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Marriage triumphs, on and off stage

12 April 2010

Marriage triumphs, on and off stage

In a case of Life imitating Art, real-life couple Wade Kernot and Emma Pearson take to the stage in the roles of the put-upon valet Figaro and his irresistible fiancée Susanna in The NBR New Zealand Opera’s forthcoming production of The Marriage of Figaro.

New Zealander Wade Kernot and Australian Emma Pearson, who are currently based in Germany, are naturally delighted with the casting. “Not many singers are able to bring their support team onstage with them,” says Wade. “Figaro is by far my biggest professional role to date, so having Emma alongside me is fantastic, plus it’s for the home team which is an added bonus,” he says.

The couple met when Emma was cast in The NBR New Zealand Opera’s 2004 production of Carmen. Wade was a PwC Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist with the Company and was understudying Zuniga so was required at all rehearsals... three years later they married.

Wade comes from a musical, West Auckland family but he discovered opera at Waitakere College. “I had always performed in musicals and barbershop groups,” he says, “but in 1997 *Opera New Zealand’s Outreach Programme visited with a course offering me three days off school with my singing mates. I was always the big, loud kid up the back of the choir and thought that maybe I should give opera a go.”

Wade’s “Westie” background is something he will always be glad of. “I think the great thing about not having an élitist background is that when exposed to things like opera, sometimes, without the preconceived ideas, they can be seen in their simplest form. Opera is just simple storytelling. It needs good, practical skills. Too much intellectualising just gets in the way. People think opera is high-brow but opera singers are usually found backstage drinking a cup of tea from a polystyrene cup with a tea towel bib to save the costume.”

Joining Wade and Emma is an excellent line-up of New Zealand and international opera singers including, in the role of the Countess, one of the biggest names in opera circles today – Italian soprano Nuccia Focile. Renowned for her interpretation of Mozart’s heroines, Nuccia Focile is a consummate performer who regularly performs at the great opera houses of the world with a “who’s who” of illustrious singers and conductors. And while her husband, acclaimed tenor Paul Charles Clarke, will not be joining her on stage for this production, they did meet and fall in love while singing Nannetta and Fenton in Verdi’s Falstaff.

The Marriage of Figaro

Opera in four acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, after Beaumarchais

Sung in Italian with English surtitles


Conductor Lionel Friend

Director Aidan Lang

Set Designer Robin Rawstorne

Costume Designer Elizabeth Whiting

Lighting Designer David Eversfield


Figaro Wade Kernot

Susanna Emma Pearson

Count Almaviva Riccardo Novaro

Countess Almaviva Nuccia Focile

Cherubino Wendy Dawn Thompson

Doctor Bartolo Gennadi Dubinsky

Marcellina Helen Medlyn

Don Basilio Richard Greager

Antonio Richard Green

Don Curzio Derek Hill+

Barbarina Alexandra Ioan*

With the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus

Accompanied by the Vector Wellington Orchestra and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

* PwC Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist

+ NBR New Zealand Opera Resident Artist

The Marriage of Figaro

Wellington – St James Theatre

Sat 15, Thu 20, Sat 22 May (7.30pm), Tue 18 May (6pm)

Auckland – Aotea Centre, THE EDGE

Thu 3, Sat 5, Wed 9, Fri 11 June (7.30pm), Sun 13 June (2.30pm)

Single Ticket Prices $49.50 to $187.50. Concessions available for senior citizens, students and group bookings. Service fees apply.

Bookings: The NBR NZ Opera Box Office, Tel (09) 379 4068 or (04) 499 8343, or:

Wellington: Ticketek, Tel 0800 TICKETEK (0800 842 538) or

Auckland: The Edge, Tel 0800 BUYTICKETS (0800 289 842) or

Further information at

The NBR New Zealand Opera receives core funding from Creative New Zealand

* Opera New Zealand and the National Opera of Wellington merged in 2000 to become The NBR New Zealand Opera


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