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Royal New Zealand Ballet's The Wedding

The Meridian Energy Season of
The Wedding
Touring Nationally
1 March – 8 April
Media release
31 January 2006

Preparations are well underway for The Meridian Energy Season of The Wedding – a homegrown love story written by Witi Ihimaera especially for the RNZB.

“I wanted to write a story for a ballet set in New Zealand,” says Witi.

“Not a historical ballet but a contemporary one. What better subject to choose than your typical New Zealand wedding - well not exactly typical!” Award-winning artistic director of Britain’s Rambert Dance Company, Mark Baldwin, returns home to choreograph this major commission for 2006.

“It’s exciting to be working with New Zealand’s top artists, and I love working with this company. It’s fresh and vibrant. Everyone’s involved from Sir Jon Trimmer to the newest dance graduate."

From rugby club to nightclub, hotel lobby to church, Witi Ihimaera has created a madcap take on modern romance.

Combining pure classical technique with a contemporary edge, The Wedding is set to Gareth Farr’s sparkling new orchestral score.

“The Wedding is a very big deal. The RNZB is commissioning an entire ballet from scratch – the story, the steps, costumes, sets and every note of music,” says Gary Harris, RNZB Artistic Director.

The Meridian Energy Season of The Wedding opens in Auckland on 1 March, tours to Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington, Palmerston North and Napier until April 8th.


Creative team
Original concept and narrative: Witi Ihimaera
Choreography: Mark Baldwin
Dramaturgy: Raymond Hawthorne
Music: Gareth Farr
Design: Tracy Grant
Lighting: John Rayment

Aotea Centre at THE EDGE®
Featuring the Auckland Philharmonia
1-5 March
Book at Ticketek 09 307 5000
Adult $40 - $80 Child $24 - $48

Isaac Theatre Royal
Featuring the Christchurch Symphony
9-12 March
Book at Ticketek 03 377 8899
Adult $42 - $72 Child $25.20 - $43.20

Regent Theatre
17-18 March
Book at Ticketek 03 477 8597
Adult $30 - $60 Child $18 - $36

Westpac St James Theatre
Featuring the New Zealand Symphony
22-26 March
Book at Ticketek 04 384 3840
Adult $40 - $80 Child $24 - $48

Palmerston North,
Regent on Broadway
30 March – 1 April
Book at TicketDirect 0800 484 253
Adult $30 - $60 Child $18 - $36

Municipal Theatre
6-8 April
Book at Ticketek 06 835 1059
Adult $40 - $60 Child $24 - $36

The creative team

Original concept and narrative: Witi Ihimaera

Witi Ihimaera was born in Gisborne and now lives in Auckland. He has had a distinguished career as a diplomat and university lecturer. His first book, Pounamu, was published in 1972 and won third prize in the Wattie Book of the Year Award. With Tangi, his first novel, published in 1973, he again picked up the Wattie Book of the Year Award. He won the Wattie Book Award with The Matriarch in 1986 and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards in 1994, with Bulibasha, King of the Gypsies. His novel, The Whale Rider was made into the hugely successful movie of the same name. In 2004, Witi was honoured in the Queen's Birthday list as a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. He is Professor of English at the University of Auckland.

Choreography: Mark Baldwin

Mark Baldwin was born in Fiji and brought up in New Zealand. His interest in the arts led him to pursue a degree in Fine Art at the University of Auckland, something that has been instrumental in his individual approach to creating dance. He trained as a dancer at the New Zealand Dance Centre where he helped establish Limbs Dance Company.

He danced with the Royal New Zealand Ballet before going to England where he danced for EMMA Dance Company and was invited to appear as Ferdinand in Glen Tetley’s The Tempest for Rambert Dance Company (then Ballet Rambert). After a season with the Australian Dance Theatre, he returned to England and Ballet Rambert.

He danced for ten years with the company. After his appointment as Resident Choreographer for the Lilian Baylis Theatre at Sadler’s Wells, he established the Mark Baldwin Dance Company, which ran from 1993 to 2001. His global status has been affirmed with the creation of over 40 works for the Mark Baldwin Dance Company and major dance companies around the world. In December 2002, Baldwin returned to Rambert Dance Company as its Artistic Director. In May 2005, Mark premiered Constant Speed, his first work for Rambert since becoming Artistic Director, which subsequently won the Achievement in Dance Award in the TMA Theatre Awards.

Dramaturgy: Raymond Hawthorne

Raymond has 45 years' experience as a professional actor, singer, director and teacher in many areas of the performing arts. Trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (London), he remained in the UK for a further 13 years, eventually returning to RADA to teach acting and direct. Returning to New Zealand in 1971, Raymond instigated the formation of Theatre Corporate. He was Director of Theatre Corporate for eight years. In 1982, Raymond was appointed Director of the National Opera of New Zealand and in 1985 was Artistic Director of Mercury Theatre Company, a position he held until its demise in 1992. In 1998, Raymond directed numerous plays for Auckland Theatre Company, and operas for Hawke's Bay Opera and the National Opera of Wellington. He directed the opera Carmen at North Shore Stadium, the largest opera ever to be staged in New Zealand.

Composer: Gareth Farr

Gareth Farr was born in Wellington, New Zealand. He began his studies in composition and percussion performance at Auckland University. The experience of hearing a visiting gamelan orchestra prompted his return to Wellington to attend Victoria University, where the characteristic rhythms and textures of the Indonesian gamelan rapidly became hallmarks of his own composition. Farr continued with postgraduate study in composition and percussion at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where his teachers included Samuel Adler and Christopher Rouse. In 1993, at the age of 25, Farr was appointed composer-in-residence by Chamber Music New Zealand, the youngest-ever composer to hold that position. At the conclusion of the residence, Farr returned to the Eastman School to begin a doctorate in composition. As well as composing Kembang Suling and three works for orchestra during this time, Farr also introduced audiences to his on-stage alter ego, the percussion-playing drag queen Lilith Lacroix. The inclusion of his works at the 1996 New Zealand International Festival of the Arts kick-started his career as a dedicated freelance composer. Since then, his music has been heard at, or especially commissioned for high-profile events including the 50th anniversary of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the opening of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Most recently, a commission by the 2003 Auckland Festival resulted in Stone and Ice, composed for the combined forces of the NZSO and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. Gareth Farr’s music is particularly influenced by his extensive study of percussion, both Western and non-Western. Rhythmic elements of his compositions can be linked to the complex and exciting rhythms of Rarotongan log drum ensembles, Balinese gamelan and other percussion music of the Pacific Rim. In addition to his music for the concert chamber, Farr has written music for dance, theatre and television.

Design: Tracy Grant

Tracy Grant is one of New Zealand’s leading stage designers. She trained professionally at the Mercury Theatre in Auckland and her set and costume design has been commissioned over the last ten years by the major opera and theatre companies of New Zealand and Australia. She now works as a freelance designer based in Auckland and her range of work remains extensive, with an increasing involvement in the training of young professional performance designers in New Zealand. Her work has been chosen to represent performance design in New Zealand at the Prague Quadrennial in the Czech Republic in 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2003.

Grant is a Winston Churchill Fellow (1987) and has a Bachelor of Spatial Design from Auckland University of Technology and Auckland Institute of Technology Te Whare Takiura o Tamaki Makau Rau (1996). She was a finalist in Best Craft in Short Film Drama at the New Zealand Film and Television Awards (1997) and won Best Production Design at the St Kilda Film Festival (1999) for her design of Possum. Highlights of Grant’s work in recent years include the two spectacular outdoor opera productions at the North Harbour Stadium of Carmen and La Traviata, and the acclaimed Ihi FrENZy for the Royal New Zealand Ballet featuring the work of Te Matarae I Orehu and Split Enz. Productions in 2003 included the Auckland Theatre Company’s production of The Graduate, the RNZB’s 50th anniversary production of Romeo and Juliet, and costume design for the Melbourne Theatre Company’s The Blue Room and Inheritance.

In 2004, Tracy designed the costumes for Melbourne Theatre Company’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

Lighting: John Rayment

John Rayment has lit the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s productions of Alice, The Protecting Veil, Seven Deadly Sins, Ihi FrENZy, Christopher Hampson’s Romeo and Juliet and Saltarello, Javier De Frutos’ Milagros and Adrian Burnett’s Abhisheka.

Sydney Dance Company commissions include Salome, Berlin, Free Radicals, The Protecting Veil, Fornicon, Beauty and the Beast and Synergy With Synergy. Other designs for dance include The Australian Ballet (Burnett’s Subtle Sequence of Revelation and Aesthetic Arrest, Stanton Welch’s Red Earth and Cinderella); Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project, Embodied; and Hampson’s The Nutcracker for English National Ballet. He was the Lighting Designer for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Recent original commissions include Orpheus in the Underworld and Lulu for Opera Australia (2003); 2003 Chinese New Year son-et-lumiere for Hong Kong Tourism Commission/Laservision; Heiner Goeballs’ Surrogate Cities, concerts by Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Paul Grabovsky and Helen Noonan, Taikoz and Synergy Percussion for the 2003 Queensland Biennial Festival of Music; and A Symphony of Lights for Hong Kong Tourism Commission/Laservision, a massive scored, permanent nightly lighting display involving 18 buildings on Victoria Harbour. Architectural lighting commissions include HSBC Hong Kong Headquarters (Laservision/HSBC); PLA Hong Kong Headquarters (Laservision/PLA); and the Hong Kong Academy of the Performing Arts (Laservision/HKAPA). He recently completed the second of a series of Master Classes for the China Television and Radio Association. 2005 projects included a new permanent night-time attraction at Warner Bros Movie World; phase two of A Symphony of Lights in Hong Kong, the Queensland Festival of Music and the Eureka building, the tallest apartment building in the world.

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