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Forces gather for monumental NZSO tour in REAL NZ Festival

24 August 2011

Massive forces gather for monumental NZSO tour during REAL New Zealand Festival

A new generation of New Zealand classical stars will join the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for a full-blast concert tour next month, featuring one of the most monumental symphonies ever written.

Internationally-acclaimed Kiwi opera singers Simon O’Neill, Jonathan Lemalu, Madeleine Pierard and Sarah Castle will come home for NZSO: Odes to Joy from September 22, showcasing Beethoven’s epic Ninth Symphony.

The Romantic masterpiece was the composer’s final symphony, with a spectacular finale in the fourth movement combining the full might of a symphony orchestra, four soloists and a massed choir.

The symphony’s theme of universal brotherhood has sealed its status as the anthem of choice for major world events, including the bringing down of the Berlin Wall.

The Orpheus Choir of Wellington, the Auckland Choral Society, the City of Dunedin Choir and the Christchurch City Choir will each join their local performance on the tour, along with singers from Voices NZ.

NZSO Music Director Pietari Inkinen will lead the Orchestra for Odes to Joy, which is proudly supported by the New Zealand government through Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. It is part of the REAL New Zealand Festival that runs alongside Rugby World Cup 2011.

Pietari Inkinen says the Ninth Symphony ends famously, on an emotionally high register: “The music is full of triumph, joy and celebration. It’s the perfect concert series to stage during the Rugby World Cup, and will showcase this country’s finest classical music talent to New Zealanders and international visitors alike.”

Odes to Joy will also unveil Kaitiaki, a new work in the spirit of Beethoven’s Ninth. Commissioned by the NZSO, it is composed by Gareth Farr with words by award-winning fiction writer Witi Ihimaera.

Ihimaera says the work is, for him, a mihi aroha or a greeting of love across space and time to honour Beethoven, the greatest composer the world has ever known.

A free pre-concert talk featuring a question-and-answer session with Gareth Farr takes place 45-minutes before each performance inside the concert venue.

The Christchurch performance of Odes to Joy is part of the Christchurch Arts Festival.

Fast Facts:

• The actual meaning of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony remains a mystery, debated by musicologists
• It was the first symphony by a major composer to employ voices
• The symphony was years in the making
• It was the longest of all his symphonies by 20 minutes
• The singers sit silently on stage for over an hour during the first three movements
Beethoven was totally deaf when the Ninth premiered in Vienna in 1824 and had to be turned to face the cheering audience, which gave the symphony five standing ovations
• Kiwi Simon O’Neill is considered the Wagnerian tenor of his generation
• He is a principal artist with the Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and the Bayreuth Festival, where he sings the title role in Parsifal before arriving in New Zealand
• He has recently appeared at La Scala and Carnegie Hall and performed with Daniel Barenboim, Marin Alsop and James Levine
• O’Neill’s 2010 album of Wagnerian arias Father and Son, recorded with the NZSO, attracted international acclaim and a rare double five-star review from the prestigious BBC Music Magazine
• New Zealand-born Samoan bass baritone Jonathan Lemalu was once described by The Times as “a singer who hooks an audience even before opening his mouth”
• The Dunedin singer was awarded a Grammy last year for Best Opera Recording for his role in the album Britten: Billy Budd, recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra
• He has built a solid international career since leaving New Zealand in 1999 and studying at the Royal College of Music
• Kiwi soprano Madeleine Pierard won the Lexus Mobil Song Quest in 2005
• She is now employed by the Royal Opera at Covent Garden and has performed in prestigious venues including the Royal Festival Hall and Wigmore Hall
• She has performed with Kiri Te Kanawa and sung solo for the Queen
• Wellingtonian Sarah Castle studied at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester
• She debuted at the Royal Opera in Covent Garden in 2001 and has performed at the BBC Proms, the Bayreuth Festival, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and La Monnaie in Brussels, among many other international appearances
Kaitiaki marks the third collaboration between Gareth Farr and Witi Ihimaera. Farr earlier composed music for Ihimaera’s play Woman Far Walking and the ballet The Wedding
Gareth Farr has also composed fanfare music for the Rugby World Cup 2011, which has been recorded by the NZSO
Ihimaera’s new novel The Parihaka Woman, due out in October, is also a homage to Beethoven and partly inspired by his opera Fidelio


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