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Friday 13th June: Black TieDay

Friday 13th June: Black TieDay

“Black Friday” 13th June is a red letter day for the national opera company, New Zealand Opera. Cartons of black-tie outfits and ballroom costumes will be unloaded from among 16 tonnes of staging being set up by an army of opera technicians at Auckland’s Aotea Centre, all in readiness for dress rehearsals of the world’s most popular opera, La traviata. But that is just the start.

For the first time ever, the company is simultaneously rehearsing two fully costumed and staged major operas, as it moves towards a record-breaking three-city period of concurrent activity later this month. Literally within hours of the La traviata cast and crew transferring from the lofty opera technical centre in Onehunga to the Aotea Centre main stage, the director and cast of La bohème arrive for their first rehearsal. This much-loved opera will be staged in Christchurch in July, overlapping the Wellington season of La traviata.

Both these contemporary NZO productions involve large choruses, casts of local and international opera stars, and full orchestras. With artists from as far afield as Scotland and New York joining a trove of local opera singers, the season is a logistical masterwork in itself, especially taking into account the shipping containers of scenery and costumes moving between Adelaide Auckland and Christchurch.

The extraordinary level of activity is partly the result of the company’s determination to maintain the presence of professional opera in Christchurch in addition to its other stage and increasing educational commitments. The new General Director of NZ Opera (NZO), Stuart Maunder, has expressed a wish that all three main centres should have at least two main operas a year (but preferably not all at once!). He believes the company is unique in encompassing three cities, each with its very own established Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus and individual orchestra. “It’s a special model that has clearly worked very well for the company and will serve it well in the future”.

Meantime, the audiences in three cities are likely to reflect the diversity of these cutting-edge, modern productions. While the black ties seen in La traviata’s glittering ballroom will remain the choice for some opera-goers, there will also be black jeans, just like those worn by the students whose loves and lives are featured in La bohème.



Auckland – ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre

19, 21, 25, 27 June 7.30pm; 29 June 2.30pm

Wellington – St James Theatre

11, 17, 19 July 7.30pm; 13 July 2.30pm; 15 July 6pm


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