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Emma Pearson to sing Strauss’ Four last Songs with the NZSO

Emma Pearson

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

In Association with Ryman Healthcare


Wellington (October 9), Auckland (October 10)


Dunedin (October 13,  Christchurch (October 14)

Renowned soprano Emma Pearson is to tour with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, performing in Wellington, Auckland, Dunedin and Christchurch in October. singing Richard Strauss’ elegiac song cycle “Four Last Songs”.

The Australian-born singer, who made her professional operatic debut with New Zealand Opera, has performed in New Zealand on several occasions and this year she is to sing the title role in NZ Opera’s Semele.

Strauss’s Four Last Songs rank among the most haunting music ever written possibly a self-conscious farewell to existence, given expression by an idealised soprano voice. The texts for Spring, September, and When I Go to Sleep are settings of poems by the Nobel Prize winner Hermann Hesse. At Sunset is by Jose Eichendorff.

“As a young singer in Wiesbaden, Germany, I saw how this beautiful, deceptively hard piece,

functions as a rite of passage for soprani,” says Pearson.

“It requires a deep understanding of Strauss’ vision, and also life experience, to bring the necessary

gravitas and connection to the text, while still letting the voice soar as high as the great Elisabeth

Schumann’s would have done.

“Now in the 16 th year of my career, I have spent 10 of those years performing Strauss’ operas all over

the world, so I’m very grateful that NZSO is entrusting me to bring his music and the exquisite poetry

of Hermann Hesse and Josef von Eichendorff to life, with Maestro Hamish McKeich at the helm.”

Pearson’s extraordinary career has included principal artist at Germany’s prestigious Hessisches

Staatstheater Wiesbaden from 2005 to 2014, where she performed more than 30 roles for the

company. On her departure, the State of Hessen awarded Pearson the honorary title of

“Kammersängerin”. She is the youngest opera singer to have ever received the German honour for a

distinguished singer of classical music and opera.

Pearson regularly works with opera companies and orchestras in Australasia, Europe and America,

including the roles of the Queen of the Night (The Magic Flute), and Sophie in the Limelight Award-

winning production of Der Rosenkavalier for Opera Australia, as well as Beethoven Symphony No.

9 with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. For Southern Opera New Zealand, she has sung

Queen of the Night, and for New Zealand Opera, Susanna, opposite her husband, Wade Kernot, as

Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro, Gilda in Rigoletto and Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte.

The various poems at first glance seem to be straightforward with Hesse’s Fruhling a description of the arrival of Spring where the poet describes the natural world emerging out of Winter. The poem also has a deeper emotional resonance which is really only revealed by the singer.

Strauss’ music and the tone of the singer give the work a richer, psychological dimension which probably relates to his feelings about Europe’s release from the horrors of World War II and is linked thematically to his symphonic work “Metamorphosen” which is something of a requiem for Germany’s destruction during the war.

In dusky vaults

I dreamt for a long time

of your trees and blue airs,

of your smell and songs of the birds.

Now you lie, finally accessible,

glittering, adorned,

flooded with light,

like a miracle in front of me.

You recognise me,

you lure me sweetly,

my limbs shiver

because of your blessed presence.

For the “Monumental” concert the major work symphonic work will be Tchaikovsky’s timeless Symphony No. 5. A work

which baffled audiences on its premiere, and since won a place in every concert-goer’s heart for its

colourful orchestration, emotional qualities, and brooding, soul-stirring melodies.

For the “Metamorphosis” concert, the NZSO will perform Beethoven’s revolutionary Symphony No. 3 Eroica,

which changed perceptions of what could be achieved with the symphony.




R STRAUSS Metamorphosen

R STRAUSS Four Last Songs

TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5

WELLINGTON  Michael Fowler Centre, Friday 9 October  Concert will be online at

AUCKLAND  Town Hall, Saturday 10 October




R STRAUSS Metamorphosen

R STRAUSS Four Last Songs

BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3 Eroica

DUNEDIN  Town Hall, Tuesday 13 October

CHRISTCHURCH  Town Hall, Wednesday 14 October|

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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