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Opera Brews Its Own Love Potion

Opera Brews Its Own Love Potion

Uncorking a potion of emotion, The NBR New Zealand Opera and the New Zealand International Arts Festival join forces to bring a new production of Donizetti's intoxicating comedy, The Elixir of Love, to Wellington and Auckland audiences, next March.

The Telecom Opera The Elixir of Love - a first ever co-production for the two companies, produced by Joseph Seelig associate director of the Festival - features an outstanding international cast and creative team, including two of New Zealand's finest young opera artists returning from overseas.

Fizzing with romance, high spirits, pathos and passion, The Elixir of Love is a story with universal appeal. This new production, directed by acclaimed English director Daniel Slater and designed by Laura Hopkins, is set in a 1980s Californian high school on the day of the prom.

The action sees the shy and nerdy Nemorino head-over-heels in love with the beautiful, but unobtainable debutante Adina - the girl every boy wants to be seen with. To win her hand, the young hero has to fight off fierce competition from a good-looking but overbearing army officer, and enlist the aid of a quack doctor's "love potion". Something of a fairy-tale, The Elixir of Love won't disappoint with a happily-ever-after ending that sees innocence and honesty triumph over superficiality, materialism and the US Army.

Donizetti's dazzling and fast-paced music will be performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (Wellington) and Auckland Philharmonia (Auckland) under distinguished conductor Graeme Jenkins.

Making her New Zealand debut as Adina is Canadian soprano Rebecca Caine. Ms Caine studied in London, making her North American opera debut as Lulu with the Canadian Opera Company. Since then she has performed with major UK and European opera companies including English National Opera, Glyndebourne, Opera North, Opera Northern Ireland, Scottish Opera, National Theatre of Prague and for companies in Nice and Spoleto.

American tenor Richard Troxell makes a welcome return to New Zealand to perform the role of Nemorino. Troxell last performed here in Auckland's outdoor production of La Traviata in 2000, as Alfredo. Mr Troxell received operatic training at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia and now regularly performs principal roles with major North American opera companies including New York City Opera, Arizona Opera, Houston Grand Opera, San Deigo Opera, Washington Opera, Calgary Opera and in concert with the American Symphony Orchestra and Opera Company of Philadelphia. His vocal artistry combined with good looks and powerful stage presence have seen his career include stage, concert, film and television performances both in operatic roles and musical theatre repertoire.

Nemorino's competition for Adina's affections comes in the form of the dashing Belcore, performed in this production by Italian baritone Riccardo Novaro. From Savona, Mr Novaro studied at the G. Verdi Conservatory in Milan and made his opera debut in the role of Guglielmo in Cosii fan tutte at the Teatro delle Saline di Cagliari. He has performed extensively in Italy both on the opera stage and concert platform. Mr Novaro's interest in Mozart, Rossini and Baroque repertoire has led to performances with renowned Italian and European opera companies and festivals, including Teatro alla Scala, Teater Schloss Schonbrunn in Vienna, Theatre des Champs Elysees de Paris, Glyndebourne Touring Opera and the Salzburg Festival.

Uncorking the latest love potion in the role of the quack Doctor Dulcamara is London-based New Zealander Paul Whelan. Whelan, who studied at Wellington's Conservatoire and the Royal Northern College of Music, won the Lieder Prize in the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition in 1993. He has performed with the world's leading operatic companies including Covent Garden, Metropolitan Opera, Munich State Opera, Netherlands Opera, English National Opera and Welsh National Opera. Recently Whelan was back in New Zealand performing in Michael Williams' new New Zealand opera work, The Prodigal Child, produced by The NBR New Zealand Opera in 2003.

One of New Zealand's most promising young singers Katherine Wiles returns from the UK to perform the role of Giannetta. Katherine recently completed post-graduate study in opera at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Glasgow. In 2002 she made her professional opera debut in the role of Barbarina in The NBR New Zealand Opera's season of The Marriage of Figaro and this year returned to perform Rosina in the company's winter tour of The Barber of Seville.

The opera's producer is former New Zealand International Arts Festival Artistic Director Joseph Seelig. The Elixir of Love will be the fifth Festival production he has produced. Past productions included Katya Kabanova, Fidelio, Simon Boccanegra and Der Rosenkavalier.

The Telecom Opera The Elixir of Love is at Wellington's Michael Fowler Centre from 6-14 March 2004; and then at Auckland's Aotea Centre from 25-31 March.

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