Samoan opera singer sings praises for benefit of teenager hopefuls

Proud Samoan baritone Samson Setu … encouraging young students to choose opera. Image: Te Waha Nui

By Leilani Sitagata in Auckland

A baritone studying at Auckland University has been touring New Zealand singing the praises of opera to teenagers.

The fourth-year music student, Samson Setu, says he was “dragged” into opera by a teacher who loved the sound of his voice.

“When I sang in the school choir my teacher pulled me aside because she thought I sounded like a 30-year-old man,” he says.

He is one of the 2018 Dame Malvina Major emerging artists working with New Zealand Opera.

The programme includes an opera-in-schools tour, where he has been visiting schools in New Zealand to inspire students in pursuing a passion in the music industry.

The head of education at NZ Opera, Joanne Cole, says Opera in Schools is part of its wider education and outreach programme.

-Partners-

“It has been designed to break down the barriers that exist around opera and to bring new audiences to the genre.”

Setu says opera is not such a popular genre with youth-targeted stations as it’s not often on the radio so they don’t get the opportunity to hear it.

‘Looks elitist’
“From the outside it looks like an elitist art form and you don’t see many Pacific Islanders doing it.

“Sol3 Mio have made [opera] a bit more mainstream, they’ve opened the doors to this sort of music.”

He says the schools that are predominantly Pasifika have been extremely responsive to the tour so far.

Another University of Auckland music student, Denzel Panama, says opera is an amazing art form and sharing it with a young audience is special.

“I think a tour of this nature can only do good. It exposes so many young people to something that they might have never really experienced.”

The Opera in Schools programme is in its sixth year and travels to Wellington and Christchurch in July.

This article was first published on the AUT journalism studies website Te Waha Nui.

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘Girl Power’ wows Port Moresby with new anti-violence video ‘No More’

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: ‘Girl Power’ wows Port Moresby with new anti-violence video ‘No More’

PNG’s “first ever” girl band makes debut appearance in Port Moresby. Video: EMTV News

By Stacey Yalo in Port Moresby

With hopes of empowering more women in the Papua New Guinea music industry, renowned female artist, Mereani Masani, introduced what was claimed to be “first ever” girl band to perform live in Port Moresby last night.

The seven-member band Girl Power is made up of students, mothers, and a lecturer who have braved a male-dominated industry to come out and not only sing but to raise awareness on social issues affecting women and girls.

They have previously toured in Goroka and Madang, but this was the first time they have performed in the capital.

The group also yesterday launched their first music video, “No More”, dedicated to ending domestic violence in Papua New Guinea.

However, Pacific Media Watch reports the claim by EMTV that this is the first all-girls band in Papua New Guinea, has been challenged with a video about early women bands in Rabaul in the 1960s and 1970s – especially a group called The Vibe.

-Partners-

Stacey Yalo is an EMTV News reporter.

PNG’s first all-girl bands were actually formed in Rabaul and they recorded albums. Video: Goldhitz

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

‘Play for our people’ call by Southern Highlands musicians after PNG quake

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: ‘Play for our people’ call by Southern Highlands musicians after PNG quake

Elizabeth Tondoa appeals to Southern Highlands musicians to join her in next week’s fundraising concert. Video: EMTV News

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Southern Highlands singers Elizabeth Tondoa and Augustine Emil are calling on all fellow musicians from their region to come together to hold a concert in Port Moresby next week to raise funds for the disaster-struck areas.

The funds raised at the concert on March 10 will be passed on to the National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop as part of the people of NCD’s contribution to the earthquake affected areas.

Tondoa challenged artists from other provinces to join in the cause.

Making the appeal on EMTV News, she said: “The people with money, come with money at this time to support those people in pain, and those who have need.

“Those with clothes, give clothes.

“Like myself, I am a musician and I don’t have that money. But I have the talent and I want to use that talent to help my people.”

Then she burst into tears.

So far, B-Rad from, B Rad studios has given his support to take part in the concert as well.

EMTV News items are republished by Asia Pacific Report by arrangement.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

Sounds of Caribbean planned for Auckland’s first steelband festival

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Sounds of Caribbean planned for Auckland’s first steelband festival

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Auckland’s popular Silo Park will come alive to the sounds of the Caribbean next week.

Part of the Summer at Silo Park events, the Aotearoa-New Zealand Steelband Festival on Saturday, February 24, will bring together seven local steelbands and feature two special guest steelbands from Australia.

It is the first event of its kind to be held in New Zealand.

The festival is being organised by the first steelband to be established in New Zealand, the CaribbeaNZ Southern Stars.

Band manager Camille Nakhid says the event has been a longtime coming.

“CaribbeaNZ Southern Stars formed in 2005 and have played at festivals and private events all over New Zealand.

“With a number of other bands established in recent years we felt the time was right to bring us all together and stage the country’s first ever steelband festival.”

The CaribbeaNZ Southern Stars … playing in festivals throughout New Zealand since 2005. Image: Camille Nakhid

With a history stretching back to African drumming practices, the modern steelpan evolved in Trinidad during World War II, when industrious musicians with little resources refashioned disused 55-gallon drums into a range of instruments.

New musical identity
Initially stigmatised as unsophisticated music of poor communities, the image of steelpan music changed after Trinidad gained independence in 1962 and set out to define a new musical identity for itself.

Today, steelbands and Calypso music are globally recognised and synonymous with the Caribbean and the vibrant sights and sounds of carnival season, which has just finished.

“Carnival is the real annual party for Caribbean communities,” said Nakhid.

“Steelbands practise for months to prepare for the Panorama competitions. With our festival, we’re hoping to bring that same atmosphere, the Caribbean love of music and festivity, to downtown Auckland.”

As well as the nine steelbands, the festival will also feature guest performances by other drumming groups, and food – including lip-smacking Caribbean favourites – will be available throughout the day.

At 2.30pm, the bands will dress up in costumes for the festival parade and traditional massed-band finale performance.

‘Feelin’ de riddim’
Any members of the public who are “feelin’ de riddim” will be invited to take part in the parade, dance and join in the carnival atmosphere.

The festival is free to attend and opens at 9.30am.

It is being supported by Silo Park and the Auckland Council Creative Communities scheme.

A carnival night is also being held on the same day at the Fickling Centre, and will feature the CaribbeaNZ Southern Stars performing with exciting newcomers The Panimals (Bream Bay College) and special guest singer Errol Renaud from Sydney’s Caribbean Soul.

Limited tickets will be available on the door, and cost $20.

Contacts: Tish Viljoen 021 025 27616 or Camille Nakhid

The Panimals steelband performing. Image: PANZfest

Sweeney Todd A Horror Story Then and Now – Not Quite A Gonzo Review

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Sweeney Todd A Horror Story Then and Now – Not Quite A Gonzo Review

Introspection and review by Selwyn Manning. All still photographs by David Rowland.

A ghastly tale of horror and intrigue looms for Wellington and Christchurch theatre-goers as New Zealand Opera sharpens its knives before its Auckland consumers – but beware, this story of Sweeney Todd may compel you to think.

Sweeney Todd is one awful story. And the tale is retold so well by this rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s musical horror, that at times you can almost smell it, how rotten Victorian London was. But is its power to compel dread found in the mirror this story presents?

Introduction to Sweeney:

Teddy Tahu Rhodes as Sweeney Todd, NZ Opera, Civic Theatre, Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, September 15, 2016. Photo: David Rowland / One-Image.com
Teddy Tahu Rhodes as Sweeney Todd, NZ Opera, Civic Theatre, Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, September 15, 2016. Photo: David Rowland / One-Image.com

Many of you will be familiar with the story: how Sweeney Todd was once happy and married to a delightful and true wife, how the couple were blessed by a loved and loving daughter, how a corrupt judge coveted their world, how his class and power was a privilege of his time, how the ugliness of obsession became compulsion, how he convicted Sweeney on a trumped up charge, sentenced him to life as a prisoner of mother England to be served within the penal colony of Australia, and then when the beauty within the Todd family turned vulnerable the judge set out to devour all of that which was left of Sweeney Todd’s world. Some fifteen years later, Sweeney Todd escapes, returns to England and seeks revenge against those who destroyed what he loved.

In a way it’s a brilliant story, the ghastly deeds committed by Sweeney and Mrs Lovett mask the true monster of class and inequality, the abandonment of meritocracy, the privileged’s indifference and consequential loathing for those cast below it. Indeed, Sondheim’s story transports us to an earlier time to when Victorian England was rotten to the core.

Such tales, when performed well, transport us not only to another time, but conjure up the opportunity to compare their lot to ours. Often, we are delighted to realise how far we have come culturally. But then, as all forms of good art do, especially when performed as superbly as New Zealand Opera is renowned, we find ourselves challenged by our own Contemporarianism.

Antoinette Halloran and Teddy Tahu Rhodes in Sweeney Todd, NZ Opera, Civic Theatre, Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, September 15, 2016. Photo: David Rowland / One-Image.com
Antoinette Halloran and Teddy Tahu Rhodes in Sweeney Todd, NZ Opera, Civic Theatre, Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, September 15, 2016. Photo: David Rowland / One-Image.com

Prelude To Sweeney – Masterclass:

On preparing to attend this opera, I chose to wear tidy but casual pants. I donned a nice shirt rather than white shirt-black tie attire, and the jacket was almost unworn but was perhaps more suited to the cool weather outside than the Civic’s special magic. Perhaps, in hindsight, I should confess, it was a little test. Some opera-goers are notorious for being a tad snobby, and Sweeney Todd was too rich to resist. Were Auckland’s elite happy that New Zealand Opera was performing this Sondheim ‘musical’ only to risk broadening the audience demographic?

We had chosen not to enter via the Civic’s red carpet, but rather through the right-hand side entrance. We made for the booking office and were greeted wonderfully as always by New Zealand Opera’s staff. With tickets in hand and having been presented with a fabulously produced and written programme, we sought not to mingle but made for the theatre’s stalls. The ushers were delightful in guiding us to our row, then our seats. We settled in, relaxed, gazed upward and about as we always do when inside the marvelous Civic theatre.

We politely stood up, as is the custom, to let others squeeze passed as allocated seats were sought.

Then, a dreadful moment presented as one very finely suited man of considerable height and an air of boardroom elegance squeezed passed to loom above us. Before realising we were perhaps considered casts of a lesser God, the man paused time to insist, in his patiently expressed but obviously refined vowels, that we were sitting in his seats! “Are you sure,” I replied intoning a suggestion rather than question. “Positive,” he retorted.

As I traversed my mind to consider the scale of probabilities, he beat me to it and snapped: “Show me your tickets!” I reached for my pocket electing to annoy by deploying the Union tactic of a ‘go slow’. But once the evidence was presented I am sad to report that on inspection, it was proven that the ‘person’ who was to become the focus of my societal-comparative-analysis was indeed correct. We had been ushered to the wrong row, the wrong seats, and I had failed to check the bloody tickets.

Needless to say dejection set in before ejection was sought and shamefully it became our lot to squeeze passed the polite-and-the-tolerant and search out our seats with haste before the Civic’s magical shooting star heralded our journey back to acceptability to another time and place.

And transported we were.

The Resurrection and the Performance:

Cast of Sweeney Todd, NZ Opera, Civic Theatre, Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, September 15, 2016. Photo: David Rowland / One-Image.com
Cast of Sweeney Todd, NZ Opera, Civic Theatre, Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, September 15, 2016. Photo: David Rowland / One-Image.com

Within seconds of the superb Auckland Philharmonia’s conductor Benjamin Northey instructing his organist to bellow out a most agonising sequence of chords, two things came to mind: Vincent Price, and, how as children, one of my brothers and I used to nick the keys to the church next door, sit on the organ stool, pump the treadle while depressing the lowest note that old Gherty could muster. There rumbling out a diabolical racket, we would smart with devilish grin knowing our mother wouldn’t be too far away to save the community from the horror story score we had conducted. From the first note, I had one foot in Sweeney Todd present and the other in a past which seems too long ago.

Director Stuart Maunder AM has achieved something special here. He has ensured his cast performs to their strengths. And it works. Teddy Tahu Rhodes, with respect to you, from the moment you appeared as a demon among the light you became our Sweeney Todd.

Rhodes’ voice… people if you want to hear what a real baritone sounds like then you have to see and hear this guy perform this role. He makes Caiaphas in JC Superstar sound like a genteel grandfather.

When Rhodes speaks as Sweeney, all before him become captors with a compulsion to listen. And thank you for that, as Sweeney’s message is powerful. In performance, voice has many elements where the unspoken whispers to the inner you. Could it be that Sweeney Todd compels us to consider what kind of character in truth we have become?

It is true that Rhodes channels a horror that lurks within Sweeney, and within this character there is time and space to pause, to consider, to realise cause and effect.

Rhodes’ strength plants Sweeney Todd’s feet firmly on the ground, which choreographs well opposite soprano Antoinette Halloran who is cast as his offsider Mrs Lovett. Halloran is the yang of his yin (or considering the characters, is it the other way around). In any case, Halloran is a master of comic timing and centre-stage presence. And she has to be to make this production of Sweeney Todd work. It is simply due to a well-learned and earned talent that by degrees she allows her audience to sense that perhaps Mrs Lovett’s beguiling charm is but a cloak that conceals a duality – an oscillation between hope and construct, an intention caught between love and greed that morphs into a ghastly heart.

Helen Medlyn as the Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd, NZ Opera, Civic Theatre, Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, September 15, 2016. Photo: David Rowland / One-Image.com
Helen Medlyn as the Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd, NZ Opera, Civic Theatre, Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, September 15, 2016. Photo: David Rowland / One-Image.com

The story has its diversions. The plight of the young potential lovers, Johanna and Anthony Hope (performed superbly by Amelia Berry and James Benjamin Rodgers) is vital so as to accentuate a corruption manifest in the evil Judge Turpin (Phillip Rhodes), the horribly sycophantic Beadle Bamford (Andrew Glover), the tragedy that becomes Tobias Ragg (performed by the marvelous Joel Granger), and the hilarity of arch-crook Pirelli (performed by Robert Tucker). Another special mention: it pays to pay attention to the Beggar Woman (so wonderfully performed by Helen Medlyn) for she holds the key to a very clever flick of the knife.

Once again production designer Roger Kirk has created a marvelous set that anchors, transforms and transports, and yes that summary includes that dreadful barber’s chair.

Prologue to Sweeney:

On exiting the Civic, my man was there standing centre-stage upon the red carpet. He had chosen not to exit but rather juxtapositioned his back to the entrance (perhaps a barrier to the hordes outside). Again he towered above all others and sought to chat, to mingle, and again we squeezed passed with thought.

The freshness of pre-equinox air greeted us, the vibe on the street was joyous. Theatre-goers were well pleased with Sweeney Todd. Lovers lined up to share ice-creams near a shop where Royal Dalton was once sold. On the south-side of Queen Street I felt delighted to realise the decrepit Kerridge Odeon buildings had been demolished before noticing a man to my left of prime working age and inclination sat on a blanket holding a cardboard sign that read: “Can you help me please.” He, like some of the characters in Sweeney Todd, clearly slept rough. But his story was reality not fiction while in truth he shared a commonality as a consequence of indifference, class and inequality. Another rested his back against a Queen Street shop wall, perhaps to take timeout from begging. And my partner said to me (or to herself): “I must always remember to bring along some cash.”

We headed for the Civic Car-park, where at the Town Hall entrance, there exposed to wind and rain, another man lay wrapped up in a blanket and prepared snuggle down to sleep off the cold. We got in our car, exited the car-park, accelerated up Greys Avenue, turned left into Pitt Street, and worked our way passed a young man who lay amid the traffic flowing passed the corner of Karangahape Road. Help was at hand, a group of people had placed him in the recovery position, held his hand and awaited an ambulance’s arrival.

Then, Kingsland-bound, we drove passed where Dick Smith’s used to be, and noticed a slight teenager dressed in the lightest of summertime cloth preparing to earn herself a living for the night, and I thought of how on one-late-Friday-night, at the age of thirteen years four months, Aaron Williams and I shared a half dozen bottles of beer beneath the Southmall railway bridge in Manurewa and waited for the last train to pass. I thought then of how we didn’t realise we had our lifetimes ahead of us. And it took some four days before I could write this review.

Bravo New Zealand Opera, and thank you all especially Stephen Sondheim for Sweeney Todd – for while he became the protagonist for a terrible horror (yes his actions were chosen by the monster of whom he had become) Sweeney was merely a mask to disguise what a society and culture had created.

What: New Zealand Opera.
Performance: Sweeney Todd – the demon barber of Fleet Street.
Auckland dates: September 17, 18, 21, Friday 23, and Saturday 24.
Wellington dates: September 30, October 1, 2, 4, and 5.
Christchurch: October 12, 13, 14, 15 (two performances).

To discover more and purchase tickets, see:
NZOpera.com.

Amelia Berry and James Benjamin Rodgers in Sweeney Todd, NZ Opera, Civic Theatre, Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, September 15, 2016. Photo: David Rowland / One-Image.com
Amelia Berry and James Benjamin Rodgers in Sweeney Todd, NZ Opera, Civic Theatre, Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, September 15, 2016. Photo: David Rowland / One-Image.com