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Two operas, two Figaros: Lansdown Narropera


At ‘Lansdown(e)’, in behind the Bicycle Thief Restaurant on the Old Tai Tapu Road, something new is happening.

 

Narropera, the musical/narrative entertainment created for Lansdown(e) eight years ago, will present its first winter season.

All four winter performances will be on weekend afternoons, from 3pm to 4.30pm, so that audience members can be home before dark.

First up, a brace of performances of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro in June/July, followed by a brace of Weber’s wonderful opera Der Freischütz, in late July/early August (more about that in a later issue of Metropol).

Few music lovers know that Mozart made several major changes to The Marriage of Figaro, three years after the opera’s first performances.

The changes are significant, and not only musically since they also re-calibrate the dynamic of the two principal female roles. Lansdown(e)’s performances will highlight Mozart’s unfamiliar changes.

Visit www.lansdownsummer.com or phone
(03) 322 5512, for details of how to buy tickets ($30).
Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro
The Golden Room, Lansdown(e) Homestead,
132 Old Tai Tapu Road
Sunday, June 27 (3pm) and Saturday, July 3 (3pm).


 

Modernised Mozart


You wouldn’t think Beyoncé and Mozart had much in common. But when it comes to the Aotearoa adaptation of the Marriage of Figaro, when asked the question ‘who run the world?’ Both answer – girls.

 

 

More than 235 years after its premiere in Vienna, the female-led creative team will put its spin on one of the composer’s most popular operas at three locations around the country.

Running from July 8 to 13 at the Isaac Theatre Royal in Christchurch, and the messages presented in the classic, are in fact still relevant today.

“Mozart certainly had an interest in the role of women in society, and women drive the narrative of this opera. Ideas about knowledge, reason, liberty, progress, and tolerance are being presented to 21st century audiences in the form of a captivating and richly comic story,” says New Zealand Opera’s General Director Thomas de Mallet Burgess.

I hope the opera will be a catalyst for conversation about women directors, designers and conductors in opera.” A conversation that may be well overdue.

Don’t miss out on tickets! Visit the website below to secure your seat at one of the shows. Or go and take a picture at the mural of the show’s lead songbirds on the back of The Piano (across from the Isaac Theatre Royal).


 

A Major success


She’s the self-professed “small woman with a big voice”, who went from a three-year-old country crooner to one of the highest accoladed performers this country has seen. But the high note of Dame Malvina Major’s 50-year operatic career is the foundation set up in her name that celebrates its 30th anniversary next year. Metropol catches up with Dame Malvina about her life’s work.

The seventh of eight children, Dame Malvina has been entertaining crowds since first clambering onto the stage to join her siblings at two.

Country music was the family remit. But recognising the big voice coming from the small Malvina, it wasn’t long before her mother was pushing her into opera, despite a personal penchant for Broadway.

“It was a career that happened because I had the voice to do it in the first place, not because I wanted to be an opera singer,” says Dame Malvina.

“I was kind of led along by the success of it and ended up in a place where I didn’t know I wanted to be, but I kept getting contracts and it became my life.

“And in the finish, I loved it; the satisfaction of singing at that incredibly high-powered level, learning the required precision – that’s what stimulated me and I enjoyed that. Then after every mountain you climb you feel the rewards of reaching the top.”

Just before she reached the very top, with the world at her feet, Dame Malvina Major walked away.

A young Taranaki farmer, Winston Fleming, had won her heart and the couple married in 1964, before moving to England where their son Andrew was born.

Dame Malvina was poised for an exceptional international career, but it was home soil and family life that she craved, and, by the turn of the century, she was home.

“I was 15 years off the international scene and walked back in like it hadn’t happened. By then I had three children,” she says.

“When I look back at my career, I think of the words of Frank Sinatra – I did it my way.”

There have been plenty of highs throughout her career; she sang an outdoor concert at the pyramids in Egypt with the Cairo Symphony Orchestra, she collaborated with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, she gave concerts to open and close the 2007 Rotary International Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah and she performed at the Covent Garden where she replaced Dame Joan Sutherland in Die Fledermaus. She has sung for kings, queens, princes, princesses and even an empress!

But perhaps her proudest achievement is the foundation which bears her name. “Like a lot of things in my life, it happened by chance,” she laughs.

Dame Malvina had been talking with the New Plymouth West Rotary Club about how lonely she was heading overseas to establish herself at 22.

“I felt like I was in a distant far off place. I wanted to do something to make sure New Zealand students going abroad had a connection and didn’t feel the loneliness I had felt.”

The Dame Malvina Major Foundation was launched in 1991 at Premier House in Wellington, an event hosted by then Prime Minister, Jim Bolger, and his wife, Joan. Almost three decades on, the foundation continues to provide support for talented young performing artists to achieve their potential, through financial assistance, performance opportunities and professional guidance, helping them to prepare for professional careers.

Dame Malvina – who has been a Senior Fellow in Music at the University of Waikato since 2012 – isn’t resting on her laurels. “I’m supposed to be retired,” she laughs.

“I keep saying they have to rename ‘retirement’. I’m certainly not sitting at home knitting or playing golf, though I do that, too! I’m very involved with youth; their future and progress, masterclasses and helping young people, attending performances, helping with the foundation.”

She’s also busy working on plans to create a training school within the foundation that has been in the back of her mind for 20 years.

“The idea is to enable the foundation to become a steppingstone to the world, so rather than sending young people to other parts of the world to train, doing it right here in New Zealand.”

She’s also got 10 grandchildren and three great grandchildren that play a big part in her life. “They’ve become hugely important to me and, as I get older, it’s even more important that I
see them and show them my love.”


 

The king’s coming to town


Tūranga is set to become alive with the sound of music when the New Zealand Opera’s critically acclaimed Eight Songs for a Mad King comes to town.

 

 

The rescheduled season is positioned for December 3, 5 and 6 at the Cathedral Square library, where audiences will be treated to the highly regarded performance.

Eight Songs for a Mad King explores the complicated relationship between mental health and power. This rendition reimagines Maxwell Davies’ king as a corporate everyman.

This concept is reinforced by a double performance that will see audiences, split into two groups of 50, experience the work once inside and up-close to the performer, and once outside listening through headphones.

South Island Baritone Robert Tucker is pushed to the very limits of a singer’s endurance as he sings across five octaves, accompanied by Stroma New Music Ensemble, conducted by Hamish McKeich.

It is directed by Thomas de Mallet Burgess and designed by Robin Rawstorne. Tickets are onsale now as part of New Zealand Opera subscription packages or as standalone tickets on sale at www.nzopera.com.


 

Seventh sensational season


In April 2020, three months before New Zealand Opera presents Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in Christchurch, The Narropera Trio will present its version of the same opera in four performances, in The Golden Room of Lansdown House, on the Old Tai Tapu Road.

 

Dorothee Jansen, Sopran, Floriane Peycelon,Violine, Haydn Rawstron, Klavier; Kammermusiksaal Beethovenhaus Bonn . 19. Januar 2019

These Lansdown narropera performances are the perfect ‘prep’ for in-depth enjoyment of a staged performance of the opera. One unquestionable advantage of narropera (of which this year marks the seventh Lansdown Narropera Season) is that it makes clear an opera’s complex story; and there are few more complex operatic stories than that of the Marriage of Figaro.

Into the carefully narrated story of the opera, 12 pieces of music, arranged for chamber music trio of soprano, violin and piano, are placed at the appropriate moments and done in such a way as to continue the story telling, in music.

Another advantage of the narropera format is its length – around 80 minutes and without interval. Bring a hamper and picnic amidst the beautiful surroundings of Lansdown!

Performances of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro form part of The Lansdown Narropera Season 2020, held at 132 Old Tai Tapu Road, Christchurch 3 April, 6pm; 5 April, 4pm; 18 April, 4pm; and 24 April, 6pm.

Tickets $35, available from the Court Theatre Box Office, phone 03 963 0870 or visit www.courttheatre.org.nz.


 

Lansdown House

Music at Lansdown

After Mozart’s Don Giovanni on St Patrick’s Day, ‘Lansdown Summer’ concludes its 5th festival at the beautiful heritage property at 132 Old Tai Tapu Road, with its second ‘narropera’ – a narrated format of opera. Weber’s ‘Der Freischütz’, The Devil’s Marksman will be held on 25 and 31 March.

Lansdown House
Lansdown House, the venue for Lansdown Summer

Narropera reduces an opera to its musical and storyline essentials. Performances last 85 minutes and are without interval, as mesmerising as a ‘Who dunnit’.
One hundred and fifty years ago, Wellington’s Evening Post wrote, “The great event of the operatic season, Der Freischütz, took place last night. The applause was immense… such cheers hardly ever have been heard before in this theatre.”
Fifty years later, the same newspaper wrote of another performance, “Lovers of operatic music will welcome the performance of Weber’s Der Freischütz, next Saturday. The best cast of soloists to be obtained in the Dominion has been engaged”.
The NZ Herald described a third performance of Der Freischütz as “one of the most beautiful compositions in the repertoire of operatic music, too well known to require any detailed statement of the plot”.
It is hard to believe that a work that was so loved and admired in early New Zealand is now unknown. So, head to Lansdown and discover the exquisite music and wonderful story of Der Freischütz, for yourself.
When and where: Giovanni 17 March; Freischütz 25 March and 31 March, The Golden Room, Lansdown House, 132 Old Tai Tapu Road at 8PM, parking in grounds.
Bookings, location map and more are available from www.lansdownsummer.com or c/o Box Office, Court Theatre 03-963 0870. Take a picnic, gates open at 6.30pm.

Singing in Italian

Cantare in Italiano: learning to sing in Italian

If you’ve long dreamed of singing Italian and sounding Italian, then Claudia Lues can help you realise your dream.

Singing in Italian

“I think my love of music began in the crib,” says South African born Claudia. “My parents are Italian; my mother sang all the popular Italian songs, including opera and my maternal grandfather was a conductor, so music surrounded my entire life.”
In response to the earthquakes, Claudia pitched the idea of Italian singing classes to the Canterbury Workers’ Educational Association (CWEA). “I felt the need to do my bit – to help traumatised people.”
The CWEA gave her a ‘test run’ to ascertain interest. “That was in 2014. I began with six students then it kept growing. Now I have 15…and I would love more!”
Claudia says there’s no need to feel apprehensive about singing in a foreign language. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t speak Italian; the joy is in singing the words – that’s how you learn the language.”
The song repertoire ranges from classics to modern – “From Puccini to Bocelli, we do it all,” Claudia says. “My students say the class is the highlight of their week; they’ve grown to love the language so much, they’ve taken trips to Italy!”
Claudia feels very fortunate to be doing what she loves most. “It’s who I am – a musical Italian. To share my passion and make people smile, that’s my goal. For me, it’s pure pleasure.”
For more information visit
admin@cwea.org.nz.

Narropera at Lansdown

Magical Music: Narropera at Lansdown

Narropera at Lansdown

March is a musical month at Lansdown, with its festival tradition of presenting opera as entertainment and enjoyment. Short-winded and mesmerising, this is ‘narropera’ – narrated opera presented in word and song for 85 minutes.

Enjoy Mozart’s magical Don Giovanni, on 11 and 17 March; revel in Weber’s wonderful romantic opera Der Freischütz (The Devil’s Marksman), on 25 and 31 March.
Narropera’s success lies in beauty and brevity, clarity and passion. Its surroundings are altogether impressive: ‘Lansdown’ is one of the oldest and most cherished properties in Canterbury, situated between Halswell and Tai Tapu, just 11 kilometres from Cathedral Square.
A fairytale atmosphere of exotic Victorian trees, majestic architecture and a performing room of great elegance and size awaits the visitor. Enter another world and enjoy listening to the beautiful German soprano voice of Dorothee Jansen, to the fine musicianship of the Narropera Trio and to the dramatic narratives of Haydn Rawstron.
Leave Lansdown with a much deeper knowledge of these two operatic masterpieces. And, as a curtain-raiser to the narropera season of performances, the fifth Lansdown Summer festival presents a glorious evening of Schubert songs – The Fashion Journal Songs – also with narratives, this Saturday evening, 3 March. All performances are from 8pm to 9.30pm. Tickets from $42.
You’ll find the venue at The Golden Room, Lansdown House, 132 Old Tai Tapu Road, parking in substantial grounds. Details (bookings, artists’ biographies, location map) at www.lansdownsummer.com or c/o The Box Office, Court Theatre 03-963 0870. Bring a picnic to enjoy before the performance, gates open at 6.30pm.