Bromance and romance, off-stage and on!
24 June, 2014
Bromance and romance, off-stage and on!
As fire burns in a barrel on-stage to comfort the bohemians of modern-day Paris, the soaring music of Puccini is sure to warm all who come to welcome opera back to Christchurch on a memorable winter’s night. It is impossible not to be swept along by the romance of one of the world’s most popular and tuneful operas, as it encourages us that love outlasts all else.
Some of the world’s most glorious love songs soar above bleak barriers, bright beacons and broken hearts, as palpable mateship draws a bunch of flatmates together in the opening scenes of La bohème, the New Zealand Opera production opening in just a few weeks in Christchurch. Within minutes of the curtain going up, the vocal strength of the four flatmates is evident, in a rich, harmonious gale of tenor, baritone and bass voices. You can almost sense the testosterone.
Then, in moving contrast, within the humble and broken surroundings, love flickers, then flares. Soprano Talise Trevigne slips into their world as Mimi, adding to the heady mix - and it is moving and irresistible. So it has proven for over a century. However the impact and immediacy of this production will not be lost on the Christchurch audience, as love rises from ruins.
The staunch mateship in La bohème feels real, because it is. The four New Zealand men in the opening scenes know each other well, having grown into professional opera together. The painter Marcello (Phillip Rhodes) and the philosopher Colline (Wade Kernot) were Emerging Artists together at NZ Opera, which also nurtured Robert Tucker (the musician Schaunard) as a Resident Artist. The fourth, Shaun Dixon as the love-struck poet Rodolfo, was at Phillip Rhodes’ wedding and has shared the opera stage with him in Cardiff.
Despite a decade-long career in Europe, and private study with Pavarotti, Shaun Dixon could hardly be more down-to-earth, admitting to small-town Tokoroa as home. “Performing this role is a great honour – it’s one of the greatest roles you can sing as a tenor, very difficult but very enjoyable. There’s an immense amount of romanticism and expression, and I’m delighted to be sharing my voice with my home country once again. My voice has changed a lot over the years and I feel I’m ready to showcase it.”
Once a “Westie”, bass Wade Kernot also departed his small community to take residence in Europe, and returns to sing in La bohème for Christchurch, and in La traviata for Wellington and Auckland during the NZO 2014 season. He now lives in the borderlands of Switzerland with Germany, where he and his wife Emma both have established professional opera careers.
New York-based Talise Trevigne is the only principal not to call New Zealand home, although that might be negotiable, given that her manager is a Kiwi, and she studied opera at the Manhattan School of Music as a fellow pupil with New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill. Talise has also just finished a South Island winter honeymoon.
“Another Bohème was on my list for this season, but my manager rang me and said I was going to New Zealand, which is a very special place for me. So I moved quite a lot to be here, including my wedding, and I’m happy that I’ve done so. Given the terrible winter in New York, this is one I will very happily take – it’s a lovely winter!”
Puccini’s moving masterpiece of burning passion and flickering loss is presented for just three, fully-staged performances in the CBS Arena (15, 16 and 18 July). It features the local Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus under the direction of Sharolyn Kimmorley, and Canterbury’s own Christchurch Symphony Orchestra.
LA BOHÈME by Giacomo Puccini
A New Zealand Opera production. Sung in Italian with English surtitles
Conductor FRANCESCO PASQUALETTI
Director PATRICK NOLAN
Restage Director STEVEN ANTHONY WHITING
Set Designer RALPH MYERS
Costume Designer ELIZABETH WHITING
Lighting Designer BERNIE TAN
Mimì TALISE TREVIGNE
Rodolfo SHAUN DIXON
Marcello PHILLIP RHODES
Musetta MADELEINE PIERARD
Schaunard ROBERT TUCKER
Colline WADE KERNOT
Benoit RICHARD GREAGER
Alcindoro RICHARD GREEN
Parpignol OLIVER SEWELL
Accompanied by the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra
Featuring the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus
Christchurch – CBS Canterbury Arena
15, 16, 18 July 7.30pm
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New Zealand Opera receives core funding from Creative New Zealand and Auckland Council through the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Act