Things to do  |  2 Dec 2020

Staging an opera in Tūranga brings a fresh chapter to the central library, with audiences swapping seats between the outdoor plaza and inside performance space during the interval for New Zealand Opera’s Eight Songs for a Mad King.

The Christchurch season of the modern monodrama opens on Thursday, 3 December, with two more performances on Saturday and Sunday.

Christchurch City Council Head of Libraries and Information Carolyn Robertson points out that the innovative indoor-outdoor staging opens up performance art to a wider audience as opera debuts at Tūranga.

“The audience will certainly be very close to the performance, immersed in the experience,” Ms Robertson says.

“It is a new role for Tūranga, sharing our space with New Zealand Opera.

“However, we believe it is important to grow as a community and mix things up, highlighting the opportunity to manage the extremes of silence and sound.

“By opening up our performance space to opera, we can also showcase our accessibility and support a new musical landscape in the central city.”

New Zealand Opera first approached Tūranga last year, identifying the necessary mix of outdoor plaza and first-floor space. Performances were set for March this year. However, the COVID-19 shutdown delayed opening night by nearly nine months.

“Our central location in the Square, along with our ‘front yard’ plaza and lines of sight both inside and out proved to be big drawcards,” Ms Robertson says.

New Zealand Opera General Director Thomas de Mallet Burgess describes Eight Songs for a Mad King as a “confronting experience”, exploring the “disintegration of a king figure and the collapse of power”.

“The audience sees the performance twice, once up close inside Tūranga, around a Board table, and then again at a distance, from the street,” he says.

“Having these different experiences gives the audience a chance to experience the work once up close and personal and once again from a distance.

“The audience is invited to reflect on how the experience changes their perception of the work.

“With the huge developments in Christchurch’s central city in the last few years, we’re really excited opera can be a part of that,” he says.

Australian-born and Dunedin-raised baritone Robert Tucker carries the crown.