Comic Opera Tours Further Than Before
Issued by the NBR New Zealand Opera
21 July 2006
Comic Opera Tours Further Than Before
Audiences around the country can look forward to a blast of wit and warmth when The NBR New Zealand Opera’s National Tour of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale comes to a town near them this winter. Don Pasquale promises a stylish, fast-paced evening of comedy and marks the professional opera directing debut of one of New Zealand’s finest opera performers – Conal Coad – as well as the opportunity to hear him in the title role.
Building on its two previously successful opera tours, Don Pasquale heads to 14 centres - further north and south than before, including five new centres. The tour takes to the road next week opening at The Centre, Kerikeri on 1 August, and finishing on 9 September at the TSB Theatre, TSB Showplace, New Plymouth. In between, it will call at North Shore, Rotorua, Tauranga, Wellington, Blenheim, Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill, Wanaka, Greymouth, Hastings and Wanganui.
Alongside Coad, The NBR New Zealand Opera’s Director of Music, Wyn Davies and Associate Conductor (Wellington), Michael Vinten, will lead a cast of New Zealand and international singers, accompanied by a live orchestral ensemble of players from the Vector Wellington Orchestra.
Coad points out that the figure of the romantically ambitious, wealthy old Don Pasquale who has designs to marry a delicious young woman (Norina), is a popular operatic type and a theme found in other well-known operas such as Falstaff and The Barber of Seville. In the case of Don Pasquale, however, trickery and comeuppance bring a scheming plot to its climax, with some wonderful Donizetti arias and ensembles along the way.
“Don Pasquale’s great attraction is its sparkling music and amusing storyline,” says Coad, adding that some judicious ‘pruning’ has taken place in order to make Don Pasquale faster, funnier, and a more finely honed operatic experience.
“We decided the production will be sung in English simply to make Donizetti’s charming story easily accessible,” says Coad. “Don Pasquale has an array of wonderful, amusing moments and to express these at their best is to do so in the language of our audience, so the immediacy isn’t lost. It’ll be a fun night at the opera and people won’t have to go too far to see it!”
In line with The NBR New Zealand Opera’s philosophy of developing the talents of young opera artists are several burgeoning singers who will join the tour. Among them, performing the role of the beautiful Norina – the focus of the Don’s attention – will be UK-based Australian soprano, Lorina Gore. As Ernesto, the Don’s penniless but handsome nephew and Norina’s fiancée, will be English tenor, Ashley Catling.
Two of New Zealand’s most promising young opera talents also take to the stage. Andrew Conley and Phillip Rhodes, both former PricewaterhouseCoopers Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artists, will share the role of Dr Malatesta. Conley – who has performed in the opera company’s two previous tours - returns home to New Zealand having recently completed post-graduate opera studies at the Royal College of Music, London. New Zealand-based Phillip Rhodes recently won the prestigious Lockwood Aria Competition, and is making a name for himself around the country in both opera and on the concert platform.
Well-known Auckland theatre and opera designer John Verryt – whose previous opera credits include The NBR New Zealand Opera’s mainstage productions Aida (2000), Falstaff (2001) and Carmen (2004) – brings his expertise and usual flair to creating sets and costumes that not only look good but can withstand the rigours of a travelling production. Don Pasquale presented a unique challenge for Verryt, with a brief to create a set that would work in 14 different venues, and continue to look fresh right up to the last performance.
“The set has to fit into a single container for transportation, and come in and out of each theatre in a matter of hours – it can’t be too complex to put together nor too heavy to lift,” says Verryt. “There are several scene changes which have to be made without a lot of fuss. So speed and ease of each change is paramount so not to disrupt the flow of the opera. And, I think it’s important for audiences to get a bit of set thrill, so there’ll be a few surprises, too – a little touch of Kiwi kitsch for audiences to spot.”
Both set and costume designs place the action in a stylised Edwardian setting, circa 1900. Don Pasquale’s house emphasizes his wealth and eccentricities; a classic chequer-board floor and rooms filled to the brim with “collectables” - tiger skins, ivory elephants, zebra stripes, and momentos from a lifetime spent time-wasting. Befitting “a rich, pompous old fool” such as Don Pasquale, says Verryt, he is attired in velvet smoking jacket, cravat, comfortable slippers and pink longjohns! In contrast, the young and beguiling Norina exudes feminine charm and vivaciousness, and her lover Ernesto, Bohemian, art-school-chic.