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The Seven Deadly Sins

Captivating dance-opera experience to transport Wellington audiences to 1930s America

Wellington audiences should prepare themselves for an evening of lust, greed, envy, gluttony, pride, greed and wrath, as Opera/Fabula presents Kurt Weill and Bert Brecht’s modern dance-opera work, The Seven Deadly Sins , in a unique interpretation staged in an historic Wellington venue. Set against the sultry backdrop of 1930s America, this bittersweet morality tale leads the audience through seven iconic cities and popular music of the era. Called 'harmonically pungent, bustling and brilliant' by the New York Times, The Seven Deadly Sins is a rare treat for New Zealand audiences. At the helm of this production is opera director Steven Whiting, a long-time member of The NBR NZ Opera's artistic team.

One of the great satires of modern music, The Seven Deadly Sins has been performed by opera and dance companies all over the world, including New York City Ballet, Lyon Opera-Ballet, City Opera and the Royal Ballet. A powerful dance-opera work for one soprano, one contemporary dancer and a male vocal quartet, accompanied by piano, The Seven Deadly Sins tells the story of Anna, a young girl sent by her family to work her way across America to pay for the family home they are building in Louisiana. A victim of economic happenstance, Anna becomes a commodity, passed from invisible hand to invisible hand, paving the way for an intricate examination of hierarchy, power, capitalism and human dynamics, set against the turbulence of Depression-era America.

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Anna is played by two girls: one who sings the character, and does what her overbearing family ask of her, the other who dances the role, and follows her heart. Harried by a moralising male quartet (consisting of Thomas Barker, Jamie Young, Kieran Rayner and Thomas O’Brien) the role of Anna will be performed by mezzo-soprano Bianca Andrew and contemporary dancer Anita Hunziker.

Bianca Andrew has recently completed her Bachelor of Music at the New Zealand School of Music (NZSM) in Wellington, where she is currently studying towards a Post Graduate Diploma in Music, before heading to Europe for further vocal study. Currently under the tuition of Margaret Medlyn, Bianca performed the role of Ino in the 2009 NZSM production of Handel's 'Semele', and frequently represents the School in their public concerts. She has performed roles with the Days Bay Opera company, including Cherubino in Mozart's 'The Marriage of Figaro' and Modestina in Rossini's 'The Journey to Rheims'. In August 2011 she will perform the lead role of Oberon in the NZSM’s production of Britten’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Concert highlights include performing the role of Octavian with the Manukau Symphony Orchestra in a performance of the final trio and duet from 'Der Rosenkavalier', and performances of French sacred music by Saint-Saëns and Duruflé as a soloist for both the Cathedral Choir of St Paul's and The Festival Singers. Bianca has received several scholarships, including the Moyra Todd Memorial Scholarship; the Rotary Club of Wellington Music Prize for classical music; and a Dame Malvina Major Foundation High Achiever's Award. In 2010 she was awarded first prize in the inaugural Alliance Française Concours de la Chanson for her rendition of modern French song.

Contemporary dancer Anita Hunziker is well-known to audiences in Wellington and around the country, having performed with contemporary dance company Footnote Dance for the last six years. She trained at the New Zealand School of Dance, and on graduation in 2004 was named Overall Best Student. While performing with Footnote, Hunziker worked with New Zealand's leading choreographers including Malia Johnston, Raewyn Hill, Claire O’Neil, Sarah Foster, Michael Parmenter, Deirdre Tarrant, Maria Dabrowska and Kristian Larsen. She performed Mtyland by Claire O'Neil at the 2010 New Zealand International Arts Festival and represented New Zealand performing Purlieu by Malia Johnston at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. Last year, the acclaimed dancer won Best Established Female Performer at the Tempo Dance Awards and was awarded the title of 'Pocket Rocket' in The Listener Art Awards. More recently, Hunziker has performed in Sam Trubridge’s Ecology In Fifths and at the 2011 Auckland Arts Festival The Show Must Go On by acclaimed French choreographer Jerome Bel.

In this edgy production of The Seven Deadly Sins , the audience will be invited into the inner world of the piece, and the action will happen in very close proximity to them. Director, Steven Whiting, says, “The standing room only audience are sharing an intimate space with the two Annas - It’s a constant negotiation, and they will have to be on their toes.” Following six years of assisting some of opera’s most well-known directors (he recently assisted Sir Nicholas Hytner at Glyndebourne Opera Festival and worked with Tim Albery restaging last years Macbeth here in New Zealand) Whiting is turning his attention to staging original work. “It feels like the right time to tell this story: a young girl caught up in a crisis of capitalism, navigating a world poised between depression and destruction – it captures the zeitgeist with a real elegance and poignancy.”

The Seven Deadly Sins ( Die sieben Todsünden ) dates from 1933, the year Kurt Weill left Germany for Paris, after his music had been labeled "degenerate" by the Nazis. Originally, he had envisaged it as a Freudian psychological drama and asked Jean Cocteau to write the libretto. When Cocteau turned it down, Weill turned to his long-time collaborator Bertold Brecht, who agreed on condition that he could use it to depict the corruption of the individual in a capitalist society. Rounding out the list of luminaries, George Balanchine choreographed the original production for the experimental Paris-based company, Les Ballets.

The music of The Seven Deadly Sins is quintessential Weill; marked by driving rhythms and unusual orchestrations. Popular music from the 1920s and 1930s – foxtrots, waltzes, marches, a barbershop quartet – are all artfully woven into a stunning symphonic whole. Accompanying the production is Jonathan Berkahn, for whom blending classical and popular music is nothing new. Director of Music at St Barnabas Anglican Church, Berkahn works regularly with the Festival Singers and Orpheus choir, and is equally at home as an operatic accompanist (Menotti’s Old Maid and the Thief for Massey University) or playing for and calling a ceilidh.

This production of The Seven Deadly Sins will be presented in an intimate period setting in The Moorings - a heritage home in Thorndon, Wellington. Don't miss this uniquely captivating theatrical experience and the chance to see international repertoire of the highest caliber performed by fresh New Zealand talent.

The Seven Deadly Sins
The Moorings
31 Glenbervie Terrace, Thorndon
7pm, Friday 13–20 May 2011, with no show on Monday
Suggested koha $10 per person

Photo caption: Mezzo-soprano Bianca Andrew (left) and contemporary dancer Anita Hunziker star in a fresh new production of Kurt Weill's The Seven Deadly Sins this May.

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