Today we reveal three works we will presenting at Auckland Arts Festival 2016.
They are all are special one-off events that could only happen in a festival and I am very excited that we have been able to do them.
IMAGE: Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Planning a festival takes a long time, and this whirlwind of the past six months has been both extraordinary and a little stressful. It is the first time we will have an annual festival. But you can see from the three works below that nothing happens instantaneously –sometimes things brew over many years.
Nixon in China is one of the seminal opera works of the twentieth century. In the year 2000, Peter Sellars was director of the Adelaide Festival, and I was due to meet him in London. At the same time his production of Nixon in China was playing at the English National Opera’s home, the Coliseum. I went to see it, not thinking about presenting it, but it was a way to get to know my colleague Peter a little better. It was a revelation. I had never see an opera that resonated so clearly in our modern world. Where I knew of the actual real political event and that I could relate to it. Since that first attendance at Nixon in China, I have looked for a way to present it in New Zealand. I am delighted that, with my colleagues at the APO and NZ Opera, we are finally able to present the New Zealand premiere of Nixon in China. While this first time it is only semi-staged, we have a great creative team and cast of the highest quality from New Zealand and overseas. This is the event of 2016 for opera lovers, but if you like to follow politics, or are a contemporary music fan, you will also want to be there. The world changed the day that Nixon went to China and met Mao
I first heard John Grant over two years ago when he was touring Britain, just after he released his album Pale Green Ghosts. I had no idea who he was but by the time I left his concert I was in love. After standing in the cold in a queue for an hour and waiting for the very loud support band to finish, I was initially over the experience; it was my fourth show of the day! But luckily I stayed on and I discovered this consummate performer. Not only is John Grant a fabulous musician, he is also a nice person. I loved the way he treated his audience with respect and kindness. Six months later I went to a second concert, and it was no different. We met John after that show and he told us how much he wanted to come to NZ. It will have been almost three years since that first concert and now John Grant is finally coming to Auckland Arts Festival.
Last August in Edinburgh I went to see The James Plays – a co-production from the mighty triumvirate of the National Theatre of Scotland, National Theatre of Great Britain and Edinburgh International Festival. Over two days I saw three plays that were like a good book and could not be put down. After each episode I wanted to see what happened next. I saw history as real life, I saw history as it impacted on today, I sat with audiences who talked back to the actors, as they too were intrigued by how this reflected their present and the parallels with the vote about to be cast to decide if Scotland should be independent. I also heard Lorde’s song Royals played like a Scottish reel, by the fiddler from The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, and danced in my seat along with James III. This is a major theatrical event. Nothing like this work has been seen in Auckland before. The James Plays, come to Auckland as part of their international premiere season. I want to go back and see them all again –and this time in one day.
I am back off to Edinburgh, in fact as you read this I am winging my way there on a plane. Edinburgh is always fun, exciting and exhausting – it is a big market, where the performing arts world gathers. I am preparing myself for the five-shows-a-day schedule. But it is important to see a bit of everything – the Korean Season, the work from Taiwan, some comedians, the circus tent, cabaret – as well of course as lots of theatre, dance and music in the International Festival and the Fringe. There are thousands of shows in the festivals –and it takes a few days just to get the gossip about good shows, read reviews and study all the different programme guides. I am tired just thinking about it – but I have already booked tickets for about 40 shows. This will be a short-ish visit as most of the 2016 Auckland programme is already programmed, so I am just looking for a couple of small things, but I need to find some big works for 2017. And there are the final meetings with artists, to do those face-to-face deals that can make the world of difference.