Peryer "Dead Steer"

Enveloping Scales, Gow Langsford Gallery

 

Enveloping Scales

Gow Langsford Gallery

Until July 6

Reviewed, John Daly-Peoples

The “Enveloping Scales” exhibition at Gow Langsford Gallery consists of five large paintings by Reuben Paterson, John Pule, John Reynolds, Judy Millar and Jefferey Harris. Apart from the Millar work they are all around four metres in length so up close they literally do envelop the viewer when you get close to the work. It is like entering an invented world of colour and shape.

This is particularly noticeable with the John Pule work “ Not of this Time (Dreamland)” ($125,000) where the artist has included lots of small images which are essentially metaphors that combine the threads of the artist’s personal life, the history and mythology of Nuie as well as the impact of Christianity on Niuean’s both there and in New Zealand.

The elements he uses appear to create narratives or document the artist’s life, but it is a daunting and probably impossible task to extract a coherent narrative or set of ideas from them.

The little Christian vignettes which are mainly descriptions of the story of Christ’s crucifixion are used throughout his works in an ambivalent fashion telling of the introduction of Christianity to the Pacific as well as the way in which Christianity has become ingrained within the culture with both negative and positive consequences.

John Reynold’s “Liberty During Construction” which was painted in 1983 is also filled with images and signs which could be read as a commentary on or a response to the political and social changes of the period. However, the images and symbols are never going to reveal a logical narrative. The work is full of abstract drama and event allowing the viewer to construct their own interpretation.

Jeffrey Harris’ 4.5 metre triptych work, “Of Time and Ambience” from 1986 like many of his works is a depiction of domestic psychological trauma indicated by various ambiguous religious and other symbols – truncated heads, limbs, knife and hypodermic syringe. The setting of this work with large areas of abstract colour as well as figures and symbols seems to owe much to medieval stained glass and painting, simplistic but with strong underlying messages.

Reuben Paterson’s “Whakapapa Get Down on Your Knees” ($70,000) suggest a kaleidoscope with a reflected design which incorporates European depiction of flowers along with koru forms. As the artist has noted about his inclusions “wallpaper, Hawaiian shirts, Dad’s ties and my Kuia’s party dresses’. This linking of European and Maori natural imagery is to be found in many of the artists works as a way synthesising personal, aesthetic and wider issues.

Judy Millar’s “The Principle of Straight Branches” ($48,000) is s work made of looping strands of paint conveying the energy of the painting process as well as revealing an internal energy. Like many of her works they simultaneously reveal something of the cosmic world with swirling gases and the world of microscopy with magnified organics forms.

 

Reuben Paterson, Whakapapa, Get Down On Your Knees

Winter Daydreams

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Winter Daydreams

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Auckland Town Hall

June 20

Opening the Winter Daydreams concert was Christopher Blakes “Angel at Ahipara”. It was an appropriate work as Blake who has been the Chief Executive of the NZSO for the last eight years is retiring at the end of the year.

“Angel at Ahipara” which was written in 1997 takes its inspiration from a photograph taken by Robin Morrison of the cemetery at Ahipara with an image of an angel above a tomb.

The work, which is in seven sections provided an almost cinematic sweep in an evocation of the landscape. The various sections are like meditations on aspects of the barren land recalling Colin McCahon’s Northland Panels , where one of the panels is inscribed “landscape with too few lovers” and another “It can be dark here”

It is this sense of isolation and darkness which dominates the work from the opening ghostly strings through both the leisurely passages as well as the more unsettling segments.

The music which occasionally has a sense of the Vaughan Williams “A Lark Ascending” conjures up notions of contemplation, joy and desolation. It also signals the seasons and atmospheric conditions of the place from quiet peace through to unsettling storms – all of which are analogous to the human condition.

The second work on the programme was Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto in D minor played by Carolin Widmann.

For her encore she played Les Furies by Eugène Ysaÿe and she was dressed like one of those vengeful Grecian Furies performing with a spirited style in both works.

The Stravinsky work, like much of his compositions has many elements of experimentation. This was his first attempt at a violin concerto where he explored new possibilities using traditional forms and structures, but it is also a test of the possibilities for both the violin and the violinist. While the music had a classical or at times baroque, structure the composer played with other elements jazz sequences, fairground band, banjo player and hillbilly band.

Integrating all these elements needs an exceptional player and Widman was up to the task. She was a supreme performer with a stance worthy of an opera diva. She played with a ferocious energy and at times appeared to be in a contest with the orchestra to create frenetic sounds.

Her performance was not one of a cerebral focus on the music, her whole body seemed to be energised by the music twisting and turning, leaning into the music as though trying to entice the sounds out of her instrument.

Her face also expressed her responses to the music as though she were captivated by the sounds of the violin and the orchestra Throughout the work it was as if she were continually discovering remnants of a lost romantic piece of music which she outlined with elegant playing only for the music to distort and morph into new forms.

From her first aggressive attack of the violin concerto’s opening, through the various emotional and architectural landscapes she was in total command, her fingers racing through the demanding passages with an extraordinary flurry.

Tchaikovsky's first symphony does not have the richness and drama of his later works, but it contains many of the tunes which occur in the composer’s later compositions including snatches from his operas and ballets.

While Widman was the supreme performer in the first half of the concert it was maestro Fawzi Haimor conducting the Tchaikovsky s in the second half. Moved nimbly around the podium most of the time conducting in a leisurely style but at other times he became animated, making grand gestures, coaxing the orchestra to provide dramatic sounds. Then at other time he was absolutely precise in his movements making clear semaphore-like gestures.

Titled “Winter Daydreams” the work conveys a mixture of Russian landscape, history and ethos, a combination of sophistication and bleakness. Its wonderful first movement “Daydreams on a Winter Journey,” played with a blend of uneasiness and romanticism conjured up images of figures moving through the Russian winter landscapes foreshadowing the snow scene in The Nutcracker ballet.

In the other movements there were passages of elegance and swelling music lines , others light and whimsical and some with an air of mysterious textures where there were dark dramatic forces at work.

Future concerts

Podium Series

National Youth Orchestra

James Judd conductor

New Zealand Youth Choir – David Squire music director

Glen Downie 2019 NYO composer-in-residence work (world premiere)

Tuirina Wehi arr. Robert Wiremu Waerenga-a-Hika

Sibelius The Oceanides

Elgar The Music Makers

Wellington July 5, Auckland July 6

This year is the 60th anniversary of the National Youth Orchestra and it has proved pivotal in shaping New Zealand’s musical future through bringing together many of New Zealand’s most gifted young orchestral players.

A high percentage of players in the NZSO have been members of the NYO. Of the thousands of former NYO members, many can be found in New Zealand and all over the world with successful careers as orchestral players, soloists, chamber musicians, music teachers.

In 2019, the NYO will work with another performance partner celebrating a significant anniversary – the New Zealand Youth Choir celebrates 40 years of energetic music making. These two groups will premiere a work by the 2019 NZSO National Youth Orchestra composer-in-residence, as well as present Elgar’s The Music Makers.

 

Podium Series

Mātauranga Michael Norris, Mātauranga

Mozart, Piano Concerto No 12

Osvaldo Golijov, Last Round

Nielsen, Symphony No 4

Wellington July 13, Auckland July 20

Mendelssohn, The Hebrides Overture

Beethoven, Piano Concerto No 4

Michael Norris, Mātauranga

Mozart, Symphony No 38

Napier July 17, Tauranga July 18, Hamilton July 19

Mātauranga, by Wellington-based Michael Norris, was commissioned as part of the NZSO Cook’s Landfall Series to mark 250 years since the first encounters between Māori and Europeans at Captain Cook’s first landfall.

Featuring taonga pūoro – Māori musical instruments, it conveys Cook’s journey to study the stars, flora, fauna and chart continents and islands.

Renowned Scottish pianist Steven Osborne returns to New Zealand to perform two great concertos. Piano Concerto No. 12 is a standout early work of Mozart’s.

Beethoven’s revolutionary Piano Concerto No. 4 starts with just the piano – at first. A beautiful slow second movement contrasts loud spiky strings with a soft, smooth piano melody that segues into a scintillating finale.

Last Round, by Argentinian Osvaldo Golijov, was written following the death of Astor Piazzolla, the great tango composer. Golijov wrote “The piece is conceived as an idealised bandoneon. The first movement represents the act of a violent compression of the instrument and the second a final, seemingly endless opening sigh.”

Written during World War I, Carl Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony, The Inextinguishable, features a “battle” between two sets of timpani. Nielsen explained that the name refers to “the elemental will to live” as “that is inextinguishable.”

Mendelssohn’s famous Hebrides Overture was inspired by his visit to Fingal’s Cave, on the Scottish island of Staffa. Mozart’s Prague Symphony premiered in Prague during the composer’s first visit there. The Bohemian wind players were famous throughout Europe, which might explain the symphony’s lavish use of wind instruments. This work has just three movements, not four, which was more common at the time.

 

Robin Morrison, Angel at Ahipara

Salome Tanuvasa, Mirrored Systems

Tim Melville Gallery

Until July 13

Salome Tanuvasa’s latest show at the Tim Melville Gallery is a meditation on language, the lines, squiggles and scribbles like children’s attempts at writing or some secret code.

The marks are like the automatic writing or drawing of the surrealists where the hand is allowed to move randomly across the surface utilising chance and accident in the mark-making. Such approaches were used by artists such Miro and Dali and Kandinsky

All our means of communication, mathematics, writing music began with establishing a form of notation which evolved into the current forms we use. Tunvasa’s work imagines transitory phases of that search for meaningful codes which are closer to semaphore or shorthand.

The works range in size and simplicity from the small black work ST – 2019 – 17 ($1650) to a large one on unstretched fabric ($5500) as well as one painted on the gallery wall.

ST – 2019 – 17 ($1650) which has a single curved stroke inscribed in the acrylic paint could be seen as the beginning of the exhibition with other works such as ST – 2019 – 17 ($1750) where tentative marks are like the beginnings of attempt at language or Croatian Baski tablets.

There are thee untitled works in pink, green and blue ST – 2019 – 02 - ST – 2019 – 05 which are more sophisticated versions of the smaller works.

There are a four shaped works (ST – 2019 – 9 ST – 2019 – 12 ($1650) which are like small multi-coloured versions of the Rosetta Stone or fragments of early pictograms.

www.timmelville.com/exhibition/mirrored-systems/

 

Salome Tanuvasa, Untitled

Narcissus, Stephen Allwood

Orex Gallery

June 5 - 29

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

While painting his latest large floral works Stephen Allwood says he was thinking of Caravaggio’s painting, Narcissus where the artist employed stylistic features of chiaroscuro, with dramatically contrasting colours, shadows, light and dark tones

The figure of Narcissus is seen peering into the water contemplating his reflection which is of an older man more richly attired. The youth’s obsession with his reflection has him die and transformed into a flower.

This myth of the individual seeing in their reflection an image which is different from reality is an intimation of the artist’s ability to change the appearance of Nature. Artists have an inner Narcissus, because when they create art, they are looking to themselves in inspiration and creativity

Allwood has depicted a range of blooms most of them past their best, some distinctly dead in a nod to the vanitas paintings of the Dutch genre paintings which were symbolic of the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death.

The blooms depicted - roses, dahlias, lilies are affected by the forces of nature which have spoiled their beauty as in Heatwave ($8500) and Wind ($8500)

The artist also refers to another aspect of the Caravaggio painting in one of his painting Narcissus ($9500) where he provides a reflection of the decaying blooms.

The artist references not only botany, symbolism and art history but also the science of light, So, Photon ($9500) refers to the scientific notion of light and the images of the roses in Petals ($8500) are symbolic of purity, mysticism and renewal. He also refers contemporary issues.as with Dieback ($8000).

Most of the works are set in a ghostly background which hint at a landscape as with Posy ($6500) with only one, Photon ($9500) having a background of corrugated material.

Applying his paint in a lively, contrasting manner he manages to get a sense of the voluptuous nature of the flowers, both their richness Bloom ($9500) and their fading beauty as with Crisp ($6000)

 

Stephen Allwood, Narcissus

Review: A Fine Balance

A Fine Balance. Adapted by Sudha by Bhuchar and Kristine Landon-Smith

Based on the novel by Rohinton Mistry

Auckland Theatre Company and Prayas Theatre

Q Theatre

Until July 6

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

India has gone through huge transformations in the last few years. There was the famine of 1943 which has been blamed on the English Raj. This resulted in 2 – 3 million deaths. Then there was Partition in 1947 during which up to 2 million deaths occurred. Then in 1975 came The Emergency during which Indira Gandhi became virtual dictator of India. Over the twenty-one months of the crisis there were many deaths, but it was also the time the government introduced compulsory sterilization which affected close to 6 million people.

It is against this historical backdrop that the book and now the play “A Fine Balance” is set. We witness the lives of a group of Indians, beggars, untouchables, tradesmen and businessmen affected by the political and social changes of the time. While most of the action occurs during the time of The Emergency towards the end play, we fast forward to Gandhi’s assassination in 1984.

One of the principle characters of the play is a Parsi widow, Dina Dalal (Rashmi Pilapitiya), a woman struggling to maintain her dignity, economic independence and security while keeping her landlord at bay. Dina recruits two tailors, Om (Mel Odedra) and Ishvar and (Mustaq Missouri) from the slums to produce clothes that she sells to Mrs Gupta (Kalyani Mehta) a wealthy retailer.

Apart from her two tailors Dalal also receives rent from Manek, a young student (Mayen Mehta).

The security and protection she has is not from officers of the law but from the Fagan-like Beggermaster (Jatinder Singh), who is the local mafia and organises all the local beggars.

Much of the drama centres around the two tailors striving to advance themselves but repeatedly being knocked back.

The novel captured the grand sweep of history with multiple story lines and the play attempts to capture all those stories and tells them through a series of vignettes some of which are tense, others comical others melodramatic and several which are poetic and choreographic.

But there are problems. We never get a sense of the outside forces affecting the lives of the characters who exist in a mythic environment where they move as though conforming to rituals.

The stories should have been able to provide moments of intensity but only on a couple of occasions was there any real dramatic tension

There is also the problem of the characters not being developed. We get hints of a depth occasionally, but generally they are more ciphers or stereotypes.

These problems are at the heart of the play itself. It could have been better written with more attention to creating dramatic dialogue and events and creating denser more developed characters which would have brought more emotional impact.

The individual actors however do a great job

Rashmi Pilapitiya as Dina Dalal shapes her widow trying to maintain her independence in the male world of her employees, her brother and her landlord, bringing a solidity and stature to the part with an expressive voice.

But we never get a sense of the emotional connections between her and the various people she engages with, particularly the two tailors played by Mel Odedra Ishvar and Mustaq Missour.

Ishvar and Missour did however provide an intensity of character creating a sense of their co-dependency with a fine mixture of banter, comedy and melancholy.

Mayen Mehta’s Manek, was a lively and engaging character and Jatinder Singh’s Beggermaster had just the right level of malevolence and benevolence to establish a character with surprising depth.

It’s an important play, rich in imagery with clever staging, and some convincing acting just a pity it wasn’t given more rigorous focus with an understanding of how an audience sees and hears the work.

A major issue in getting full enjoyment from the play lies in the decision to perform the work in the round, rather than in a traditional format, While some of the cast had sufficient projection for their voices to be heard clearly this was not always the case and many of the interchanges were lost, the illusion broken. Possibly if the cast had been miked this would have improved the audience’s chances of hearing everything.

 

A Fine Balance

Jennifer Ward-Lealand opens cabaret season at The Civic

 Auckland Live Cabaret Season

June 11 – 16

The Civic

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Auckland’s Civic theatre has a rich history of cabaret and musical theatre dating back to the 1920s, peaking during the Second World War when Freda Stark, would entertain the troops at night in the Wintergarden clad only in a feather headdress, a G-string and gold bodypaint. The spirit of her legacy continues with the cabaret seasons at the theatre.

This year there is an impressive line-up of local and international cabaret performers celebrating The Civic’s 90th birthday.

The season’s eclectic programme features nine shows featuring cabaret, musical theatre and immersive experiences celebrating inclusivity, gender fluidity, dance and the best in entertainment after dark.

The opening night featured Delicious Oblivion with Jennifer Ward-Lealand singing songs by Kurt Weill and his contemporaries recreating the world of Berlin of the 1920s and early 30s.

The audience were seated at tables in the Wintergarden, drinking and eating but with little riotous behaviour when the singer appeared, spotlit, on the staircase leading down to the venue. Clad in a huge red fur coat she joined the band of five musicians on stage and for the hour-long concert, she sang a dozen numbers including some of the Kurt Weill / Bertolt Brecht collaborations as well as a few other.

She is no Lotte Lenya who sang many of these songs originally. Her rasping voice seemed to etch the songs with a feverish urgency which few can imitate.

Ward Lealand though, brought a more subtle voice to the task which ranged from the sensuous to the comic as she invested the songs with sadness, loneliness, outrage and despair.

The songs were about political, social and personal trauma and grief dealing with abuse and prostitution while some were directly anti-war.

Howard Dietz's "Schickelgruber' which lampoons Hitler and the Nazis was a clever piece of monologue and song and one of the more obvious political works which she handled with a nice mix of the comic and caustic.

There were a couple of Weill’s great works such as The Alabama Song which see sang in a crooning style with an eerie musical background. She sang her Surabaya Johnny about a brutalised woman with a chilling voice.

The show came to an end with rounds of applause, but we all knew something was missing– No Mack the Knife. This was then delivered to the accompaniment of soft whistling by the band with Ward Lealand singing in German with an unsettling, gritty voice.

There are a number of other shows on over the cabaret season including from Friday three performances of Barbarian Production’s all-new Grand Opening. Audiences arrive to see the show but are then whisked on a whirlwind tour of the building's back-end and forgotten spaces. The journey involves a host of collaborators - artists, community groups, eccentrics, outsiders, celebrities.

Also making their NZ debut on June 13 is YUMMY Productions’ cabaret show taking over at the Wintergarden. A legend in the international underground cabaret scene, YUMMY’s breath-taking drag, music, circus, and burlesque guarantees an outrageous night of fun.

Battle Chorus brings strangers together for an unforgettable night of group harmonies and power ballads on June 14 in a worldwide phenomenon that’s taken social media by storm. Join a team lead by choirmasters Rutene Spooner and Jason Te Mete, and battle-off.

www.aucklandlive.co.nz/event/auckland-live-cabaret-season .

 

Jennifer Ward-Lealand

The Michael Hill International Violin Competition

Auckland Town Hall

June 8

Reviewer. John Daly-Peoples

South Korean violinist Do Gyung (Anna) Im won the 2019 Michael Hill International Violin Competition, after the final round of the competition at the Auckland Town Hall last week.

In the Grand Finale, the three finalists – Do Gyung (Anna) Im, Eric Tsai from the USA and Jevgēnijs Čepoveckis of Latvia – each performed a concerto with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Giordano Bellincampi.

Do Gyung (Anna) Im played the Sibelius Concerto in D minor while Eric Tsai and Jevgēnijs Čepoveckis both played the Shostakovich Concerto in A minor Op 99

As the winner of the tenth biennial Michael Hill International Violin Competition, the winner receives:

NZ$40,000 in cash

A recording contract with the Atoll label

An intensive tour across New Zealand and Australia in 2020, presented in partnership with Chamber Music New Zealand, Musica Viva Australia and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

A Michael Hill International Spirits Bay pendant designed by Christine, Lady Hill

A personalised professional development programme

A gown by Kiri Nathan for her tour.

Other awards in the competition included

 Second Prize: Eric Tsai, USA ($10,000 cash donated by ANZ)

Third Prize: Jevgēnijs Čepoveckis, Latvia ($5,000 cash donated by Bill and Frances Bell)

Fourth Prize: Angela Sin Ying Chan, Hong Kong ($3,000 cash donated by Peter and Carolyn Diessl)

Fifth Prize: Hannah Cho, USA ($2,000 cash donated by Janet and Russell Jones)

Sixth Prize: Victoria Wong, Australia ($1,000 cash donated by Eric Johnston and Alison Buchanan)

The tenth Competition introduced a new award - the Arancio Prize, in partnership with Rare Violins of New York In Consortium. Jevgēnijs Čepoveckis  was awarded the inaugural Arancio Prize, for which he will gain the use of a rare violin, crafted by Nicolo Amati, for two years. Čepoveckis was also awarded The Audience Prize.

Awarded in Queenstown earlier in the competition was the prize for Best Performance of New Zealand Commissioned Work, Lyell Cresswell’s Chatoyance, for which the Winner, Harry Ward (Australia), receives NZ$2,000, donated by Dame Jenny Gibbs.

Eric Tsai  received the Chamber Music Prize of NZ$2,000, donated by Jenny Roberts and Chas Spence.

Recently, the New Zealand Emerging Artist Prize, supported by Dr Bill & Rosie Sanderson, was announced. It was won by Diane Huh and included attendance at the 2019 Michael Hill International Violin Competition,, a two-year loan of a Riccardo Bergonzi violin, customised professional development and performance opportunities, as well as an invitation and return airfare to attend the 2020 Rome Chamber Music Festival.

The biennial “Michael Hill” is recognised as one of the most sought-after international violin prizes and the careers of some of today’s classical music legends have been launched as a result of the competition and has been a platform for some of the world’s most successful contemporary soloists, teachers, concertmasters and ensemble players in the world.

The Competition is also acknowledged for its superstar judging panel. Every year, Queenstown and Auckland play host to some of the world’s greatest violin soloists and teachers. In 2019, this included Dale Barltrop, James Ehnes, Mauricio Fuks, Clara-Jumi Kang, Anthony Marwood, Wilma Smith and Ning Feng. Dr Robin Congreve was again the Chair of the Jury in 2019.

 

 

Sir Michael Hill, Do Gyung (Anna) Im and Christine, Lady Hill

Preview: The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Reviewer. John Daly-Peoples

The APO plays Mozart, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky

Over the next two months the Auckland Philharmonia will be playing  concerts featuring major works by  Mozart, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky as well as the music of  Schubert, Schumann and Khachaturian

The Trusts Community Foundation Opera in Concert: Mozart’s Don Giovanni

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra in association with New Zealand Opera

Auckland Town Hall

July 19

It is difficult to know if being consigned to the flames of hell is all that frightening these days but, when Don Giovanni was first performed, it seemed logical for the earth to open and the villain to be thrown into the depths of the underworld to repay for evil deeds.

Don Giovanni, which tells of the abuse of power by a member of the aristocracy and his eventual damnation, was relevant in pre-revolutionary France and has had many makeovers to make it more socially, morally and politically relevant.

The Don and Leporello are part of the elite which sees itself above the common citizen, paying little heed to morals.

The Don’s encounters with the women of the story, Donna Anna, Donna Elvira and Zerlina can be seen as clashes between civil and corrupt society.

Each of the roles is given a depth of character, with individual foibles and characteristics as they become enmeshed in desire, deceit and betrayal.

The APO’s music director, Giordano Bellincampi, will lead the orchestra as a cast of international soloists, supported by The Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus, tell this timeless story, which combines comedy, tragedy, drama and a hint of the supernatural. “Don Giovanni is one of my favourite operas. The text by Lorenzo da Ponte is a poetical masterpiece, describing with humour and precision the various sides of the human soul through a playful drama. The figure of Don Giovanni evokes all kinds of emotions in the characters involved, and none of them will ever be the same after meeting him,” Bellincampi said.

“The collaboration between da Ponte and Mozart is very likely one of the most perfect artistic partnerships in the history of art. The connection between the words and the music is beyond perfect.”

In the title role is Slovakian baritone Richard Šveda, whose core repertoire features characters from Mozart’s operas including Don Giovanni, a role he has played for various opera companies including National Theatre Prague and Deutsche Oper am Rhein.

Leporello will be sung by Canadian bass-baritone Robert Gleadow who has previously played the character of Giovanni’s servant in productions by the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Deutsche Oper Berlin and Glyndebourne Opera.

Singing the role of Giovanni’s former lover Donna Elvira is Romanian soprano Brigitta Kele, with Russian soprano Ekaterina Siurina as Donna Anna. Giovanni’s latest love interest,

Zerlina, will be sung by New Zealand-born soprano Natasha Wilson, who was NZ Opera’s 2018 Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist.

Stuart Maunder, artistic director of State Opera of South Australia, returns to spearhead the stage direction of Don Giovanni. Maunder has previously joined forces with the APO to lead stage direction for acclaimed performances of Otello in 2016, Manon Lescaut in 2017 and Aida in 2018.

Pathetique

Khachaturian Gayane Suites (excerpts)

Ligeti Violin Concerto

Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 Pathétique

Auckland Town Hall

June 27

Tchaikovsky's greatest symphony and, possibly, his greatest work. The Pathétique is one of the defining sounds of the romantic period, but the story behind it is just as intriguing. The premiere of his Symphony No. 6 took place in October 1893, just over a week before the composer’s death.

Of all Tchaikovsky’s works, this is arguably the one that spans both extremes of the emotional spectrum to the greatest extent. One moment you’re enjoying a graceful dance; the next, sombre moods dominate. The symphony’s title, Pathétique' suggests pathos in the music but there is also a lightness of touch and playfulness.

Tchaikovsky may have thought the work was a personal triumph but the critical reception it received was decidedly muted. Described by some as his farewell to life, it can also be seen as a celebration of life.

Concertmaster Andrew Beer will be performing the Ligeti Violin Concerto. Ligeti’s work is well-known from several of his works being used in the film 2001 A Space Odyssey. The concerto is virtuosic work, which has the soloists playing numerous dexterous techniques. There are moments of calm and stillness throughout the work, contrasting with music which is frenetic. Written in 1989, it combines traditional as well as avant-garde forms using medieval, classical and folk music.

Tragic Heroes

Schubert Symphony No.8 ‘Unfinished’

R. Schumann Manfred Overture

Beethoven Piano Concerto No.4

Auckland Town Hall

July 25

Spanish pianist Javier Perianes returns to the APO for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 4, a work that was an example of Beethoven developing new ways of presentation. From the beginning of the first movement, rather than have the orchestra provide an introduction for the pianist, the composer has the soloist open the work with restrained modulated tones. After that first movement Beethoven provides other novel and surprising musical ideas, which changed the nature of the piano concerto forever.

 

The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Review: The Barber of Seville

The Barber of Seville by Rossini

Libretto by Cesare Sterbini

New Zealand Opera

Aotea Centre

Until June 15

Then Wellington June 29 – July 6 and Christchurch August 1- 7

If Rossini were alive today, he would be creating the greatest of musicals. He was a composer who created delightful music which always matched the engaging comic librettos of his collaborators.

His genius shines through in New Zealand Opera’s latest production of The Barber of Seville which is full of lively, bubbly music, and buffoonery at its best.

Also shining through is the genius of Director Lindy Hulme in the quirky, colourful sets and costumes, the clever stage choreography of the chorus and outstanding singing of the principals.

The plot could almost be contemporary; young love and cunning getting the better of the older chauvinist characters.

Hulme says of the work “ At its heart, like all timeless dramas, The Barber of Seville is about people, relationships and a human theme everyone can relate to – the battle between younger and older generations”

Rossini was only 24 when he wrote the work and his own youthful desire to change the world is probably a major element in the opera’s creation.

This “The Barber of Seville” is perfectly judged combination of farce, slapstick and social commentary with a superb cast; Count Almaviva (John Tessier), Rosina (Sandra Piques Eddy), Figaro (Morgan Pearse), Dr Bartolo (Andrew Collis), Don Basilio (Ashraf Sewailam), Berta (Morag Atchison), Fiorello (James Harrison) and Ambrogio (Jesse Wikiriwhi)

The local Mr Fixit, the barber Figaro comes to the aid of Count Almaviva in plotting to help him woo Rosina and help her escape an impending marriage to Dr. Bartolo her elderly guardian.

Morgan Pearse as Figaro dominated most of the show with his cool “man about town” swagger and his bright purple outfit. From his early aria singing about believing in a life of pleasure he gave a performance of comedic brilliance.

Hulme also used him in an inventive way in breaking down the fourth wall, having the performer and the audience aware of his role both as character and actor. For first of his appearances Pearse arrives on stage out of the stalls to have a chat with an on-stage technician.

Much of the time he plays to the audience as though he were a cabaret performer and he ends one of his arias taking up a Usain Bolt stance.

John Tessier as the Count gave an entertaining performance changing his disguises several times to get into Dr Bartolo’s house and close to Rosina. As Alonso he even managed to look like Brian Tamaki. His suave approach was matched by a silky voice which could be beguiling at times and was tender in his singing with Rosina.

Sandra Piques Eddy’s Rosina was a stunning creation. She exuded a superb combination of charm, frivolity and cunning with a delightful easy voice with superb control as she breezed through her arias.

Dr. Bartolo.is complex character in that he is represents the establishment and is a figure of fun, yet he also has some endearing qualities. Andrew Collis managed to give a sense of the man with some fine singing and he was particularly slick in his singing of the patter songs.

Morag Atchison’s few short arias as Berta were skilfully delivered and her raunchy fling with the non-speaking Jesse Wikiriwhi delighted the audience.

There were numerous fine combinations of singers culminating in the great septet “My head feels like it is in a forge” with the singers all vying for attention.

The chorus which had several appearances as musicians, dancers and soldiers sang magnificently and were well used, never seeming to be cluttering up the stage

The set designed by Tracy Grant Lord was a triumph. The collage of Seville doorways and windows was like a huge Advent Calendar with characters using the doors and windows for their numerous entrances and exits.

While there seemed to be times when the orchestra under Wyn Davis could have played with a bit more verve, certainly at the beginning they gave an inspiring account of Rossini’s music

 

Review: Black Swan, White Swan

John Daly-Peoples

Royal New Zealand Ballet

Black Swan, White Swan

Choreographer Mário Radačovsky

Opera House, Wellington May 31

Then Bruce Mason Centre, Auckland June 7 – 8, Regent on Broadway, Palmerston North June 12, Baycourt Theatre, Tauranga June 15 – 16, ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland June 20 – 22, Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch June 27 – 29, Regent Theatre, Dunedin July 3, ASB Theatre Marlborough, Blenheim July 6.

Black Swan, White Swan follows in the recent tradition of adaptions of the classic ballets which include Matthew Bourne's all male Swan Lake and Alexandr Ekman´s version which takes place in a pool full of water or Frederik Rydman´s take which sees Von Rothbart pimping out swans as prostitutes along with electronic music threaded through the Tchaikovsky music.

With this new work, rather than present two aspects of the feminine it is the two dimensions of the male which are explored. This search takes place in both the real world and that of the imagination, discovering the psychological and emotional elements of Siegfried’s character

In his journey to self-discovery he encounters his alter ego Von Rothbart who is both a guide and opponent as he wrestles with the good and savage in his nature.

Choreographer Radačovsky’s reworking of Swan Lake is as continuation of his work of borrowing from other art works and art forms. He has previously made productions which have updated and reimagined Romeo and Juliet, Carmen and West Side Story. He has also made ballets drawing on the work of other artists such as Warhol and Beethoven.

As well as creating works which rework other dance works to give them a contemporary relevance Black Swan White Swan has a personal relevance for the choreographer. He says “My journey to create Black Swan, White Swan began years ago when I was in the hospital battling cancer. The window in my room overlooked a lake where swans gathered. I instantly thought about the freedom and perfection they represented… but also how aggressive and dangerous they can be. Nothing in life is black or white. There are so many colours in between, and not just in what we see, but how we feel.”

The opening night cast featured Paul Mathews as Siegfried, Kihiro Kusukami as von Rothbart, Sara Garbowski as the White Swan and Kirby Selchow as the Black Swan.

Mathews as Siegfried was the supreme stylist providing a sense of an anxious, jaded personality. His dancing combined the smooth movements of classical ballet with an intense contemporary approach.

Kusukami gave Von Rothbart a commanding presence, whether stalking the stage or with his ferocious stances and leaps.

Some of the most thrilling duets are those between Siegfried and Von Rothbart, where the dancers mirror each other moves. The two protagonists also used their jackets to great effect, At times they threw them down as though in a challenge, at other times they were used as a matador’s cape or a straightjacket. At other times they shared each other jackets as though they were interchangeable skins. They also engage in tussles which are a mixture of wrestling and the homo-erotic, their dancing reflecting the Freudian complex conflict between their personalities

In her solo dancing Garbowski expressed sadness and distance while dancing with Mathews there was a tender romanticism.

Selchow, as the Black Swan, provided a sensual, alluring personality and her solo dancing had a dramatic energy.

While the work is classically based and many of the sequences reference the original this is a very contemporary work with Radačovsky developing some unique features. Many of the corps de ballet movements suggest the idea of birds in flight and often the dancers pose with an arm held up, the hand crooked to make swan-like neck shape and when curled up at rest the groups of swans lie with these raised arms.

Much of their angular and aggressive movements contrasted effectively with the lyricism of Tchaikovsky’s music

The production was greatly enhanced by the minimalist set and inspired lighting designed by Marek Holly and the blue and red shimmering lake on which the dancers perform created by Michael Auer.

Black Swan White Swan shows again how the RNZB is establishing itself as a real force in contemporary ballet under the direction of Artistic director Patricia Barker. This is a stunning ballet filled with inspiring ideas and great dancing.

Paul Mathews and Sara Gablowski. Image Stephen A'Court

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Future Concerts

Over the next two months the New Zealand Symphony orchestra will be playing works spanning over three hundred years from the work of Arcangelo Corelli composed in 1714 to a new works composed by Glen Downie the 2019 National Youth Orchestra Composer-in-Residence Work and a work by Michael Norris recognising Captain Cook’s arrival.

There are also works by the major classical composers – Mozart, Beethoven and Mendelssohn as well as contemporary composers – Stravinsky, Christopher Blake and the Argentinian Osvaldo Golijov

The Night

Corelli Concerto Grosso in D major

Telemann Overture-Suite in D

Vivaldi Flute Concerto in G minor La Notte Fux Overture in D minor

Auckland Holy Trinity Cathedral June 6,

Hamilton St Peter’s Cathedral June 7,

Wellington St Andrew’s on the Terrace June 8

As a violinist and composer, Corelli played a major role in the establishment of the Concerto Grosso, where a small group of soloists perform within a larger ensemble. Corelli’s Concerto Grosso in D major uses this style to great effect, as melodies are passed between small and large ensembles within the work.

Telemann’s family preferred for him to study law and forbade him from playing or learning music. He composed in secret and by age 12 had created the opera from which Overture-Suite D21 was derived.

Director and violin soloist Vesa-Matti Leppänen’s considers this to be “one of the most beautiful movements ever written.” La Notte (The Night) which features Principal Flute Bridget Douglas is the second of Vivaldi’s six flute concertos from his Opus. 10. Performed in several short movements, it has a sense of the supernatural about it.

Johann Joseph Fux could be considered a forgotten genius of the Baroque period. As a theorist, his ideas explored harmony and intervals in music through mathematics which can be heard in his Overture in D minor. Telemann’s Overture-Suite D22 is a fitting ending to the programme. Again, Telemann shows his skills in describing feelings and emotions in a work that showcases his brilliance.

Corelli was a pioneer of the concerto grosso where a small group of soloists perform within a larger ensemble of musicians. His Concerto Grosso uses this style to great effect with melodies passed between the soloists and the orchestra says Leppänen.

Much of the music during the baroque period was performed in churches so the NZSO has chosen venues for their intimate settings, atmosphere and acoustics to best deliver the music.

The Night will be at Auckland’s Holy Trinity Cathedral, Hamilton’s St Peter’s Cathedral and Wellington’s St Andrew’s on the Terrace.

Podium Series – Winter Daydreams

Christopher Blake Angel at Ahipara

Stravinsky Violin Concerto in D major

Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 1

Winter Daydreams Wellington June 20,

Auckland June 21, Dunedin June 26,

Christchurch June 27

Conductor Fawzi Haimor returns to the NZSO to open the concert with Angel at Ahipara from Northland Panels, Christopher Blake’s award-winning work for string orchestra.

Based on photographer Robin Morrison’s iconic image of an angel at the head of a grave in a churchyard at Ahipara in Northland, the music is an evocation of desolation and hope.

Stravinsky was reluctant to accept the commission for his 1931 Violin Concerto as he believed he knew too little about the instrument. An early musical idea he developed, a chord spanning over two and a half octaves, was thought to be technically unplayable by the soloist. However, upon experimenting with the chord he found it easy to play. This gave Stravinsky the confidence to continue with the composition. German violinist Carolin Widmann joins the NZSO to perform Stravinsky’s only violin concerto.

Tchaikovsky titled his First Symphony Winter Daydreams. Despite working enormously hard, the symphony caused him much suffering. The work did not impress musicians he showed it to and individual movements were played to little enthusiasm. However, when the entire symphony was first performed, it was a great success.

 

Podium Series National Youth Orchestra

James Judd Conductor

New Zealand Youth Choir - David Squire Music Director

Glen Downie 2019 NYO Composer-in-Residence Work (World premiere) Tuirina Wehi arr. Robert Wiremu Waerenga-a-Hika

Sibelius The Oceanides

Elgar The Music Makers

Wellington July 5,

Auckland July 6

This year is the 60th anniversary of our National Youth Orchestra and since its formation it has proved pivotal in shaping New Zealand’s musical future through bringing together many of New Zealand’s most gifted young orchestral players.

A high percentage of players in the NZSO have been members of the NYO. Of the thousands of former NYO members, many can be found in New Zealand and all over the world with successful careers as orchestral players, soloists, chamber musicians, music teachers.

In 2019, the NYO will work with another performance partner celebrating a significant anniversary – New Zealand Youth Choir celebrates 40 years of energetic music making. See these two groups will premiere a work by the 2019 NZSO National Youth Orchestra Composer-in-Residence, as well as present Elgar’s The Music Makers.

Podium Series Mātauranga

Michael Norris, Mātauranga

Mozart, Piano Concerto No 12

Osvaldo Golijov, Last Round

Nielsen, Symphony No 4

Wellington July 13, Auckland July 20

Mendelssohn, The Hebredies Overture

Beethoven, Piano Concerto No 4 Michael Norris, Mātauranga

Mozart, Symphony No 38

Napier July 17, Tauranga July 18, Hamilton July 19

Mātauranga, by Wellington-based Michael Norris, was commissioned as part of the NZSO Cook’s Landfall Series to mark 250 years since the first encounters between Māori and Europeans at Captain Cook’s first landfall.

Featuring taonga pūoro –Māori musical instruments, it conveys Cook’s journey to study the stars, flora, fauna and chart continents and islands.

Renowned Scottish pianist Steven Osborne returns to New Zealand to perform two great concertos. Piano Concerto No. 12 is a standout early work of Mozart’s.

Beethoven’s revolutionary Piano Concerto No. 4 starts with just the piano – a first. A beautiful slow second movement contrasts loud spiky strings with a soft, smooth piano melody that segues into a scintillating finale.

Last Round, by Argentinian Osvaldo Golijov, was written following the death of Astor Piazzolla, the great tango composer. Golijov wrote “The piece is conceived as an idealised bandoneon. The first movement represents the act of a violent compression of the instrument and the second a final, seemingly endless opening sigh.”

Written during the First World War, Carl Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony, The Inextinguishable, features a “battle” between two sets of timpani. Nielsen explained that the name refers to ”the elemental will to live” as “that is inextinguishable.”

Mendelssohn’s famous Hebrides Overture was inspired by his visit to Fingal’s Cave, on the Scottish island of Staffa. Mozart’s Prague Symphony premiered in Prague during the composer’s first visit there. The Bohemian wind players were famous throughout Europe, which might explain the symphony’s lavish use of wind instruments. This work has just three movements not four, which was more common at the time. .

 

Bridget Douglas


Man, Sitting in a Garden

Man, Sitting in a Garden

Libretto, Witi Ihimaera

Music, Kenneth Young

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and the Auckland Writers Festival Auckland Town Hall

May 15

 

Man, Sitting in a Garden which was performed for one night as part of the Auckland Writers Festival was a collaboration between composer Kenneth Young and award-winning writer Witi Ihimaera using the forces of the Auckland Philharmonia and singer Jared Hol. This was a chamber opera performance with a minimal set – a garden bench at the front of the stage and a stylised tree up near the organ.

For Ihimaera inspiration for the work came from his contemplation of the lush garden paintings of Karl Maughan, which the writer felt represented the passage of time. Ihimaera has written a work that traverses the four seasons even though Maughan’s paintings capture gardens at the height of their spectacular blooming period, vivid colours illuminated by bright sunlight.

In this garden The Man contemplates the death of his wife and two sons and reflects on his relationship with them. There is a parallel tale about a king, his wife and two sons, which provides a mythic counterpoint to The Man’s own story. The Man, confronting his grief ponders the nature of love and loss, considers the nature of emotional and physical love and how it can be understood from both the philosophical point of view and the scientific. He struggles with ideas and concepts about a god, the neurochemical reactions in the body and how we can make sense of the world.

The work ends with The Man’s final, painful line – “What is the formula for hope.” Jared Holt, who replaced Simon O’Neill, gave a moving performance as he prowled the front of the stage, occasionally sitting on his bench. His voice captured the changing moods of The Man as well as the seasons as he sang of joyful and bitter memories.

The APO, under the direction of Tecwyn Evan,s delivered Kenneth Young’s music in a way that enveloped the contemplations and recollections of The Man. The music captured the brightness, colour and light of Maughan’s paintings from the opening movement, with its light strings depicting the beauty of the foliage and the flitting butterflies.

The music, which at times owed something to the music of Benjamin Britten, provided an uplifting counterpoint to the despair of the singer’s lament. Beneath the beauty the composer had also inserted a sense of vulnerability and, throughout the work, the colours change, the music alternating between the pensive and the dramatic, notably when describing a storm at sea.

 

APO and future operas

Mozart, The Marriage of Figaro, NZ Opera, ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, June 6-15, then Wellington June 29-July 7 with Orchestra Wellington and Christchurch August 1–7 with Christchurch Symphony Orchestra

Mozart, Don Giovanni, The Trusts Community Foundation Opera in Concert & NZ Opera, Auckland Town Hall, July 19

 

Ian Mune (Winston Churchill) and The Queen (Theresa Healey)

 

The Audition by Peter Morgan

Auckland Theatre Company

ASB Waterfront Theatre

Until May 23

The opening night crowd at ATC’s The Audience did something which hasn’t been done in a New Zealand theatre for nearly 50 years – they stood for God Save the Queen and even sang a spirited rendition of it.

The play, which led to the Netflix television series The Crown, is an account of the weekly meeting the Queen has had with nine UK prime ministers. This takes us up to David Cameron but, unfortunately, leaves out Theresa May.

Because the weekly meeting of the sovereign and prime minister are not recorded Peter Morgan had free rein on what could be said by the two in their private conversations. He has managed to condense the various aspects of what these conversations were like. Edward Heath called them “exchanges of views,” James Callaghan described them as a visit to the psychiatrist and Margaret Thatcher said that the Queen “ brings to bear a formidable grasp of current issues and breadth of experience.”

The Queen has to accomplish all these things, without revealing her own political views or querying government policy. As well as trying to describe these encounters Morgan has also included threads of political and social history.

One particularly powerful scene links conflict on the world stage with conflict between the Queen and Anthony Eden at the time of the Suez conflict. Here we meet the ailing, twitchy, drug-dependent minister who has attempted to fool the country and the monarch over his dealings with Israel, France and the US. But the Queen, who assiduously reads all the cabinet papers, is able to expose his double dealings without even voicing her personal opinion

Theresa Healey gives a perceptive and nuanced performance and occasionally even sounds like the Queen, all the while getting in some quick wardrobe and hairstyle changes. She is by turns imperious, gracious, attentive and questioning, always aware of her position, power and responsibilities. She can also become enraged as when John Major suggests there could be economies in the royal household such as paying taxes, selling the royal yacht, Britannia, and (horror of horrors) opening up Buckingham Palace to tourists.

She occasionally spars with her ministers- a battle of wills with Churchill, a tense standoff with Eden and she seems under siege when a tempestuous Margaret Thatcher (Hera Dunleavy) makes a political speech berating the Queen for her supposed political views.

There is, however, a lack of emotional engagement, which is highlighted in the final sequence of Act I where Elizabeth recalls the consecration, which preceded her coronation. Set to Handel’s Zadok the Priest, it presents the almost mystical element which surrounds the monarch with the blaze of light and music fanfare providing intimations of the god-given destiny of her role.

While Healey gives a great performance, the ministers are uneven. Roy Ward’s John Major and Anthony Eden are authentic and perceptive, Ian Mune’s Churchill is believable while Cameron Rhodes as Harold Wilson manages to provide something of a fully rounded character. Adam Gardiner, on the other hand, seems to be an actor in search of a character with his David Cameron.

Hera Dunleavy just misses the aggressiveness of Margaret Thatcher and one wonders why the playwright even bothered about James Callaghan’s (Mark Wright) brief appearance.

Paul Barret as The Equerry gives an excellent performance and, along with Theresa Healy, holds the sprawling ramble together As a piece of entertainment, it a great night out – not too taxing, a bit of history, an insight into the world of the politician and a sense of the surreal world of living as a queen.