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Festival Opera pushes boundaries

Thursday, November 7

Festival Opera pushes boundaries with this season’s showcase of Cavalleria Rusticana & I Pagliacci

This season’s Festival Opera showcase of the double feature Cavalleria Rusticana & I Pagliacci will be one not to miss, with a stunning eclectic line-up of stars from New Zealand rock royalty to American, Chinese, Australian and New Zealand operatic talent.

Each year Festival Opera strives to push operatic traditions and artistic boundaries to entice new audiences and keep things fresh for their loyal follower and 2020 will be no different.

Festival Opera director Anna Pierard says opera’s most gripping double feature, Cavalleria & Pagliacci, known as Cav + Pag, will be a perfect introduction to the experience of opera for those who haven’t been.

“These are dramatic stories about real people, told at pace. Cav seethes with the raw passion, and jealously of a scandalous, small-town affair, and Pag is about a sad, murderous clown.”

In what will be her operatic debut, New Zealand rock queen and singer-songwriter Julia Deans will play a lead role.

These days Deans is a solo artist, and was best known as the lead singer of the New Zealand rock band Fur Patrol.

“Julia loves a challenge, and her intensity and charisma as an artist, not to mention her expressive voice, will stand up well to the rigors of operatic training. Her debut as Lola, the seductress who captures the heart of Turridu in Cav will be one to watch, “ says Anna.

The star-studded cast will be led by renowned conductor Jośe Aparicio and stage director John Wilkie, who produced an incredible vision and set for last season’s Festival Opera performance of La Traviata.

Pierard, herself an award-winning soprano with vast international experience, will perform opposite Deans in the role of the village girl Santuzza.

Returning to perform for Festival Opera audiences, is much loved American soprano Toni Marie Palmertree who will perform the role of the heroine Nedda in Pag. Praised for her tender, expressive voice, she performed a mesmerising Cio-Cio San in Festival Opera’s Madame Butterfly in 2018.

Rosario la Spina, known for his outstanding performance in Festival Opera’s season of La Traviata, will sing both tenor leads in each opera, bringing his artistry to the classic aria ‘Vesta La Guibba’ that made Pavarotti famous.

Chinese Baritone ZhengZhong Zhou visits New Zealand for the first time, direct from a season of ‘Faust’ in Santiago, Chile. He will appear in both Cav and Pag, as Alfio and Tonio.

Dame Malvina Major Young Artist Kieran Rayner will sing the role of Silvio and NZ Opera regular Wendy Doyle will perform the role of Mama Lucia.

Project Prima Volta programme graduates Lila LJ Crichton and Jordan Fonoti-Fuimaono, will share the role of Beppe in ‘Pag’

The young tenors will be mentored and coached by the season’s artists and are joined onstage for the performance by the full Project Prima Volta members who perform as the chorus.

Festival Opera was founded by Anna Pierard and Sarah Warmsley to not only bring world-class performances onto the region's stages but to also cultivate local singing talent in Hawke’s Bay by partnering with the Prima Volta Charitable Trust.

“It is such a unique opportunity for these young performers to learn from international artists, and be part of a full scale operatic production. For many in PPV, this production is the exciting finish-line of the Project Prima Volta programme, before they head off to University,” said Anna.

Festival Opera’s Cav + Pag season is presented as part of the Napier Art Deco Festival, with four performances at the Napier Municipal Theatre on the 18th, 20nd, 22nd and 24th February 2020.

Tickets are onsale now from with prices ranging from $63.

For further details visit:


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