Reviews, News and Commentary

Opera NZ brings “Carousel” to the Auckland waterfront next year.

John Daly-Peoples

Thomas de Mallet Burgess with Joanna Foote and Bridget Costello at Wynyard Wharf

Opera on the Harbour “Carousel”

New Zealand Opera

Wynyard Wharf

February 11 – 14

John Daly-Peoples

Next year’s Valentine’s Weekend a concert version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic musical “Carousel” will be performed on the water at Wynyard Wharf.

This will see New Zealand Opera joining companies around the world which have been experimenting with new ways to attract audiences, expanding their repertoires and staging works in novel environments.

One of the major developments  which has occurred over the past few years has been the presentation of musicals such as “My Fair Lady”, “South Pacific” and “Phantom of the Opera” sharing the main stage with traditional opera.

Carmen at the Bregenz Festival

Another innovation has been the staging of productions on the water. The annual Bregenz Festival which has been going since 1946 features a floating stage on the shores of Lake Constance. It has a 7,000-seat open-air ampitheatre  and features extravagantly original and innovative productions.

Opera Australia has also mounted successful programmes with the Handa Opera Seasons on Sydney Harbour which has been running for ten years. They have staged many of the classic opera such as Aida, Turandot and Carmen.

In 2019 they had their most successful season with “West Side Story” which attracted an audience  of 65,000.

Handa Opera’s “West Side Story”

NZ Opera will be hoping their new venture will help kick start the company after a couple of bumpy years. The popular work has just finished a season at the Regent’s Park Open Air theatre in  London where the production exposed the gender politics and misogyny of the work to emphasise the current stare of domestic violence in the UK.

“Carousel” at Regents Park

NZ Opera General Director Thomas de Mallet Burgess says, “This will be a spectacular experience for audiences – a first-of-its-kind opera event on Waitematā Harbour with a purpose-built stage and seating area. Broadway will meet opera in a world-class outdoor setting at the height of summer’s long, warm evenings, introducing what we expect will become a favourite annual show in the Auckland summer events calendar.” 

“Carousel” was the second musical composed by Rodgers & Hammerstein and while the work seemingly has at its heart the traditional American fair it was actually an adaptation  of Hungarian Ferenc Molnar’s  1909 play “Liliom”  with its Budapest  setting transferred to Maine. 

The story tells of carnival barker Billy Bigelow and mill worker Julie Jordan who fall in love. After their marriage ends things go downhill driving Billy to commit crimes and he falls in with con-man Jigger Craigin. He gets caught in the midst of an armed robbery and takes his own life. Billy is allowed to return to earth for one day 15 years later where he encounters Louise, the lonely daughter he never knew.

The show which Richard Rodgers said was his favourite of all his musicals and which  TIME magazine called  “the best musical of the 20th century”,  has some notable songs including “if i Loved You”, “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over”, This Was a Real Nice Clambake” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

The cast will include Christian Thurston as Billy, Joanna Foote as  Julia Jordan and Bridget Costello as Carrie Pipperidge.

The production will be directed by Jacqueline Coats and conducted by Paul Christ with costumes designed by Elizbeth Whiting.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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