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Politically driven drama attracts top talent

Politically driven drama attracts top talent

NZ Opera General Director Stuart Maunder’s new production of Tosca brings home New Zealand’s most celebrated living tenor for his first major opera role here in over a decade. Simon O’Neill, who has studied the role of Cavaradossi with Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti, says it is some of the greatest music ever written for a tenor. “I am just delighted to come back home and sing when, I hope, my voice is on the way to its peak. Puccini is such a great joy to sing – it’s like Italian olive oil on the vocal cords.”

Irish soprano Orla Boylan, who has recently finished a season at La Scala in Milan, and was a memorable Senta here in The Flying Dutchman in 2013, is the staunch, seductive Floria Tosca. The Times has praised her as “in sensational form, finding a radiance and warmth … matched by tender insight.”

“She is a great singing actress,” says Stuart Maunder, “performing an incredibly dramatic and theatrical, iconic role. Tosca murders Scarpia, her Cavaradossi is assassinated, and she makes a decision to go against every Christian bone in her body and commit suicide in order to be free.”

New Zealand’s Phillip Rhodes, who is enjoying great success internationally, performs the part of brutal police chief Scarpia. “It’s a role he was born to sing, and to which he brings a palpable sense of evil,” says Stuart. “At one point he is praying for a purely carnal end, while a choir of 38 sings in praise of God.”

Popular baritone Barry Mora returns as the Sacristan, with Wellington’s James Clayton as Angelotti. Spoletta is played by James Rodgers, and Sciarrone by Wade Kernot. The Auckland Philharmonia and NZSO will play under the baton of Tobias Ringborg.

Stuart Maunder and his creative team have moved the melodramatic masterpiece to a period immediately following World War II, closer to our own time than its original Italian setting around the Napoleonic wars. “It’s in the depths of the Cold War, where the mafia was the sinister power behind the government; a time of secret police and the reign of terror, where the political background gives Baron Scarpia a position of power from which he can murder and torture,” says Stuart.

Elizabeth Whiting’s costumes are in a “classically beautiful period”, he says. “They hark back to Victorian lines, and have a Grace Kelly, fifties feel.” Jan Ubels has adapted the glowering, towering set, and the atmospheric lighting design is in the experienced hands of Jason Morphett.

“It’s monumental – a highly theatrical opera on a mammoth scale,” says Stuart, for whom this production marks nearly 40 years as a director. “There’s blood, the sounds of torture, a firing squad on stage, and three people are murdered. It’s a thrilling night in the theatre – a musical thriller.”


Floria Tosca Orla Boylan

Mario Cavaradossi Simon O’Neill

Baron Scarpia Phillip Rhodes

Cesare Angelotti James Clayton

Sacristan Barry Mora

Spoletta James Rodgers

Sciarrone Wade Kernot

Accompanied by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and the New Zealand Symphony

Orchestra in Wellington.

Featuring the Freemasons Chorus. Sung in Italian with English surtitles.

A New Zealand Opera production.


Conductor Tobias Ringborg

Director Stuart Maunder

Set adaptation Jan Ubels

Costume Designer Elizabeth Whiting

Lighting Designer Jason Morphett


17, 19, 23, 25 September at 7.30pm

27 September at 2.30pm

ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre


10, 15, 17 October at 7.30pm

13 October at 6pm

St James Theatre



NZO Box Office: phone 0800 NZOPERA (696 737). Online:

Single shows *

Auckland seasons: phone 09 970 9700 or 0800 TICKETMASTER (111 999)


Wellington seasons: phone 04 384 3840 or 0800 TICKETEK (842 538)


*Please note, booking fees apply.


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